Rene Colwell, 52, of New York City, who had her heart attack this year, says she spent a day feeling "not quite well," but it didn't occur to her that it could be her heart until she felt sharp pain in both of her elbows. "It's odd, I know, but I figured arm paineven if it's just elbowsmeant there might be something wrong with my heart."
She called 911, was whisked to the emergency room, got triaged to the front of the line and was given care that left her with little damage to her heart. "The response was so efficient it was almost not dramatic," she says. "I guess if you have to have a health emergency, a heart attack isn't the worst one to have."
Medications can instantly reduce pain. Balloon angioplasties open arteries blocked with plaque, restoring the flow of lifesaving blood and oxygen to the heart. Clot-busting drugs can also help. The right treatment gives many heart attack patients their first opportunity to think that they just might survive.