“I had been feeling really fatigued for awhile,” said Sarah Batts, a patient treated at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital. Like many women, Batts simply thought she needed more sleep, more vitamins or to have her hormone levels checked.
“I wasn’t thinking it was anything major,” she says.
She had recently begun running and was training for a 5K.
“As I was running a lot, I was experiencing some jaw pain, but it seemed perfectly normal,” she says. “I woke up on July 7, the Saturday after the 4th of July, in unbelievable jaw pain. I managed to run an errand – because of course things need to be done for family and friends.”
By the time she returned home, the pain was severe. At first she thought she’d been clenching her jaw as she was running, but decided to call a friend because the pain was so intense.
“She even wanted to call an ambulance – mind you, I’m curled up in the floor in fetal position because of jaw pain,” says Batts.
After calming her down through prayer and soothing words, Batts’ friend was able to convince her to go to the emergency department.
A trip to the emergency department
When she arrived at the ED, she was immediately taken for an EKG and blood work. All of the tests came back normal.
“Six months prior to this, I had all my blood work done and everything was normal,” she says. “I’d had a CT scan several years ago – no plaque.”
She says the staff at Piedmont listened to her and asked plenty of questions as they worked quickly to figure out what was wrong.
Batts has a family history of heart disease, but since she was only 41, she didn’t believe she could suffer a heart attack.
The physician treating her, Jeffrey Oyler, M.D., wanted to admit her to the hospital for further testing, but Batts was convinced she could go home and come back for testing the next week.
“He was very kind about it, but I kept pushing,” she says. “I really thought I needed to go home. He kindly said if I left, it was against medical advice – which also means you pay the full medical bill [if you leave and later need treatment].”
This convinced her to stay at the hospital.
“They ran chest X-rays and quickly got me admitted to the hospital. I went up to what’s called the cardiac observation unit,” says Batts. “They’d run another EKG, they were running more blood work and unbeknownst to me, something was up.”
Batts noticed there were several staff members around her bed and knew something was wrong.
They told her they wanted to send her to the catheterization lab for further examination.
“It was not until we’d left the cath lab that Dr. Ballard shared with my family that my right coronary artery was 99 to 100 percent blocked,” says Batts. “While I had been sitting the cardiac observation unit, I had suffered a major heart attack.”
Thanks to quick intervention from her medical team, Batts suffered minimal damage from the heart attack. Two days later, she was able to go home.
“Piedmont ensured that I got better so I could live my best life now,” she says. “I will not be defined by a disease. It’s because Dr. Oyler and others said, ‘You don’t go home.’”
Batts symptoms weren’t the classic hallmarks many of us think of when thinking of heart attacks.
“It wasn’t an elephant on the chest and there was no stabbing pain in the chest. It was fatigue and jaw pain,” she says. “Had they sent me home, it would have been a really different result.”
For more information on chest pain and heart attack, visit the Piedmont Heart Institute.