Getting to the Heart
Jill Mitsch didn’t have the risk factors people commonly associated with a heart attack, but the one she did have – stress – swept her off her feet. Jill Mitsch is firmly back on her feet thanks to cardiac intervention at Good Samaritan Hospital and cardiac rehabilitation at Upper Valley Medical Center.
Busy thinking about her husband’s job loss and work hours away, raising her teen-aged sons, selling a home in a depressed market and relocating from the Youngstown area to the Bradford area, Mitsch forgot herself.
“As a mother, you try to make everybody happy, make things smooth,” she said. When the family moved, she rushed to unpack everything in an attempt to make life as “normal” as possible.
“I put a lot of stress on myself… I felt responsible for everyone’s happiness. At the time, I thought I was handling everything very well. Now, I think ‘What were you doing?’” Mitsch said.
It all caught up with her three months later. At age 46, she had a heart attack. It started in the shower when she had trouble getting a deep breath, followed by a cold sweat. In a panic she recalls going to the family room to find an article she’d read about symptoms of heart disease.
She didn’t have a lot of symptoms such as being overweight, smoking, not exercising and having high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
She contacted her sister who told her to get to the emergency department. At Good Samaritan Hospital doctors placed a stent in a blocked artery. “I was scared to death,” Mitsch said. “I couldn’t believe it was me. My husband’s side of the family has heart issues.”
Following the procedure, Mitsch returned to her Darke County home and began the cardiac rehabilitation program at Upper Valley Medical Center. She continues to work out at the unit at least once a week. “This is my social group. My mental sanity place,” she said.
Her advice to others: “Take care of yourself. You know your body, and I knew I wasn’t right. If you know something isn’t right, be persistent (in seeking an answer).”
Elaine Bohman, RN in the UVMC cardiopulmonary rehabilitation unit, said people often misinterpret the signs of a heart attack. The staff works with each patient on finding areas of their lifestyle needing change. “We explain little changes that can make a difference,” Bohman said. Those changes might include adding more fresh fruits and vegetables to the diet, ordering baked versus fried foods and increasing exercise.
“We tell people you have to figure out what works for you,” Bohman said. Stress is a big risk factor, but not one that gets a lot of attention. That’s not the case in the UVMC rehab program, where all factors are emphasized, Bohman said. When it comes to managing stress, Bohman tells people they cannot control everyone around them, but can control the way they react to them.