Cardiologists have known for years that symptoms of heart attack can vary from person to person, but the differences can be night and day between men and women. Nancy Naeve Brown has more on a Sioux Falls woman who learned that the hard way. She had a heart attack disguised as the flu and it nearly killed her.
For nearly 34 years Linda Olson has been a member of the Avera McKennan Marketing Department and for 34 years she's been called to do a lot of different duties. In 2008 that meant grocery shopping for an Avera sponsored food drive. But Linda will tell you she was never so happy to be at work at the hospital on February 24th. It ended up being a day when all the planets aligned to save her life. That Thursday she returned to work from lunch and was feeling nauseous and short of breath she suspected it was from a sinus infection and the flu that she'd been fighting for 3 weeks.
Linda says, "I called my husband who works at Avera McKennan which is strange that he was there because he does outreach. I told him wasn't feeling good. I pulled out of the ramp in front of the hospital and got really short of breath. I could barely talk."
Linda's husband Brett Kantack jumped in the car and gunned it for the ER just around the corner. It's a good thing she was so close, she was having a massive heart attack. It was so bad she needed to be resuscitated several times while being worked on in the ER.
Linda says, "I heard them call for a STEMI team. That's when lab people, respiratory therapists, cath lab; everyone comes when someone is having a heart attack. While I was laying here I was thinking oh that's for me. That's the last thing I remember. I woke up the next day in ICU."
Once stabilized, doctors at Avera McKennan up put two stents in her blocked coronary arteries, but they didn't know if she would have brain damage, paralysis or residual heart damage. Luckily she came out of ICU with her faculties functioning perfectly, her heart however, wasn't.
Linda says, "We knew I had damaged my mitral valve. My heart attack was so massive that it basically shredded that valve."
During open heart surgery cardiologists at the Avera Heart Hospital put in a mechanical valve. She spent 5 days recovering and is now on her 6th week of cardiac rehab at the Heart Hospital. She's lost 40 pounds, regained her energy and is feeling phenomenal. While she and her husband say they are blessed, they are also taking their health more seriously now and encouraging everyone to get screened for heart disease.
Brett says, "I'm just glad I got her in there. Anything I've learned from this get your plumbing checked out so the same thing doesn't happen to yourself.
Linda says, "I'm a walking miracle."
I think I speak for all Linda's friends, including me: Thank God for miracles.
Linda just hit the 6 week mark after open heart surgery which means she is now cleared to drive, hold her hands over her head and most exciting for her take bubble baths. She thanks everyone in her extended Avera family for all the care and support she's gotten.
For more information about heart screenings at the Avera Heart Hospital go to: