COLUMBIA, S.C. — February is American Heart Month, and healthcare professionals are stressing the importance of understanding the risk factors and symptoms of heart disease and how COVID-19 can affect the heart.
Cindy Case is a COVID-19 survivor. "I didn't even realize it was COVID."
She says she tested positive in August of 2020, but by October she said, "It didn't get better, and it got progressively worse."
Just before testing positive, she said, "I had recently just moved down here from Michigan." She says she moved here to be closer to her two sons and all her grandchildren.
A retired nurse, Cindy has 40 years of experience in the health field, and she says she knew something wasn't right.
"I was out shopping, and I felt terrible. If it wasn't for the shopping cart, I couldn't have stood up." It was while she was she was shopping, that she collapsed. "I thought my heart was going to rip right out of my chest it was pounding so hard."
Case says she drove her to self to the Emergency room in Newberry. From there, she was transported to Prisma Health. "Because of the heart damage they thought I was going to have a pacemaker," she said.
Case says the hardest part was not having her family nearby. "99% of my family is in Michigan." The 65-year-old feared the worst.
"Its scary when you are in the ER, and they have the crash cart parked at the foot of your bed."
Her cardiologist, Dr. Ryan Wilson with Prisma Health, says COVID adds another layer of complexity and unknowns for those with heart conditions.
"Most of these people do have some pre-existing heart disease, acutely exacerbated by COVID," Wilson said. "However, some of the patients don't have any pre-existing conditions and still develop problems after they have a COVID infection."
He says while some can brush COVID off in a few days, others cannot. "We have seen patients come in with heart attacks, which are acute blockages in the heart arteries."
As for Cindy, six months later, "I am proud to say I am able to live by myself now," she said.