PORTLAND, Oregon, May 2, 2023 — Amy Matson set out on her usual lunch run near her home in Rhododendron, Oregon, a small community nestled into the western flank of Mount Hood. After running about a quarter of a mile, she felt a heavy pressure in her chest, almost like a punch. Amy stopped immediately and tried to shake it off; maybe she was just dehydrated.
When the pain returned twice more as she started running again, she knew something was wrong. Amy decided to walk back home, thinking a slower pace might help alleviate the pain. Once she got home, she rested and hoped the pain would go away.
“I just thought something didn’t agree with me that morning,” Amy said. “I wasn’t sure what was happening.”
That night, Brett and Amy took their German shepherd for a walk. As they headed up a short incline, things took a drastic turn for the worse.
“I suddenly felt a huge punch, like something was trying to break out of my chest. I had to sit down on the road,” said Amy.
After walking slowly back home, the pain was so severe Amy couldn't sit still. That's when she decided something was incredibly wrong. She told her husband they needed to call 911 or go to the hospital immediately.
Amy thought about her family history of heart attacks and knew something was dreadfully wrong. She told Brett, “I think I’m having a heart attack.”
“You can’t be having a heart attack,” he said. “You’re 49 years old. You’re healthy, you exercise and we have a great diet. We take care of ourselves.”
At the hospital, doctors confirmed their fears; Amy had suffered a heart attack. With Amy’s family history of heart disease, she knew she had a higher risk for a heart attack. But even knowing that, she never expected to experience one at such a young age.
In the subsequent weeks and months after her initial heart attack and surgery, Amy’s medical team discovered she has a condition where her coronary arteries occlude or close up again on average six to 10 weeks post procedure.
“I have a complex condition my doctors haven’t seen clinically,” Amy said. “Our lives have certainly changed. We love to travel, and we used to extensively. Now, I have a very short leash as far as where I can go these days.”
Amy says her medical team’s quest to uncover the root cause and find a long-term path forward is ongoing. Her condition is one more reason why the American Heart Association continues to fund lifesaving heart research to help people live longer healthier lives.
“With my family’s heart history, I participated in the American Heart Association Heart & Stroke Walks before my heart attack,” Amy said. “I would let folks know I was walking and invite them to help fund heart research.”
This year, Amy is still planning to walk in the Heart & Stroke Walks in Seattle and Portland. Now she’s walking with a greater sense of urgency and perspective. She knows she isn’t alone as researchers continue to study and look for new treatments and even cures for her condition and countless others.
The uncertainty of her heart health has impacted Amy’s outlook on life. Not only is she more conscious of her personal health, she deeply appreciates every moment of every day for what it is; a gift.
The American Heart Association Heart & Stroke Walks take place May 20 at Esther Short Park in Vancouver, Washington, and June 3 at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland, Oregon. The walks feature heart-healthy activities for participants of all ages. They are an opportunity to help fund more lifesaving research for people like Amy and so many others in Oregon and southwest Washington affected by heart disease and stroke. Register today at pdxheartwalk.org.
About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit heart.org or call any of our offices around the country. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
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