Cynthia Kertesz, M.D., is a 50-year-old pediatrician with excellent health habits. She exercises for an hour every day, eats her veggies and very little meat, doesn’t smoke and rarely drinks alcohol. Her health choices are distinctive enough that she’s earned the nickname “Captain Broccoli.”
Cynthia has no family history of heart disease and her cholesterol and blood pressure are normal. She's the picture of perfect health.
Last winter, she went on a ski vacation with her family to Aspen, Colorado — and had a heart attack.
A ski vacation takes an unexpected turn
It was the third day of vacation for Cynthia and her family. She had a rare day to herself on the slopes while her mother-in-law and children stayed behind in the condo to work on art projects.
When she got back to the condo at the end of the day, she discovered they’d run out of supplies and offered to walk to the local pharmacy to get them more.
She was about a block away from the pharmacy when, all of a sudden, she couldn’t breathe.
“I know what it feels like to be out of breath when you’re exercising really hard, but that’s not what this felt like,” says Cynthia. “This felt like I could not inflate my lungs. Even stopping and trying to take a slow, deep breath made no difference.”
Then she was hit with a slamming headache.
Cynthia focused on trying to breathe for the remainder of the way to the pharmacy, telling herself that she would get some Tylenol once she arrived.
It seemed like a very long block, but she made it to the pharmacy and grabbed the Tylenol. She turned to go to the second floor for art supplies. But she was unable to walk up the stairs.