I Was 44 & Healthy When I Had A Heart Attack: What It Taught Me


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Ratona Harr

After teaching my morning classes at CycleBar, where I’ve been an instructor for years, I went home for the afternoon and took a nap. Then, I went back to the studio to teach my classes for the evening. Throughout the rest of the day, I continued to experience constant pressure in my chest.

The next morning, I didn’t have any pain. I just felt tired. I decided to take it easy for the next two days but then went back to teaching on Saturday. During my first class of the day, I felt an immediate explosion of pain in my chest, like someone had punched me. Then, I realized I couldn’t feel my arm or grip anything—it was completely numb and tingly. 

At first, I thought maybe my blood sugar was low so I left the class to grab a snack. I barely made it a few steps into the hallway when I collapsed. I was shaking, freezing, and it was difficult to breathe. I couldn’t feel my body.

Fortunately, there were many people in the studio who saw what happened, and I was sent to the hospital immediately. Later, I learned I’d experienced a “widowmaker heart attack” which happens when you have a blockage in the left anterior descending (LAD) artery of the heart. In my case, it was 100% blocked.

Prior to this event, I never experienced any heart issues, and I didn’t have any precursors to a heart attack (hypertension, diabetes, etc.). I was 44, very active, and overall healthy. So it was easy to ignore or justify any discomfort I was feeling. However, if I’d gone to the doctor on Wednesday, when I first experienced symptoms, I wonder if it may have prevented this traumatic health experience.

Nevertheless, I’m so grateful to be alive, and I believe my active lifestyle was really training my body for when I needed it most.

After my heart attack, I spent a few days in cardiac intensive care so doctors could monitor my heart. When I was finally discharged from the hospital, I had to wear a vest that served as a portable defibrillator all day, every day, for the next six months. Because my heart attack was so severe, it significantly damaged my heart, and now I live with congestive heart failure.

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