Survivor profile: Instincts saved local woman’s life during heart attack

Heart attack survivor Alicia Sauceda poses with her family. Courtesy of Alicia Sauceda

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Never in her wildest dreams did 41-year-old Alicia Sauceda think she could have a heart attack. Indigestion or gallstones: maybe; but not a heart attack.

The vibrant, health-conscious wife and mother of two young boys thought her only health issues were managing high blood pressure and the stress that comes with everyday life – but just last year, she realized how wrong she was.

The initial onset of her symptoms began at her son’s Cub Scout meeting: sudden stomach cramps, nausea, hot flashes, and severe heartburn followed by pain in both arms. She went to her doctor the next morning, where initial electrocardiogram results came back normal. Over the next two weeks her symptoms seemed to fade – except for extreme lethargy – which Sauceda chalked up to being a busy mom.

Last Memorial Day, just two weeks after she experienced her first symptoms, Sauceda decided to take her boys for a bike ride. Before they could even walk out the door, the familiar sensation of heartburn had returned, followed by the pain in both arms. She decided to check her blood pressure, which had spiked and refused to return to normal even after she took medication.

Though she had received a clean bill of health two weeks before, Sauceda trusted her instincts and went to the emergency room. Less than 24 hours later she was in the catheter lab, and doctors discovered a 95-percent blockage of her left anterior descending coronary artery. They then inserted a stent to open the artery, followed by a second stent after the artery collapsed. Sauceda’s body could not handle a third stent, which would have corrected an 80-percent blockage that she carries around with her today.

Sauceda said she is living life more fully now than she was a few months ago, has a new-found purpose, and is cherishing every moment with her family. She urges others to listen to their bodies, trust their instincts and have their hearts checked. “Had I not listened to my body, I may not be here today telling my story,” she said. “I continue to eat healthy; I make time for me and I exercise. I don’t let my disease control me; I’m the one in control.”

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