Heart and Vascular

Heart attack survivor shares how symptoms differ in women than men

Wendy Deatcher, Heart Patient


Last Thanksgiving, Wendy Deatcher started her day experiencing pain in her right arm. She chalked it up to holiday stress and maybe a flare up from the fibromyalgia she has suffered from for a dozen years.


But as the day unfolded, her arm pain progressed to her jaw — severe, shooting pain she couldn’t ignore. Deatcher said she took an aspirin and called 911.


When she arrived at Vassar Brothers Medical Center, she was in the throes of a heart attack.


“It was actually very scary. I’m not that old,” said Deatcher, 54, of Poughquag. “I’d never had cardiac issues before. No family history.”


Doctors discovered artery blockages on the right side of her heart, the reason why she may have experienced pain on her right side as opposed

to the more common left side, she said.


“Most people think heart attack symptoms are unmistakable, but in women it can be more subtle and uncertain,” said Deatcher’s physician, Dr. Aarti Campo, a cardiologist with Nuvance Health. “That is why it’s crucial to understand all the signs.”


Like men, women experience chest pain or discomfort as a common symptom of a heart attack. But women are more likely than men to have other symptoms, including shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the lower chest or upper abdomen, nausea/vomiting, extreme fatigue and jaw, upper back or arm pain. Deatcher said she never had chest pain.


“As women, we tend to push through and say, ‘We have things to do,’” Deatcher said. “We ignore the warnings. That’s our mindset.”


Since her heart attack and subsequent cardiac rehabilitation, Deatcher said she is doing well. She exercises and follows a healthy diet. After 40 years, she quit smoking through The Heart Center’s Tobacco Treatment Clinic located in Poughkeepsie and Fishkill. The Heart Center, a division of Hudson Valley Cardiovascular Practice, P.C., is part of Nuvance Health Medical Practice.


“I’ve been absolutely happy with the care I’ve received,” Deatcher said. “I listen better to my body, and I just want women to know that we don’t have to do everything and take care of everyone else before ourselves. We should be more aware.”


Find more information on cardiac care with Nuvance Health’s Heart and Vascular Institute.


This story is one patient’s experience, recounted here for educational and general informational purposes only.