‘Don’t risk it’: Heart attack survivor warns others to get help sooner

LewisGale cardiologist and patient reflect on heart attack experience during Heart Month

SALEM, Va. – Moments can mean the difference between life and death when it comes to a heart attack. Take it from Debbie Spillman.

“It felt like someone was pushing as hard as they could in this area here I couldn’t get any relief,” said Spillman.

It’s a feeling she didn’t recognize. She was heading to bed and assumed it was intense heartburn and would pass with an aspirin. When it didn’t, Spillman drove to LewisGale Medical Center in Salem.

“I had already convinced myself I wasn’t having a heart attack because my EKG was okay and then when they came back and said ‘Yes, you were having an active heart attack.’ I didn’t know what to think,” Spillman said.

Dr. Owusu Asamoah, an interventional cardiologist put a stint in her heart to open the blockage in her main artery. When she woke up, she said she could feel the difference.

“It was like, ‘Tada!’ It was just wonderful how great I felt after that. I didn’t realize how much my body had been ran down by the blockage,” Spillman said.

Now she meets with Dr. Asamoah twice a year, changed her eating habits, exercises more and recently quit smoking.

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Posted by American Heart Association on Friday, February 19, 2021

“It makes me so happy and all the changes that she has made in her life. I always tell her I rather see you outside to say hello than to see you in the hospital,” said Dr. Asamoah.

He recommends living a healthier lifestyle to prevent a heart attack but if you are or think you are having a heart attack get to the hospital immediately and remember, time is muscle.

“There are so many things that cause chest pains. Instead of just staying home and trying to trivialize and minimize it, that is why we are here for you just come in let’s figure out what’s going on,” Dr. Asamoah said.

“If you think it might be (a heart attack) don’t risk it, go to the hospital, get it checked out because I was doubting myself that night and I’m so thankful that I talked myself into coming to the hospital. So many people I hear talk themselves out of coming to the hospital and getting checked,” said Spillman.

Click here for the American Heart Association’s list of heart attack and stroke warning signs.

About the Author:

Megan Woods is thrilled to be back home and reporting at Local 4. She joined the team in September 2021. Before returning to Michigan, Megan reported at stations across the country including Northern Michigan, Southwest Louisiana and a sister station in Southwest Virginia.