Taking Women's Health to Heart: Be your own advocate
With its "Taking Women's Health to Heart" series, ABC7 is focusing on women who suffer from heart disease.
Cindy DeMarco-Franco, who suffered a heart attack at 30, survived to tell her story.
DeMarco-Franco, of Fairfax, is a former army captain and now works as a lawyer for the Justice Department. And when she started feeling the symptoms of a heart attack, she wouldn’t leave a hospital until she was treated.
“If I had gone, I probably wouldn’t have made it,” she said.
Had she gone home without demanding treatment in a hospital emergency room, she likely wouldn’t have been alive to marry the love of her life two years ago. She also wouldn’t be the proud stepmother of an adoring 11-year-old named Kaitlin.
DeMarco-Franco was 30-years-old when she started feeling the symptoms of a heart attack: She had upper back pain, severe upper back pain and started getting tingling down the sides of my arms and in my jaw. She was nauseous.
She said she was “very scared because anything with the heart you just think ‘oh my God this could be it.’"
But that sense of urgency was hers alone. She sat in an emergency room waiting room for an hour before she saw a doctor. The doctor she finally saw said he would give her some muscle relaxers and told her she’d be fine.
She said there was a male patient about her age in the next room with “tons” of doctors around him.
“ I was in the other room and nobody was doing anything," she said.
She demanded that the doctor test her heart with an EKG, or electrocardiograph.
"He [the doctor] looked at me, he looked at the nurse and he said ‘oh hook her up,’" DeMarco-Franco said.
The nurse spent 15 minutes performing the test over and over again, The nurse even turned the machine off and then on again.
“After a while, I guess she realizes, oh oh,” DeMarco-Franco said.
DeMarco-Franco’s fight to be treated saved her life. She had a clot that formed in her body that went to her coronary artery and blocked it, causing a heart attack.
“The, er, doctor who was going to send me home never apologized” she said.
According to Womenheart, the national coalition for women with heart disease, a number of recent studies show disparities in care and treatment between men and women still exist.
"I really want to encourage women to empower themselves. They have to be their own advocate for their health," said DeMarco-Franco.
A heart attack at age 30 – don’t be surprised by that. New numbers just out show one in 19 women between the ages of 25 and 44 has heart disease.
"I still find out women are having heart attacks and women are being sent home from the emergency rooms to die,” DeMarco-Franco said. “It's a terrible thing."
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