ALBANY, NY, November 9, 2022 — She was only 50 years old and in perfect health when she had a heart attack.
“I was doing everything right,” Christine Dixon, senior director of individual giving at Saratoga Performing Arts Center and Charlton resident, said. “I lived a life of moderation, and only had one risk factor: family history. My father and grandfather both died young of heart attacks.”
Dixon even had some tests run after her father passed away – mostly to ease her mother’s grief. She passed with flying colors.
But 10 years ago, she had tightness in her chest, shortness of breath, fatigue and a tingling in her wrist. It passed, but when she shared it with her family at dinner time, her husband insisted she call her doctor. When they heard ‘family history,’ they told her to go to the emergency department.
Dixon was admitted, and some tests were run that showed a chemical that can be a sign of a heart attack.
“I heard one question every time someone came into my room, for the whole two days,” Dixon said. “Everyone asked if I was the patient, because I looked too young and too healthy.”
Dixon was discharged with the advice to follow up with a cardiologist.
After being home for a few days, the pain came back, mild at first, but then, while grocery shopping, very intensely.
“It was the Sunday after the Christmas holidays, and I needed to replenish our food after the holidays and as we all prepared to go back to work and school,” Dixon said. “At the supermarket, the pain was so bad, I couldn’t stand straight.”
Dixon thought about calling her husband, but then came up with a list of things that would have to happen if she abandoned the groceries.
“He’d need to come get me,” Dixon said. “We’d have two cars here. He’d need to finish the grocery shopping, and put it all away.”
She finished shopping and went to her car, where she planned to call her husband. But then she figured she was close to home and would just go there. When her family came to help her with her groceries, her husband knew they were going to the hospital immediately.
“He said my face was gray,” Dixon said. “He said I could get my makeup, and he got me an aspirin to chew. Then, realizing that if something happened, he wouldn’t know what to do, he drove to the fire department and called 911 from there.”
At the hospital, they determined that Dixon was having a heart attack. They found a major blockage in an artery.
After discharge, Dixon adjusted to life with more medication, something new for someone as healthy as she had been.
A few weeks later, her husband went away with friends, and a friend visited Dixon.
“You know, at every doctor visit – even the dentist – they ask what the first day of your last period was,” Dixon said. “I was 50 and answered with a current date every time.”
But that weekend, she experienced a menstrual flow so heavy that she fell to the floor when she tried to get out of bed. Her friend called 911, and in the coming days, doctors took Dixon off the blood thinner they had prescribed after her heart attack, and she had an ablation in her uterus.
Today, she feels fine, and she will share her story at the Go Red for Women Luncheon on Tuesday, Nov. 15. The event will take place at The Albany Capital Center, 55 Eagle St., Albany, from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
“It took me a little while to be comfortable doing the amount of exercise I had before my heart attack,” Dixon said. “I’m more in tune with myself and my health, and I make it a point to enjoy the people I love. I would encourage every woman out there to pay attention to her health. You know when something is wrong. Seek help. I know it’s hard to do, but it’s important. Let some things go – we don’t have to be the ones to make the sandwiches in the morning, but we want to be around to hear their stories when they come home from school.”
“Christine is like so many of us – she works full-time and was raising a family – and never expected to have a heart attack,” said Nicole Leonard, wealth management advisor, first vice president, the Moloney-Leonard Group at Merrill, and co-chair of the 2022 Capital Region Go Red for Women Luncheon. “By sharing her story, she raises awareness that we all need to be vigilant with our health – and know the signs of heart disease.”
“I’m grateful that Christine is sharing her story. Because she’s always been very healthy, she’s not who you would think of when you think of a heart attack victim,” said Jackie Sheffer, vice president, senior financial advisor, the Wagner-Sheffer Group at Merrill, and co-chair of the 2022 Capital Region Go Red for Women Luncheon. “Her good health helped her make a good recovery, and it’s a reminder of how important the research of the American Heart Association is. We need to keep investing in Go Red so we have more survivors like Christine.”