HARKER HEIGHTS — Carol Allred was excited to celebrate her grandson’s birthday hunting for “pirates.”
After a long day at Lake Texoma in April 2003, Allred woke up fatigued with a pounding headache. At first, she brushed the symptoms aside.
“I woke up with this extreme fatigue,” said Allred, 70, of Harker Heights. “It was hard for me to get one foot to move in front of the other that morning. I had a tremendous pain across my upper back and shoulder. It never dawned on me that those are symptoms of a heart attack.”
Allred shared her survivor story with about 250 people Saturday during the inaugural Bell County Heart Walk at Seton Medical Center Harker Heights. The event raised more than $12,000 for the American Heart Association.
The event’s goal was to inform the community about heart disease and contribute funds to heart research, said Paula McCollough, clinical nurse specialist for cardiovascular services at the hospital. It’s important for women to realize their heart attack symptoms are not similar to the crushing chest pain radiating to the left arm, neck, jaws and ears that men often feel when having an attack.
“With women, it’s completely different,” she said. “In women, it can be something really vague. I had a patient (in her 40s) who presented with a really bad migraine and that was her equivalent of having a heart attack.”
For women, heart attack symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue, lingering indigestion, light-headedness or pain between the shoulder blades, McCollough said. Measures to prevent heart disease include keeping your body mass index within a healthy range and keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol under control by staying active and eating right.
When Allred finally made it to the emergency room, she was amazed to learn she was having a heart attack.
“Because I didn’t recognize those symptoms so common to so many women, I now have permanent damage to my heart and I live with a defibrillator that goes everywhere I go,” she said. “I also live with a mission now to share my story with as many people as I can and help educate as many people and save as many lives as possible.”