A 14-year-old thought she had ‘butterflies’ from dancing with a boy at winter formal. It was a heart attack.

Zeager, now 23, married her husband in October 2020.Courtesy of Cierra Zeagler

  • Ceirra Zeager thought her pounding coronary heart was pleasure from attending her first faculty dance.

  • But it surely turned out to be the start of a coronary heart assault, attributable to a congenital coronary heart defect.

  • Zeager, now 23, is sharing her story as a volunteer for the American Coronary heart Affiliation.

As a highschool freshman in rural Pennsylvania, Ceirra Zeager was a wallflower who centered on her schoolwork and artwork. She did not play sports activities or music, and had simply two shut associates — considered one of whom was her sister.

So when Zeager, then 14, went to the winter formal and danced with a boy for the primary time, she wasn’t certain tips on how to interpret her racing coronary heart, which continued to pound lengthy after she’d returned house. “I used to be pondering, ‘Is that this how it’s to have emotions?'” Zeager, now 23, advised Insider.

However the subsequent morning, Zeager’s “butterflies” had morphed into such a deep fatigue and heaviness in her arm that she struggled to placed on her shirt. When she tried to stroll to her dad and mom’ bed room for assist, her imaginative and prescient narrowed, her ear flooded with heat, and she or he collapsed.

“Earlier than I knew it, I used to be on the ground,” Zeager mentioned. “It felt like an elephant was on my chest.”

Zeager later discovered she’d suffered a coronary heart assault, and is now sharing her story as a volunteer for the American Coronary heart Affiliation’s Go Crimson For Girls “Actual Girls” marketing campaign. She desires different different younger ladies to know the indicators of a coronary heart assault, and to talk up once they know one thing is flawed.

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A health care provider on the hospital advised Zeager it was simply ‘teenage anxiousness’

The morning after the dance in 2014, Zeager’s dad, a pharmacist, noticed her on the bottom and requested if the household wanted to go to the hospital as a substitute of her brother’s celebration, as deliberate. “I do not know what is going on on, however I feel we do,” she mentioned.

On the hospital, Zeager mentioned she wasn’t handled like somebody in an emergency scenario. She waited hours to be seen and developed “an intense burning ache” in her higher arm, however wasn’t given ache drugs. She now is aware of arm ache is usually an indication of coronary heart assaults in ladies.

Ultimately, a physician advised Zeager she doubtless had “teenage anxiousness.”

“It actually broke me to listen to that as a result of I felt embarrassed that my complete household was there, and I used to be ruining my brother’s birthday get-together,” Zeager mentioned.

Nonetheless, the physician beneficial Zeager go to a kids’s hospital simply to be protected. Whereas there, she discovered assessments had recognized a blockage in or round her coronary heart, and that she wanted to endure a cardiac catheterization process to identification the situation of the clot.

When Zeager awoke from the surgical procedure, greater than 12 hours after exhibiting up on the first hospital, she noticed her sister crying. “You had a coronary heart assault,” her sister mentioned.

Zeager discovered she had ‘sticky’ blood and a gap in her coronary heart

Later testing revealed Zeager had elevated lipoprotein A, which implies her purple blood cells are “additional sticky,” resulting in a blood clot. She was additionally born with a gap in her coronary heart, referred to as patent foramen ovale (PFO), which allowed the clot to get lodged in her coronary artery, inflicting the guts assault.

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Whereas about 1 in 4 individuals have PFO, it alone often does not trigger any issues, in keeping with the Mayo Clinic. However for Zeager, the defect together with excessive lipoprotein A ranges — one thing that may’t be managed by means of weight loss program and train — was harmful.

Zeager’s remedy included surgical procedure to restore the opening, six months on blood thinners, and a several-week lengthy hospital keep.

Cierra Zeagler in hospital

Zeager underwent open coronary heart surgical procedure in February 2021 to restore a leaky valve.Courtesy of Cierra Zeagler

About seven years later, Zeager skilled excessive fatigue, however chalked it as much as the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic or planning her wedding ceremony. However a heart specialist advised her she wanted open-heart surgical procedure to restore a leaky coronary heart valve that had been broken through the coronary heart assault.

Zeager underwent the surgical procedure in February 2021, just some months after her wedding ceremony. The emotional restoration was the toughest half, she mentioned.

“You are swollen, you are bruised, you do not really feel like your self, you are on all types of painkillers, and also you’re simply barely making it by means of every day,” she mentioned. Whereas she’s often a optimistic particular person, she mentioned, “In that second, I used to be not optimistic. I used to be not completely satisfied.”

Since then, Zeager, now a human assets skilled in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, maintains a wholesome way of life, however nonetheless has an “ejection fraction” — a measure of coronary heart power — round 44%. A wholesome vary is 50% to 70%, in keeping with the Cleveland Clinic.

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Which will imply she’ll be unable to securely carry a being pregnant. “Having that taken away from you as a lady could be very, very arduous,” she mentioned.

However Zeager finds consolation in spreading her message. “Take heed to your physique, advocate for your self, and attempt to discover the silver lining,” she mentioned. “It is cliche, but it surely’s so true.”

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