Her daughter was graduating from college, but Judy Seals learned an important lesson when she returned from the trip.
“You can’t take certain symptoms for granted,” Seals, assistant finance manager at Ellenville Regional Hospital for 40 years, said.
While traveling from Accord, New York, to Brooklyn, NY, to pick up her mother so the family could attend her eldest daughter’s college graduation in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in 2006, Seals began to feel nauseous, and not quite herself, before eventually throwing up in her seat. She thought it was because she’d had a long day at work, but when she and her husband stopped in New York City to pick up Seals’ mother, she continued to feel nauseous. She showered at her mother’s to freshen up, while her husband cleaned her car, and they continued to head south. When she woke up at a hotel in South Carolina, the next day, she had terrible jaw, elbow and throat pain.
“We went to the graduation and to dinner, and I still wasn’t feeling well,” Seals said, “but we did what we could for our daughter.”
In addition to the long day at work, Seals thought maybe one of the ham sandwiches she had made for the trip had turned bad, or that the jaw pain was from gagging when she didn’t feel well, but when she returned to work, she talked to a doctor about it, and one of the nurses told her she looked gray.
She was sent for an EKG, and when it was done, the tech took the readout, rolled it up, and said “I’m going to find a doctor.”
Seals planned to go back to work, but was told, no, she was being sent for a procedure. The next day, she had stents put in to clear a 90% blockage in her right coronary artery. Although she had a bad reaction to some aspirin she was given, four days later, on a Friday, she was home again.
That Sunday, teaching a religious ed class, in Kerhonkson, she didn’t feel well again. Her husband said she was “talking crazy.” Back at the hospital, medication combined with additional stents turned out to be the solution to the blockage. Seals also learned she was diabetic.
“I went to cardiac rehab, but for a while, I was afraid to do anything,” Seals said. “What would happen if I went somewhere?” With therapy, that feeling changed, and today, Seals lives a healthy life.
She exercises regularly and monitors her daily diet. She also had other members of her family get their hearts checked out. Her mother had a coronary artery bypass graft to combat her coronary artery disease.
Seals will be a survivor speaker at the Dutchess-Ulster Heart Walk on April 29, at the Walkway Over the Hudson, where she will share her story and urge others to know the symptoms of heart disease – and pay attention to them.
“My doctor told me that jaw pain is a sign of heart disease,” Seals said. “I was 100 percent sure I had eaten something wrong. I want to tell everyone, don’t ignore your symptoms. People can call you a hypochondriac if they want, but getting help could save your life.”
Seals and her husband, Leroy, a retired New York State Trooper, live in Accord, New York. They have three daughters, and have attended all of their college graduations without any further incidents.
“I thank my doctors every day for helping me through this,” Seals said. “And I participate in the Heart Walk every year.”
To join Seals at the Dutchess-Ulster Heart Walk, register at DutchessUlsterHeartWalk.org.