Susan Lucci opened up on the TODAY show about the emergency heart surgery she had that may very well have saved her life.
The longtime “All My Children” star said the first time she felt a tightness in her chest last fall, she thought maybe she was just tired. “I told myself, it’s nothing, it will go away,” said the 72-year-old soap opera legend. “And it did.”
About 10 days later, she felt it again, “radiating around my rib cage,” she said. “I thought maybe I had fastened my bra too tightly.”
The third time was Oct. 23 — was different. On that day, while shopping at the Tory Burch boutique in Manhasset, Long Island, she said, “It felt like an elephant pressing down on my chest.”
After Lucci sat down to catch her breath, the store manager quietly offered to drive her to nearby St. Francis Hospital.
Lucci was whisked to an emergency room, where a CT scan revealed she was having a heart attack, often referred to as a “widowmaker.” There was a 90 percent blockage in her heart’s main artery and a 70 percent blockage in another area, as well.
“Ninety percent blockage — I was shocked,” Lucci said. “I’m lucky to be alive.”
“As a woman, you think about breast cancer, not a heart attack,” Lucci said. “Every EKG I had was great. My blood pressure was on the lower end of normal.”
Lucci is a great example of a person who may not be at risk, but could still have heart problems. Lucci was susceptible to a heart attack because heart disease runs in her family.
She had to undergo emergency surgery, during which her doctor inserted two stents into her arteries to help increase blood flow back to her heart.
The procedure worked for the Emmy Award-winning actress. “She has no damage,” Dr. Richard Shlofmitz, who performed the surgery, told People. “Her heart is pumping as good as when she was born.”
Lucci, 72, is now using her experience to educate others, which is particularly timely since February is American Heart Health Month.
“I’m not a nurse or anyone who can help in any real way,” she said. “This is the way I can help. I can tell my story. Everyone’s symptoms are different but I felt compelled to share mine. Even if it’s one person I help. That is someone’s life.”
Lucci has now signed on to serve as a spokesperson for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign. The movement works to raise awareness about heart disease, the No. 1 killer of women in the U.S.
Almost two-thirds of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have had no previous symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even without symptoms, women can still be at risk for heart disease.
Symptoms are not always obvious but can include:
- Chest pain
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Changes in the ability to exercise
- Changes in the ability to breath
“We often put ourselves on the back burner,” Lucci said. “But if your body is telling you something, you need to pay attention.”
Ref. NBC/TODAY, today.com, people.com
Photo courtesy of Bing via taddlr.com