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American Heart Month: Kenmore mother shares unique experience with a heart attack at age 36

Laurie Buckley with kids.jpg
Posted at 8:05 PM, Feb 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-16 22:13:38-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women, in the United States.

One in three women die from cardiovascular diseases and stroke each year.

Every 100 seconds, a woman in the United States has a heart attack.

February is Women's Heart Health Month. It is a time to raise awareness on the risks of heart disease, with the goal of reducing the number of lives lost to its related illnesses.

Kenmore resident, Laurie Buckley, shared her story of having a heart attack at the age of 36, with 7News' Pheben Kassahun.

"I was very active at the gym. I always was a healthy eater. My whole life: minimal snacks and yeah, active. Just enjoying life. A very positive outlook on things," Laurie Buckley said.

A positive outlook and a healthy lifestyle are both said to improve one's quality of life, which is the life Buckley lead.

However, on July 2, 2015, the mother of two was faced with something out of the ordinary.

"It was a beautiful night, she recalled. "I had gone outside, pulled my garage door, went in and immediately had this intense jaw pain. It was this paralyzing jaw pain. I had never felt anything like it."

She said the feeling shot down her neck, her left arm and then her back. Initially, Buckley thought she had pulled a muscle when she closed the garage.

"Kind of got down on all fours because I thought I was going to faint, so I got down on all fours. I yelled to my kids to give me an ice pack for my jaw which hurt the worst out of anything else. I thought I was having stroke because it was such a paralyzing type of pain," Buckley explained.

Eight hours into it, she said she started having chest pains, and realized she needed to act.

"I actually ended up Googling 'signs of a woman having a heart attack', and I was brought to the Go Red for Women website for AHA and low and behold, had almost every sign and symptom," she said.

RELATED STORY: Go Red for Women: Recent study shows socially isolated older women more likely to develop heart disease

Buckley immediately called 911 and was rushed to the emergency room.

She said she had been waiting in the emergency room for about two hours because the health professionals did not think she was suffering from a heart attack, but more of a panic attack. At the time, she had never felt such a thing.

"About two hours after that, the cardiologist came in and later told me when he took one look at me, he knew it must be SCAD, which stands for spontaneous coronary artery dissection," Buckley said.

The average age of women with spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) ranges from 45 to 53 years, but there have been patients diagnosed with scad, as early as their 20s, according to the American Heart Association Journals.

SCAD is unlike most heart attacks.

It can slow blood flow through the artery, which weakens the heart muscle -or- blood flow through the artery can stop.

A heart attack as a result of SCAD, is different from a heart attack caused by hardening of the arteries.

SCAD is a tear inside an artery that carries blood to the heart.

Though certain risk factors affect both men and women, such as high cholesterol and obesity, other factors may affect the development of heart disease in women more significantly.

Those include things like mental stress, depression, smoking, menopause and pregnancy complications.

Health experts say this is, in part, because certain risks take a bigger toll on women's hearts than men.

Buckley said she wants to emphasize to "listen to your body".

"I didn't before. I think a lot of women feel bad. They're taking care of everybody else. When you don't feel well, you go, 'I'll be fine, I'll be fine' or that you don't want to bother a doctor. I know that I have felt that way," she explained. "That really is something that I have changed. If I don't feel well, it doesn't matter if I think I'm bothering somebody. I'm going to have it checked out."

Doctors were able to put one stent in.

Since her diagnosis, she was given a 30-pound weight limit.

She was told that it was just an unlucky situation and no real rhyme or reason as to why she suffered a heart attack at 36 years old.

To watch Kassahun's full interview with Laurie Buckley, click on the second video of this article.