- Tara Robinson 44, suffered three heart attacks in three days in April 2014
- Her symptoms, including extreme fatigue and numbness in the left arm, began nearly seven months before the heart attacks
- Because Tara, who served in the US Army Reserve for four years, had normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels, her doctor attributed her symptoms to stress
- After her second heart attack, Tara was released from the hospital after her heart enzyme tests came back fine
- Experts believe the third and biggest heart attack could’ve been avoided by doing different tests
By JALEESA BAULKMAN
A mother-of-two and US Army Veteran with no history of high blood pressure suffered three heart attacks within the span of three days at the age of 40.
Tara Robinson, 44, of Fort Worth, Texas, experienced warning signs of a heart attack around seven months before her heart attacks in April 2014, including extreme fatigue and discomfort in the neck.
Although alarmed, Tara, a school counselor, ignored the symptoms until she suffered three heart attacks back-to-back, with the third one nearly killing her.
She is now urging other women to beware the easily missed symptoms, which, in her case, weren’t painful at all.
Tara Robinson, 44, suffered three heart attacks within the span of three days in April 2014
‘I “died” the day of the third heart attack,’ Tara told Daily Mail Online. ‘It was only for a couple of seconds, but it felt like eternity to me.’
Although we know childbirth increases the risk of heart problems, Tara had no signs of blood pressure issues or heart conditions during or after either of her births.
Tara, who served in the Army Reserve from 1990 to 1994 after high school, was in relatively good shape when she began experiencing symptoms in October 2013.
Her left arm was numb, she was extremely tired and her neck felt like it had a crook in it. She also noticed her feet were becoming darker than her body.
‘A heart attack is not painful,’ Tara told Daily Mail Online. ‘If you’re expecting pain then you’re going to miss it.’
Now that she knows what to look for, however, Tara said it is almost obvious that the intense discomfort – which she put down to generally being run-down – was something more sinister.
‘They were noticeable,’ Tara said of her symptoms. ‘They were only noticeable enough for me to make excuses.’
She attributed her fatigue to a long day’s work, her numb arm to sleeping on her left side too much or from tweaking it in the gym, and the neck pain to sleeping on too many pillows.
Tara, who served in the US Army Reserve for four years, began experiencing symptoms nearly seven months before her heart attacks
In December, right before Christmas, she noticed these sensations occurred more frequently.
These sensations hung around longer and came and went throughout the day, whereas just a couple of months prior she only experienced them once every couple of days.
She also noticed the skin covering her lateral malleolus — the prominent bone on the outer side of her ankle — had turned completely ‘black black.’
The symptoms were alarming enough for her to call her sister who advised her to see a doctor immediately. But Tara decided to wait until her annual doctor’s appointment in January.
As for Tara’s feet, her foot doctor didn’t know why they were changing colors.
‘I went to the foot doctor and I remember him saying he didn’t know why my feet were darker than the rest of my body,’ Tara said. ‘But after I had my heart attack they lightened up.’
Most people nowadays would’ve Googled their symptoms, but Tara waited until her annual check up the following month to express her concerns to her doctor.
Tara has a family history of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, but since she had normal levels, her doctor attributed the symptoms to stress.
‘I never researched my symptoms,’ Tara explained. ‘My doctor told me I was stressed out and that’s what I believed.’
But the symptoms continued from January to April 10, 2014.
The day of her first heart attack was like any other.
‘I was just going throughout my day, she explained. ‘I went to work, went home, talked to my husband. It was a normal day. Nothing was different.’
Tara, fourth from left, has a family history of high blood pressure and cholesterol, but since she had normal levels, her doctor attributed her symptoms to stress. Pictured: Tara at her mother’s wedding in October 2017
She went to bed that night.
Then she woke up at 2am feeling hot, clammy and nauseous.
Her symptoms were 10 times worse, she had upper back pain and her chest felt like she tried to swallow a pill and it got stuck.
