TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Most people know her as a trail blazing leader in the Kansas National Guard. But recently, retired Brig. Gen. Deborah Rose suffered a scare that put her among the ranks of millions of other American men and women.
It started July 27, 2012, on her way home to Overbrook from a meeting at, ironically enough, Stormont-Vail HealthCare. She stopped at the post office in Pauline and noticed some pain in her chest that she thought might be reflux. As she continued driving south on Topeka Blvd., her skin became clammy. By the time she pulled over in a parking area near 93rd, she'd broken out into a sweat and her left arm started to hurt.
Rose turned around and drove back to the hospital - a move she admits wasn't the best idea. At the ER, they confirmed she was having a heart attack. Stents couldn't reopen her vessels, so, on July 31st, she had double bypass surgery.
"I had been the healthy person," Rose said. "Not only was I shocked, my family was shocked."
Rose didn't seem the picture of heart disease. She didn't have the usual risk factors of obesity or inactivity; her blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar were normal; she doesn't smoke; but she did have several relatives with heart disease.
Besides knowing whether they have any risks such as those, health experts say women especially should know the symptoms of a heart attack, which can differ from what a man might feel.
Tiffany Curtis, an RN at Stormont's cardiac cath lab, says fewer than half of women have chest pain with a heart attack. Instead, she says, women have fatigue where activities that were easy are suddenly difficult. They also might experience shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea or indigestion.
Anytime a person feels those symptoms, Curtis says, call 911 to get help immediately.
"Our favorite saying in cardiology i, 'Time is muscle.' If you have any blockage with a heart attack, the sooner you get it treated, the more heart we can save," she said.
Rose was fortunate to have suffered no permanent damage. She credits cardiac rehab with getting her back on her feet to tell an important story.
"I want other people to understand it can happen to you," she said. "When you're least expecting it, it could happen to you."
Rose says she's thankful for great medical care, thankful she'll swing a golf club again, but mostly grateful for her life.
She said it's amazing to realize she's had her heart out of her body, in someone else's hands.
"I've had a great recover, I'm planning on living to be 100, so I have a long legacy left ahead of me," she said. "I'm very grateful this Thanksgiving."
Help Fight Heart Disase:
9th Annual Go Red for Women Luncheon
10:30 am to 1 pm
Ramada Hotel, Topeka
Contact the American Heart Association for ticket information