17 May 2023

A woman from Hilton, Cambridgeshire who waited three days before seeking advice for what she thought was indigestion has urged anyone with similar symptoms to seek medical help urgently, after she was actually suffering from a heart attack.

After developing symptoms on a quiet Friday night, Sallie Crawley eventually went to her GP who after running emergency tests and an electrocardiogram (ECG) explained that she was in fact having a heart attack. Sallie was sent to her local hospital and then quickly on to Royal Papworth Hospital, the UK’s leading heart and lung hospital, by ambulance.

Here Sallie went straight into a catheter laboratory for an angioplasty procedure that saw three stents inserted into her heart to hold open an artery in an area where there had been a narrowing. She then spent time in critical care before receiving the rest of her treatment in our cardiology wards.

“Although I waited three days before seeking help, I would urge anyone who thinks they are having a heart attack to seek medical help urgently. If in doubt, please get checked out,” said Sallie (58).

Now fully recovered from her ordeal, she recently returned to our hospital to meet Dr Davies. Whilst there she met members of the cardiology and cardiac rehab teams to thank them and present them with a book she has written to help fellow heart attack patients deal with the experience.

The Basics of Heart Management at Home’ provides practicable and actionable help to support people with the practical and emotional aspects of living life after discharge from hospital.

Whilst receiving excellent care and support from the team at Royal Papworth, she was inspired to write her book after facing post-discharge with being immobile in a wheelchair, having also previously ruptured her Achilles tendon during martial arts; having no contact with the outside world and not knowing anyone who had had a heart attack or cardiac issues.

“I was frightened, I couldn’t sleep because I was scared that if I went to sleep I’d have another heart attack and I wouldn’t leave the house as I was scared that if I went out that I’d have another heart attack” said Sallie, who admitted she hit rock bottom.

“I wanted to help people with cardiac recovery as the only contact I had with people with similar experiences was through social media, so I told Dr Davies that I was going to write a book. It turned into a passion of mine and wasn’t hard work.”

Looking back on her time at Royal Papworth, Sallie said, “The care and support I had was absolutely amazing. In all my time there I was reassured and checked in upon. I was so well looked after in my time on the wards.”

Dr Will Davies, consultant cardiologist at Royal Papworth, added, “I’m delighted that Sallie has done so well following her heart attack. It’s surprisingly common for patients to think they are suffering from indigestion, even when they are having the most serious type of heart attack caused by a totally blocked artery.

“If patients experience chest pain or discomfort that is unusual for them, may spread to the arms, jaw or neck, is associated with sweating or nausea and lasts for more than 15 minutes then we recommend that they seek immediate medical advice”.