‘My husband saved my life that night,’ Tara said. ‘I would’ve [gone] back to sleep but he said “no we’re going to the hospital.”‘
The hospital was a 10-minute drive from her house, and by the time she arrived there she felt better.
Tara still went through a series of tests, including EKG, MRI and a CAT scan.
The doctor said the symptoms she was describing sounds a lot like those of a heart attack, but ruled it out after it was decided Tara was too young to have one.
‘The words “heart attack” went in one ear and right out the other,’ Tara said. ‘Because why would I be having a heart attack?’
Tara, who was a middle school teacher at the time, had another heart attack on April 11 at 9.30am in her classroom.
Her symptoms were the same as the day before, they weren’t painful, but she felt a little bit weaker.
She was taken to the ER and, because she was experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, saw a cardiologist.
She stayed overnight, was given a heart enzyme test — which measured the levels of enzymes and proteins that are linked with injury of the heart muscle — and was released the next morning at 11am after the tests came back fine.
Tara’s third heart attack nearly killed her. Pictured: Tara on May 16, 2014, the last day of her six-week cardiac rehabilitation
Five hours later she experienced a massive heart attack while cleaning her shower.
Her symptoms, she told Daily Mail Online, were the exact same as the other times. The only difference was she felt weaker.
Her husband, who was home at the time, took her to the hospital.
‘We stopped to get gas,’ she said. ‘At the time we didn’t know this was life-threatening.’
Tara said her symptoms lasted more than 10 minutes, and persisted while she was being driven to the hospital. Her last two heart attacks lasted an estimated five to seven minutes.
The doctors ran tests on her while she was experiencing these symptoms and confirmed she was suffering a massive heart attack.
There was a 99 percent blockage in her main artery, and doctors inserted a stent to expand the muscular-walled tube. Doctors almost lost Tara, who was awake during the emergency procedure.
She was later diagnosed with heart disease — the leading cause of death for women in the US.
Tara, who is now an advocate for the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement, a national initiative to end heart disease and stroke in women, was put in cardiac rehabilitation for six weeks.
Dr Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist from New York, told Daily Mail Online Tara’s heart attacks could have been prevented.
‘Genuinely, I think there are things they should’ve checked for that they didn’t,’ Dr Steinbaum said. ‘Like her family history… sometimes these things are genetically driven.’
The cardiologist also said had doctors kept her in the hospital longer after her second heart attack they could’ve prevented the third one from happening.
Dr Steinbaum, who is also a spokesperson for The Go Red For Women movement, told Daily Mail Online that the AHA initiative is about women speaking up for themselves and demanding what they need.
‘Tara did everything right and the system failed her,’ Dr Steinbaum explained. ‘If she believes something is wrong with her then something might be wrong with her.’
‘It’s unfair for a doctor to say it’s stress and you’re fine.’
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, killing one in four females annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease, which is a condition in which a waxy substance called plaque builds up inside the arteries, increasing the risk of a heart attack.
Tara said she had no clue her symptoms were signs of a heart attack.
‘I was more worried about getting breast cancer than heart disease,’ She said. ‘I never though heart disease would affect me.’
In fact, Tara found two benign knots in her breast earlier that year.
However, Dr Steinbaum said more women die from heart disease than all cancers combined.
Many signs and symptoms of heart disease are subtle, but there are ways women can tell something is off.
‘You need to pay attention to the activities you usually do,’ Dr Steinbaum explained. ‘If those activities all of a sudden become hard to do.. you got to think about your heart first.’
In other words if someone starts experiencing shortness of breath while bending over to put on their shoes, it should be taken seriously.
There are some heart disease risk factors that can be controlled with lifestyle changes, including high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, lack of physical activity, and obesity.
Risk factors people can’t control include age, gender, family health history, race and previous stroke or heart attack.
Nevertheless, Dr Steinbaum said heart disease is preventable 80 percent of the time, and women should visit their doctors to learn their personal health numbers including blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and Body Mass Index (BMI), and assess their risk for heart disease and stroke.