Health & Fitness

Girl, 14, who felt ‘butterflies’ at a school dance was shocked to find out she’d suffered a heart attack

A WOMAN who experienced butterflies while at a school dance when she was just 14 was actually having a heart attack.

Ceirra Zeager, now 23, recalls passing out on the floor of her family home on returning from the event.


Ceirra survived a heart attack at just 14[/caption]


The 23-year-old want to spread awareness about heart disease[/caption]


Ceirra underwent open heart surgery in February 2021 to repair a leaky valve[/caption]

After being rushed to hospital, Ceirra from Pennsylvania, US, said the “butterflies” a had morphed into such a deep fatigue and “intense burning pain” in her upper arm.

She now knows arm pain is often a sign of heart attacks in women. 

Heart attacks are the leading cause of death for women in the UK – killing 77 each day.

And women are 50 per cent more likely to be wrongly diagnosed when it comes to coronary problems than men, according to the British Heart Foundation.

Many women have their heart attacks dismissed as other conditions, such as anxiety, heartburn or ‘a funny turn’.

At the time, doctors fobbed of Ceirra’s pain as “teenage anxiety” and didn’t give her any pain medicine, she told Insider.

“It really broke me to hear that because I felt embarrassed that my whole family was there, and I was ruining my brother’s birthday get-together,” Ceirra said.

Still, the doctor recommended Zeager visit a children’s hospital just to be safe.

After waiting for hours, Ceirra was told she would need emergency surgery.

And it wasn’t until after the operation the teenager was told she’d suffered a heart attack as a result of a blood clot that had travelled through a hole in her heart and into a coronary artery.

Later, tests revealed the teen had elevated lipoprotein A – which means her red blood cells are “extra sticky” – leading to a blood clot.

She was also born with a hole in her heart, called patent foramen ovale (PFO), which allowed the clot to get lodged in her coronary artery, causing the heart attack.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, PFO rarely leads to complications. But in Ceirra’s case, the high lipoprotein A levels made a heart incident more likely.

Following the successful surgery, the teen was sent home with blood thinners.

However, she said the heart attack changed her life forever, as it left her heart “permanently damaged”.

According to Ceirra, who shared her story with the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women “Real Women” campaig could only attend school for half a day and, to take pressure off her heart, she used a backpack on wheels.

“I felt like everyone was looking at me like I was a porcelain doll,” she said.

However, it wasn’t until 2021, that Ceirra began to experience new symptoms, including extreme fatigue and shortness of breath.

Scans revealed that one of her heart valves was “leaky” after it had been damaged by her heart attack nearly a decade earlier.

In February 2021, shortly after her wedding, Ceirra underwent open-heart surgery to repair the valve.

The slow-recovery proved difficult for the now-23 year old, who found the mental toil hard to move past.

“You’re swollen, you’re bruised, you don’t feel like yourself, you’re on all sorts of painkillers, and you’re just barely making it through each day,” she told Insider.

“In that moment, I was not positive. I was not happy,” she added.

Now, Ceirra keeps her heart healthy through regular exercise and a low-sodium diet.

She also wants to share her story others in the hopes that she can spread awareness about heart disease.

What are symptoms of a heart attack?

A heart attack is also known as a myocardial infarction and symptoms can be difficult to spot for sure, because they can vary from person to person.

The most common signs include:

  • chest pain, tightness, heaviness, pain or a burning feeling in your chest
  • pain in the arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach
  • for some people the pain and tightness will be severe, while for others it will just feel uncomfortable
  • sweating
  • feeling light-headed
  • becoming short of breath
  • feeling nauseous or vomiting

How can you prevent a heart attack?

The most important thing a person can do to ward off a heart attack is to live a healthy lifestyle.

Here are five steps you should take to reduce the risk:

  • Quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do to boost your heart health as smokers are twice as likely to die from a heart attack, compared to non-smokers.
  • Take regular exercise (at least two hours 30 minutes a week for adults).
  • Eat a healthy diet which is high-fibre and low fat with at least five portions of fruit and veg a day.
  • Limiting alcohol consumption can also reduce your heart attack risk.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight or obese.

A heart heart attack is a life-threatening emergency… dial 999 immediately if you suspect someone is having one.

Source of data and images: thesun

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