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Her Heart Attack Never Happened 

Anita Mathews, 63, retired mother of three, grandmother of nine. 

It was luck that led Anita Mathews to discover that she had heart disease. “I was in my forties and felt like I was in the healthiest years of my life,” she says. “I was walking two and a half miles a day, five days a week; working a job I

Anita Mathews

loved at a pediatric clinic for children with disabilities and enjoying my first grandchild.” A trip to the doctor to discuss neck surgery for a genetic defect resulted in an EKG that produced startling results: “They found a blockage and sent me to a cardiologist immediately,” says Anita. “Looking back, I had noticed before that my right arm would sometimes feel tingly. It just felt odd, and it would go all the way up to my shoulder. It would go away and I thought it was just nerves. I know now that those are women’s symptoms of a heart attack; we all know the men’s symptoms, but women’s are different. My doctor said that I probably would have had a heart attack within the next couple of weeks.” 

To say this was a surprise is an understatement. “I thought that I was taking good care of myself. I was exercising, eating right,” Anita recalls. “Even people that I work with couldn’t believe it.” She still remembers receiving the call at work. “I was just shocked. I felt I had no signs, but that’s why it’s so important for women to understand that our symptoms look and feel different. I had some bloating in my face; that tingling in my right arm and while I felt healthy, sometimes I got really tired walking up the stairs. Those were signs I didn’t recognize.” Studies would determine that Anita has a familial tendency towards high cholesterol. This would lead to medication, a new health regimen, and eventually, in 2018, a mitral valve replacement and stents (to keep her arteries open and prevent blockages) the following year. “After my valve replacement, I felt better almost immediately, my team talked about diet changes and help me get right back to living my life,” says Anita. 

Thanks to these miracles of modern science and the life-saving diagnostics, treatments she received at UofL Health – Heart Hospital, Anita is able to enjoy the simple things in life. “I have three sons and nine grandchildren,” she says. “The capability of spending more time with them and to be able to do things that I love- spending time in my garden, it’s so valuable.” Her advice to other women. “I think your body often lets you know when something is wrong. And sometimes, you think that it’s crazy to go to the doctor when you don’t know if there’s an issue. Go ahead and do it. Because you don’t know at what age this can happen. You can be in your twenties, thirties, or forties. You don’t always get a second chance.”