It was a life-changing moment. One Bishop Heelan Art Teacher Laurie Dougherty will never forget. She came within minutes of losing her life, and says she just may have if it weren't for her doctor and her husband, Marty. It's an amazing story, that we'll let her tell in her own words.
"I had a heart attack the day after my 50th birthday. I would have been more prepared for probably a nuclear attack. It was tough for me to wrap my head around," said Laurie Dougherty.
"I was at a Heelan football game. It was a really warm night, unseasonably warm, it was like 85 degrees on September 9th. I felt fine, you know, I never actually had a symptom. Ever," said Laurie.
"I was just about to walk into the stands, and something made me, like, stop, because there was this pain in my chest. And people tell you it's like an elephant. It is. It's like singularly located just in my chest, but it was unbelievable pain, pressure. No where else, not my head, not my limbs, nothing else. And so I walked back down. I was going up the steps, and then I came down. And Marty turned around and was like 'what's wrong'? And I said my heart hurts, and he said 'no really', and I said I'm not kidding you, my heart hurts," said Laurie.
"And as it turns out, I had one clogged artery. But it was completely clogged. It's called the widow maker," said Laurie.
"All I could think about was my seven children. I have such great kids that have made me proud since day one. So that was heart-breaking, and my husband who's my best friend. The whole time, I'm like 'I'm too young'," said Dougherty.
"We get to the hospital, and I'm fine. I mean, I'm conscious. I'm struggling to breathe. And I was on a gurney lying down and I had oxygen and I said to this young, young nurse, about 25 years old, 'something is' but I never got 'wrong' out and then I coded. I didn't have an out-of-body experience. It was like this grey circle came in, and it was dark, and then the grey circle came out. And it was probably 3 or 4 minutes. And I wake up and this nurse is on top of me. And I'm like, 'I'm okay now', and everybody's laughing," said Laurie.
"Get in the cath lab, and they put a stent in. It's like this little, and made of titanium, very thin, it's a circular mesh that goes in that vein," said Laurie.
"My cholesterol was read for the first time in the hospital and I had perfect numbers in everything across the board. Why this happened to me, I'll probably never know," said Laurie.
"I thought I was not healthy but not unhealthy. I thought I was safely in the middle where we all think we live, as it turns out. I'm not a smoker. I'm not a drinker. And I like to walk. I used to drink way too much pop every day. I'm a Diet Dew crazy... I would have like 10 cans a day. Now I have one and I love it. I've lost probably about 25 pounds. I can't let my heart work that hard anymore," said Laurie.
"I always felt that I was probably one of the luckiest people I knew. But that day really put it in perspective for me," said Laurie.
"Pay attention. Go to the doctor. Not tomorrow. Go today. If you need to lose weight, do it. And I tell them, do it for yourself. Do it for your children. Do it for the events you want to be at in your life. Because it can all be gone in an instant," said Laurie.
Now, six months later, Laurie is back teaching art at Bishop Heelan High School and feeling great. She still walks, and does cardiac rehab at Mercy Medical Center several days a week. She's also looking forward to sharing her amazing close-call story with others at a Heart Association function later this year.
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