Rochester, N.Y. - When Debra Ellersick went to the Emergency Department in November of 2009, she had no idea she was suffering from a massive heart attack.
Debra thought the shortness of breath was due to her asthma. She also had no other symptoms of a heart attack.
Debra said, "It was just shortness of breath. No pain. No tightness in my chest. No nothing."
She recalls what the doctor told her. "He said: 'get her to the ICU, she's having a heart attack.'"
Debra was only 44 and though her father had heart disease, Debra didn't think she had heart issues.
When Debra was transferred to the University of Rochester Medical Center, Doctor Jeffrey Alexis determined she needed immediate help to get her heart pumping.
Doctors implanted a Ventricular Assist Device in her chest. That device connects to the heart and takes over for the pumping function.
Dr. Alexis says the pump is often used for patients who have chronic heart failure or those who are in shock.
In Debra's case, he says it saved her life. "She wouldn't not have survived without further therapy," Doctor Alexis said.
Cardiologists say the symptoms for heart attacks in women are often different than in men. Some patients have pain in their jaw, or trouble breathing. For others, it is extreme fatigue.
He urges all patients who experience any unusual symptoms to have them checked out.
"Heart Disease is very common in women. It is the leading cause of death in women and men." Dr. Alexis said.