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Bow Valley College employees share heart-to-heart advice

Elaine Allenger and Gail Thauberger have learned about heart health the hard way.

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Elaine Allenger had some strange sensations in her throat. She kind of felt like she had swallowed a tennis ball. This pain spread throughout her right side, to her jaw and her shoulder. At no point did she think she was having a heart attack. 

This was the second time the Bow Valley College employee had experienced these symptoms over a few days last June. This time, she was at the College, at work. A nurse in the School of Health and Wellness urged her to see a doctor immediately; Elaine drove to find an urgent care facility; when she couldn’t find one, a Health Link nurse told her to call an ambulance; when Elaine arrived at the hospital, she learned she was having a left anterior descending (LAD) heart attack. This heart attack is referred to as the “widow maker,” because most people don’t even make it to the hospital.   

Elaine says that we have this classic idea of what a heart attack is, as she clutches her chest. “The doctor in emergency told me the three things that made him suspect a heart attack. They were not the things you read about on the Internet. The three things were the type of pain was pressure, the pain radiated, and it made me hot, sweaty, and a bit nauseous.”  

Not only did Elaine feel she wasn’t properly informed on the signs and symptoms of a heart attack; but due to that lack of information, she failed to recognize the urgency of her situation. “At no point did I think this could be life threatening,” she says.

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Gail Thauberger, who also works at the College, had a surprising heart experience too. During a routine test at the age of 50, the Bow Valley College employee learned she had had a silent heart attack at some point in the past. The doctors couldn’t even pinpoint when it had happened, as she didn’t notice any symptoms that she could attribute to a heart attack. Gail says she may have had shortness of breath or nausea, but wouldn’t have recognized those signs as being cardiac alarms.

Just like Elaine.

Both Elaine and Gail are now living healthier lifestyles by eating well and exercising more, but their experiences are cautionary tales. Make sure you’re informed on the signs and symptoms of various conditions by visiting your doctor on a regular basis. You can also book an appointment with Imagine Health Centre located at our West Campus. Book an appointment there after class one day. 

Gail also encourages everyone to take a CPR course. “It saves other people’s lives.” Bow Valley College offers Standard First Aid and CPR to the public. Our next session starts April 28.

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