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Having the Heart to Speak Up: A misdiagnosed heart attack caught at SBL leads to successful cardiac rehab

May 10, 2021 3:41 p.m.

  • heart attack, katsamakis

Angie Goebel is a stubborn person, but her persistence may have saved her life. In August 2020, Angie contracted COVID-19 from her husband and suffered through the illness for three weeks. Angie coughed all day – enough that she thought she might have pulled a muscle in her lung. Instead, Angie discovered that she was suffering from a heart attack.

When Angie felt chest pain, she hurried to an area hospital, where the medical staff said she was suffering from pneumonia. She felt chest pain on the right side of her body, instead of on her left side, where she believed heart attacks typically occur, so she accepted the diagnosis and went home.

The next day, her pain worsened, creeping across her chest and down her right arm. Knowing that something was seriously wrong, Angie visited her family doctor, who ran a troponin test, which measures the levels of troponin proteins that are released when the heart muscle has been damaged. Angie’s troponin levels were 4.8, revealing that she was having a heart attack and needed to get to a hospital emergency department.

“It was kind of a whirlwind of events,” Angie recalled. “I didn’t want to go back to the first hospital since they had already missed it once. Sarah Bush Lincoln was a further drive, but I knew I would get better care there.”

Once Angie arrived at Sarah Bush Lincoln, she was rushed back for testing. Her troponin levels had sky rocketed to 10.9, making her situation more dire. She was transferred to a tertiary care hospital, where a cardiologist placed three stents to clear the blockages. Angie recovered from the procedure, and the following month, began diligently attending cardiac rehabilitation classes offered through Sarah Bush Lincoln’s METS (Monitored Exercise Testing Services). During the classes, Angie used a recumbent bike and listened to the cardiac rehab nurses explain health topics such as nutritious foods to eat, seasonings to use, and dressings to cut back on. It was in cardiac rehab that Angie learned that women present heart attack symptoms differently than men.

“I never knew that women have heart attack symptoms on the right side more commonly than on the left side,” Angie explained. “If I had known that, I would have spoken up even sooner about my chest pain. I learned so much from those classes.”

While working out at cardiac rehab, Angie suffered chest pain yet again, causing her to return to the SBL Emergency Department. She was surprised when Emergency Department Physician John Caltry, DO, remembered her from the initial visit in September.

“He checked on me during my second admission for chest pain, even though he wasn’t my doctor. He remembered me from a month earlier. I appreciated that a lot— he didn’t have to do that,” Angie remarked.

After graduating from the cardiac rehab program in December, Angie wanted to continue her newfound, healthy lifestyle. Feeling empowered from what she had learned in the cardiac rehab classes, she purchased a recumbent bike for her home. Angie said she would not have had the energy or desire to routinely work out before taking the classes.

“I loved going to the cardiac rehab program at Sarah Bush Lincoln,” Angie said. “It is a fantastic program, and the employees do a great job. I learned so much about healthy living, and it really improved my life.”

Angie said that she now has more energy to do things for a longer period of time. She returned to work part-time at the SBL Bonutti Clinic in Effingham, and she ferries her four children, ages four to 17, to their activities. During the busy harvest months, Angie pitches in and helps her husband with their 2,000-acre farm, something their family takes pride in. A life-long resident of the Newton area, Angie loves having extended family close by.

While Angie still struggles with energy at times, she insists that she is much better than she once was, thanks to the cardiac rehab program.

“Always listen to your body if you think something is wrong,” Angie said. “If I hadn’t been stubborn and advocated for myself, I might not be here.”


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