My wife, born in 1944, was diagnosed with asthma at age 15. She used prescription inhalers since then with several trips to the ER over the years. Major attacks came after being emotionally upset. She was active physically taking dance lessons, able to walk miles and miles, but when upset she had problems breathing. She had one hip replaced in 1999 where they found a slightly leaking heart valve not needing treatment. In 2001 she had the other hip replaced. Great recovery on both and she jokes that those hips are the best parts of her body.
In spring 2006 she started having shoulder pains and by October 2006 she was seeing 6 different doctors who all said arthritis and she was taking 6 each 4mg tablets of Medrol for arthritis in her shoulders and upper arms and asthma. In November 2006 she saw a 7th doctor was prescribed a nebulizer. By Christmas 2006 she was using the nebulizer every few hours. In one week in January 2007 I took her to see 3 different doctors and they said COPD. She couldn't breath and her ankles were swelling. At the end of that week I took her to the ER.
The ER had her transported to Tampa General Hospital by ambulance where she had emergency heart surgery replacing all three major blood vessels to the heart and having a section of dead muscle removed and the heart reshaped with graphs. They gave her a 2% chance of survival. After a few days her breathing was worse yet and they blamed it on COPD after 40 years of smoking cigarettes. After an echocardiogram, they operated again and removed a 1/4 thick hard pericardium. She is now an officer in her line dance club that meets weekly and attends aquasizers 2-3 times per week. Her heart now tests better than average. Oh, it cured her asthma. She has not needed an inhaler since February 2007.
In discussions with the surgeon, she had one abnormally small blood vessel to the heart that was 100% blocked. A normal one 100% blocked, and the third major vessel was 90% blocked. The one small blood vessel was probably what caused her symptoms of asthma. I would think there may be thousands of other "asthma" patients that really have heart problems.
Published On: June 16, 2009