Heart Healthy: Local suffers from heart attack after giving birth


BENNINGTON — Just five days after having her first child, Eileen Murray of Bennington suffered from a heart attack that lead to various tests and hospital time.

At 33, Murray would have never thought what was coming when she awoke in the middle of the night to feed her newborn baby and felt sharp pains in her back as she picked up her daughter. After the pain moved around to her chest, she woke up her husband and contacted her obstetrics and gynecology doctor (OBGYN). The doctor told her to get to the hospital as soon as possible.

In addition to the shooting pains, Murray experienced nausea and a shortness of quick breaths. These symptoms are most common for women approaching a heart attack and much different from what men can experience, according to Dr. Scott Rogge, Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC)'s medical director of cardiology.

"I was just laying there thinking it might be indigestion, and the last thing I remember is looking up at a bright light and then the next thing I know I woke up to nurses standing over me," Murray said. "I looked up and there was my husband next to Dr. Rogge. I heard him say 'this is where she had the heart attack,' and I asked 'who had the heart attack?' When I woke up I felt pretty good and so I was quite shocked to hear that that's what happened."

Murray's complications could have had something to do the stress encountered giving birth, resulting in a blood clot or hypercoagulability, which means to have a thicker bloodstream.

"Her bloodstream was thicker and it could have had something to do with that," Dr. Rogge said. "She also didn't have any of the classic risk symptoms of heart disease."

Dr. Rogge saw a case like Murray's one other time during his cardiology training at Albany Medical Center where a patient also experienced a heart attack days after giving birth.

After her initial visit, Murray had to go to Albany Medical Center to get tests done for three days and then she was ordered back at SVMC for another three days. Now, she takes about five pills each day, including blood thinning medication due to the damage the clot caused her heart. She sees Dr. Rogge once a year and gets blood drawn once a month.

For minor surgeries she has gone off the blood thinners for five days, but that's as long as Dr. Rogge suggests.

Murray said she has no sign of heart issues in her family except for when her sister had a heart attack shortly after, but it was completely unrelated. Murray's mother even birthed four children without any complications.

As for Murray's 14-year-old daughter, Dr. Rogge doesn't think she'll have any health issues, but she should be aware of anything irregular feelings. Murray said that doctors wish to test her daughter's blood when she turns 18 just to be cautious, but it's nothing to worry about right now.

Murray only had one child because the doctors said it would be risky to have another. If she pursued it, she would have to stay at Albany Medical Center an entire month before and after having the baby to be monitored.

"She's [daughter] my hero. If she hadn't woke up I would have died in my sleep," Murray said. "It happened so quickly, I would have slept right through it."

Murray urges anyone to get checked if abnormal symptoms arrive.

"Don't feel stupid about going if you think there's something wrong. It's better to be safe than sorry. My sister didn't wanna go when she got sick," Murray said. "If you feel something and know it's not right, have it checked out. I'm very thankful to the nurses, the emergency staff and Dr. Rogge as well as my friends and family that helped me through it."

February is American Heart Healthy month. For more information visit http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/.

—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.


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