Woman suffers heart attack days after giving birth

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Anabel Navarro was focused on her baby boy who was born with a heart defect that was diagnosed during pregnancy.  At age 39, Anabel never imagined that she could have heart trouble, too. Sudden, life-threatening trouble.

"I just woke up at like two o'clock in the morning with a heavy chest. I thought I was just tired, but I can't shake it off after like five minutes. I decide to wake up my husband," recalled Navarro.

Just eleven days after giving birth to her son, Jag, Navarro was having a heart attack.

"My arm was getting number, my jaw was getting numb and then you're thinking heart attack," Navarro said. "But I'm saying I'm young. I don't have the risk factors."

But the lead medical technologist at Overland Park Regional Medical Center also knew she needed medical help.  Her husband called 911. Navarro says paramedics who arrived apparently didn't think it could be a heart attack.

"I was telling them it hurts. It feels like a heart attack. Why don't you just bring me to the hospital?  But they kept repeating and repeating the EKG," said Navarro.

When she arrived at Overland Park Regional, she had an emergency procedure to clear a blockage in her heart that was causing the heart attack. It was no ordinary heart attack.  The lining of the artery wall had separated -- dissected -- from the artery. The flap that was created was blocking blood flow.  It's something that happens, though rarely, during pregnancy or after giving birth for reasons that are unclear.

Navarro's message to other women: Listen to your body. Don't think it can't be a heart attack.

"If you feel something's not well, just go to the hospital or call 911. What wrong can you do?  You can be wrong, but at least you'll be alive," she said.

A husband has his wife, and three children have their mom.

It's been two years since Navarro's heart attack. She did lose some heart muscle, and says she still has some spasms, but all in all, her life is good. Her baby had surgery for his heart defect and is now a toddler doing well.

Navarro is sharing her story through the American Heart Association's "Real Women.  Real Stories" campaign during American Heart Month.  For the symptoms of heart attack in women, CLICK HERE.

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