By Michele J. Kuhn
Gail Hague wants women to ‘take care of themselves,’ learn the signs of heart attacks
RED BANK – When Gail Hague arrived for work at Riverview Medical Center not feeling well last July 13, having a heart attack was one of the furthest things from her mind.
“I thought maybe I was coming down with the flu,” said Hague who is a histologist in the pathology department at the medical center.
“I was getting dressed for work. I overreached my arm over my head and I thought I pulled a back muscle, so I drove to work,” the 56-year-old said.
By the time she got to work, she sat down and told co-workers that she didn’t feel well. Unbeknownst to her, she had turned a shade of gray and was sweating. One of her colleagues went to get a department pathologist. The pathologist told the others, “Call a code,” and then told Hague, “You’re having a heart attack.” Hague, a Red Bank resident, was immediately taken to the emergency room. Tests eventually proved that it was indeed a heart attack and Hague credits the pathologist, Dr. Hongling Wang, with saving her life.
The story, which Hague tells with emotion occasionally choking her voice, has a happy ending. She is now being treated with medication, watches what she eats – paying particular attention to sugars and fats – and exercises regularly. She has lost 25 pounds and her husband Christopher is working on the same program with her “so we can be around for our grandchildren.”
Hague will one of three heart patients to be featured in a video presentation on Thursday, Feb. 21, during the fifth annual Red Dress Event at Buono Sera Restaurant & Bar, 50 Maple Ave. The 7 to 9:30 p.m. event will feature cocktails; hors d’oeuvres; beauty; fashion by such designers as Vera Wang, Donna Karan, Oscar De la Renta and Marc Jacobs; and the opportunity to talk to Meridian Health experts about how to keep heart healthy. Meridian’s CardioVascular Network will benefit from the event proceeds. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased by calling 800-560-9990.
Among those expected to be in attendance will be Hague.
The very idea that she had a heart attack was very surprising to Hague. It took her a while to really come to terms with what she had been through.
Before her heart attack, she had been working 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., at her regular job and then “helping out” at another. She felt tired. “I thought I was fatigued because I was working so much,” she said. “Now that I look back, that was one of the symptoms. I wasn’t exercising and I was grabbing things to eat. I wasn’t eating salads or things that were nutritious.”
Two days after being taken to the emergency room, Hague had a cardiac catheterization and a small blockage was found. The blockage couldn’t be treated during the procedure and she was put on medication.
Her husband now calls “13,” the day of her heart attack, her “good-luck day.”
The experience also has helped turn her into someone who wants to alert other women to the signs of heart attacks and encourage them to talk to their doctors when something that could be a warning sign appears.
Her advice to other women?
“Please take care of yourselves,” she said. “If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of your family … With my heart attack, I didn’t have chest pains, jaw or arm pain. The only thing I had (felt like) three fingers in my spine, a little pressure.
“If they think they have pain in their back, go to your doctor,” she advised.
“I also want to tell women ‘don’t eat sugar.’ I ate way too much sugar,” Hague said.
Hague is thankful for the care she has gotten and immediately after her heart attack began working on a healthier lifestyle.
“I love the cardiovascular network here at Riverview Medical Center,” she said. “They have taught me how to take care of myself through exercise and eating … After six months I’m finally feeling better than I did last year. I feel absolutely wonderful.”