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Managing the Unexpected

Read James's full story

If it's a heart attack, it's an emergency.


One of the most critical things you can do when you suspect that you, or someone you know is having a heart attack, is to call 911. This brings emergency personnel to you where they can begin life-saving treatment. Your local EMS providers know the steps to take to get you the care you need - quickly. Time saved is heart muscle saved. So the faster you get care, the healthier your heart will be in recovery.


Things You Can Do When You Suspect It's a Heart Attack

  • Don't drive yourself! Call 911 so you can be transported while receiving care. Emergency response teams can also alert the appropriate medical teams at a hospital that provides life-saving care to make sure. UW Hospital and Clinics has a heart attack team on call 24/7. So whether you're coming by ambulance or by Med Flight, the cardiac catheterization team will be receiving information about your condition while you're on your way. Staff will be preparing to care for you as soon as you arrive.


  • Post an Emergency Information Card by your phone if you have land line, or in a visible location in your home. The card will help someone calling 911 with your address and other critical information. Print your own with this pdf


  • Carry an emergency information card in your purse or wallet.  This will provide vital information for people trying to help or care for you.


Know The Signs


Unfortunately the symptoms of a heart attack can vary, and they can be different for men and women.


Heart Attack Symptoms for Women:

  • Pain between or behind shoulder blades
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Back or jaw pain

Heart Attack Symptoms for Men:

  • Chest pain
  • Pain in one or both arms
  • Sweating
  • Denial of symptoms
  • Pale skin
  • Shortness of breath 


Meet James


James Leaver had a typical life for a man in his early 40s. A heart attack was the last thing on his radar. One February night, he didn't feel well, and was experiencing shortness of breath and chest pain. So, he called 911, and it literally saved his life. Find out what happened, and how he recovered with the help of UW Health Preventive Cardiology Staff.



UW Health video icon: Critical Care During the Golden hour More Video: Critical Care During the Golden Hour


"Critical Care During the Golden Hour" details what happens during a heart attack and examines the care provided by Emergency Medical Services, UW Med Flight and UW Hospital care teams, including discussion by UW Health cardiologists, a Med Flight physician and UW Hospital's chest pain coordinator. The video includes footage of transporting a patient and an actual heart catheterization procedure at UW Hospital and Clinics. The program was originally recorded live.




Diane and Laura ZellerHow One Morning Changed Everything: Diane's Story


It was Valentine's Day more than a year ago when Diane, then 60 years old, felt a "bubble" in her chest that would not go away. She started having difficult breathing and became so hot and sweaty that she stepped outside on a cold winter's morning only in her light pajamas. When her color started to turn ashen, her husband called 9-1-1. She never guessed she was having a heart attack.


Diane recalls the day, "I would have never guessed I was having a heart attack. I didn't have any of the typical symptoms of chest pain, arm pain or back pain. I was completely blind-sided by the news." At the time, her risk factors included border-line cholesterol levels and a family history of heart disease.


Today Diane smiles and laughs as she completes her one-year check-up with Laura Zeller, her exercise physiologist at UW Health's Preventive Cardiology program. And Laura couldn't be happier with Diane's progress and lifestyle modifications. She says, "Facing life after a heart attack can be very scary and many people resist the changes they need to make. It has been wonderful to watch Diane embrace her new life with grace, humor and a positive attitude."


Find out how Diane's life has changed for the better