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Published on February 01, 2016

Quick heart care saves woman’s life

Note: Media coverage of the Go Red for Women event is invited. The event will be held at UHS Vestal on Friday, Feb. 5 at 10:30 AM.

Andrea Witteman was a 48-year-old mother of two with no family history of heart trouble.

Her blood pressure and cholesterol were fine, and she was not overweight. But while she was running errands on an ordinary August day last year, she suddenly felt ill. Unusual pain had crept into her chest and jaw. She knew it couldn’t be good, but had no inkling of just how serious it was.

“My guardian angel guided me to UHS Wilson Medical Center,” she said. “A piece of plaque had dislodged in an artery. By the time I got to the Emergency Room, I had to be resuscitated. The team acted quickly and sent me to the Cath Lab, where the plaque was removed and stents put in.”

Ms. Witteman credits the expertise and fast action of cardiologist Paul Traverse, MD, and UHS Wilson staff - along with her own decision to seek immediate treatment - with the positive outcome that has been the result.

“For a moment I was reluctant to go in, but I’m glad I did,” she noted. “I could have died, but those folks saved my life.”

Because she was treated so promptly after symptoms developed, there was minimal damage to her heart, and she has recovered very well. For about eight weeks following treatment, she made regular visits to Cardiac Rehabilitation at UHS Hospitals, further enabling her heart to heal, she said.

Ms. Witteman, who works as a senior computer training associate at Binghamton University, plans to share her story at UHS.

She will be a speaker when the UHS healthcare system joins with the American Heart to observe "National Wear Red Day 2016."

A special ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 5, in the Lobby at UHS Vestal on the Vestal Parkway.

The purpose of Wear Red Day is to raise the public’s consciousness about the prevalence of heart disease among women, and the need for women to act quickly when heart-related symptoms first appear.

Ms. Witteman said her message to women on Feb. 5 will focus on the importance of taking action early on, seeking quick intervention and treatment. Symptoms can be different for women than for men, and can vary greatly from one individual to another.

According to the American Heart Association, heart attack symptoms in women may include:

- Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.

- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.

- Other signs, such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness.

- As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

Persons who have any of these signs or symptoms should call 911 and get to a hospital right away.

For her part, Ms. Witteman believes she received the right guidance to make the right decision.

“I was just going along as usual, and Boom!, the pain and discomfort overcame me,” she said. “The fact that I sought and received treatment right away made a huge difference.”