But as Doucette was putting the seat belt on her then 4-year-old son, she felt like she pulled a muscle. The pain radiated from her chest into her right arm and she stood up to stretch. The pain intensified.
“I told my daughter that ‘mommy needs a minute, can you help me put your brother in his seat,’ and she did that for me,” Doucette said.
The pain became crushing. She was losing feeling in her arms. Gasping for air, she rolled into the fetal position on the garage floor as her young daughter took control. Rebecca took out Doucette’s cellphone and managed to get her up the steps and into the house. Doucette’s mom, who lives with the family, called 9-1-1 while Rebecca stayed with her little brother in the car as the paramedics arrived.
As Doucette now tells anyone who will listen, “time is muscle” and the longer it takes a victim of a heart attack to be treated, “you either lose that muscle or you lose your life.” In her case, it would take an entire day before she received the proper diagnosis.
Following a series of cardiac tests at the emergency room, Doucette’s EKG came back abnormal. The levels of certain enzymes and proteins in her blood were elevated, indicating damage to the heart muscle. She had vomited in the ambulance — another symptom of a heart attack — and the chest pain persisted.
Still, the message from the doctors was clear.
“I was told unequivocally that she did not have a heart attack,” said Mike Doucette, her husband.
However, Doucette was in the midst of a heart attack. It was caused not by the buildup of plaque, but by a spontaneous coronary artery dissection, in which the lining of the coronary artery peels off and blocks the flow of blood to the heart muscle.