After waking up to urgently vomit, most of us would climb back under the covers to sleep off whatever bug had hit us. That was Sue Palmer's instinct in the early-morning hours of Jan. 13, 2015, she writes for the Washington Post. Her husband, Tim, wouldn't let her. And so the 46-year-old Nashville attorney ended up at Vanderbilt University Medical Center's ER some 30 minutes later, somewhat sheepishly telling the staff that her husband thought she could be having a heart attack. The results of an initial EKG were a little off. The results of the second, 10 minutes later, had a nurse telling Palmer, "In a couple of minutes there are going to be a lot of people in this room, moving very fast. I don't want you to be scared."
For reasons that are still unknown, Palmer—a "super healthy" non-smoker with no family history of heart issues—was having a massive heart attack. Her right coronary artery was completely blocked, and her center artery was 70% blocked. That artery is colloquially known as "the widowmaker" due to its reputation for causing sudden death. The nausea brought on by a newly formed blood clot was her only "warning sign." That dearth of symptoms is common among women, who often don't experience the signature chest pain or tightness of a heart attack early on. "Many women suffering a heart attack simply 'don’t feel right,' just as I did," writes Palmer. "Get yourself checked out. The worst thing that happens is they send you home and tell you you’re fine. You can live with that." Read her full column here.