Heart attack victim warns others not to delay medical help

Alice Timmons, 66, thought her chest pain was indigestion and initially put off going to hospital.

Heart attack victim warns others not to delay medical help
Emergency: Alice Timmons is recovering at home.

A grandmother who is recovering at home after surviving a heart attack during the lockdown is urging others not to delay seeking medical help because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Alice Timmons, 66, from Glasgow, thought her chest pain was indigestion and initially put off going to hospital because she felt she didn’t want to be a burden to the NHS at the current time. 

But when she was later admitted and assessed, cardiologists discovered one of the major arteries in her heart was almost completely blocked, with only a “pinhole” allowing blood through.

Former nurse Ms Timmons said: “I feel incredibly lucky.

“Having worked in the NHS I can appreciate the challenges staff are facing just now and so I didn’t want to add to that – especially because I really did feel it was just indigestion. 

“But I am so glad I was persuaded by my GP to have my symptoms checked out.

“It makes me very emotional to think just how close I came to potentially not being here. I have two grandchildren who I adore and the idea of not being around to see them grow up doesn’t bear thinking about.

“The doctors and nursing staff were wonderful and looked after me so well. 

“There were very clear procedures in place for suspected Covid-19 patients, with visible demarcations in the hospital and staff taking all precautions. I felt very safe and very secure and I am just so grateful to everyone who helped with my care. “

Ms Timmons is now supporting calls from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) for people not to be apprehensive about going into hospital or putting unnecessary strain on the NHS, warning thousands of people may be at greater risk of suffering long-term heart damage,  needing  intensive care, or even dying as a result of delaying getting help. 

The charity says it’s increasingly worried by data which shows the average number of weekly attendances at A&E in Scotland has fallen by more than 50% since the outbreak began. 

Figures from the Information Services Division (ISD) Scotland show that the average number of weekly attendances to A&E in Scotland was 24,550 before the outbreak, falling rapidly to 11,388 after the outbreak.

Claire Darroch, NHSGGC cardiology advanced nurse practitioner at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital’s acute receiving unit, where Ms Timmons attended, said: “I am delighted Alice is recovering well. 

“In the hospital, we have seen fewer patients present with chest pain than normal.

“Although it is understandable that patients may feel anxious about attending, as Alice did, I would advise everybody that chest pain may be a symptom of a heart attack and not to delay seeking urgent attention. 

“We are here, and we have the capacity and systems in place where you will be seen safely.

“The cardiology advanced nurse practitioner team, cardiology team and wider nursing teams are here to look after all patients, so please don’t delay in attending, as it could save your life.”

Common symptoms of a heart attack

  • Central chest pain or discomfort in your chest that suddenly occurs and doesn’t go away. It may feel like pressure, tightness or squeezing.
  • For some people the pain or tightness is severe, while other people just feel uncomfortable.
  • Pain similar to that of indigestion is also a common symptom.
  • Pain which radiates down your left, or both arms, or to your neck, jaw, back or stomach. 
  • Feeling sick, sweaty, light-headed or short of breath.

A heart attack is a medical emergency and can be life threatening. Anyone experiencing any of these symptoms should phone 999 immediately for an ambulance.

For the latest information and support for people living with heart and circulatory diseases at this time, go to the BHF website.