Real story: don’t let common heart attack symptoms go unnoticed

Stethoscope and red heart on blue background
Jim Templin at his home office

Jim Templin at his home office

When he was an ER nurse, Jim Templin became well-versed in the symptoms most often associated with a heart attack and helped many patients with heart conditions.

But when he had his first heart attack a decade ago, he didn’t notice the symptoms he often saw his patients experience. He doesn’t remember any chest discomfort, back, neck, shoulder or arm pain, shortness of breath, or nausea and cold sweats.

His only recollection of the moments before his heart attack was having a bite to eat while his wife was in surgery. The next thing he remembers, he was heading to the ER on a stretcher.

“A nurse in the hospital cafeteria noticed I was slumped over and not breathing well,” explains Jim, now a case manager at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.

Managing his health conditions

High blood pressure runs in Jim’s family. He’d been managing this, elevated cholesterol and diabetes for several years with medication and diet.

During his hospital stay following the heart attack, Jim learned the arrhythmia he experienced – a condition characterized by an irregular heartbeat – was brought on by a blockage of a very small blood vessel in the back of his heart (that generally doesn’t cause this sort of problem).

Stents were put in several blood vessels to improve blood flow in his heart muscle. He had surgery to put in a pacemaker and defibrillator to regulate his heart’s rhythm.

“Prior to this, I never had pain or shortness of breath. Nothing,” Jim adds.

On the day of his second heart attack in 2018, he noticed faint heart palpitations. But his wife, also a nurse, saw something that concerned her.

“I was sitting on the edge of the couch,” Jim remembers. “My wife said it appeared that I dozed off and then woke right back up. My arrhythmia had struck again, and my defibrillator had fired.”

A healthy outlook while putting the pieces together

During this hospital stay, he got another stent. And he thought more about signs he might have missed, including feeling tired a lot before his first heart attack.

“Not everyone has the same symptoms, and those with diabetes like me can have different symptoms,” Jim explains.

Now, his goal is to avoid another heart attack by doing these 3 things

  1. Taking the medications as prescribed by his health care team
  2. Keeping appointments with his cardiologist, primary care doctor and his endocrinologist
  3. Participating in case management benefits available through his health plan.

Jim says he appreciates the accountability case management services provides him and the reminders he gets to keep his health on track. His encouragement to others is also a personal reminder. If something seems out of the ordinary, get it checked.

“I want others with a serious diagnosis to know there’s more to you than your health condition,” he said. “You can still have a life.”

More on heart health from WellTuned

Marie Mosley

Marie Mosley

Marie joined the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee corporate communications team in 2012. A Florida native, she has 25 years of experience in public relations, community relations, speech writing and special event planning.

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BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also use tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the in the Member Wellness Center under the Managing Your Health tab.

Filed under: Mind & Body, Real Stories

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Marie Mosley

Marie joined the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee corporate communications team in 2012. A Florida native, she has 25 years of experience in public relations, community relations, speech writing and special event planning.