Rosie O’Donnell says she’s lucky to be alive after ignoring the symptoms of a massive “widowmaker” heart attack over a decade ago.
The former talk show host has been on a mission to inform women about their heart health since she suffered a major cardiac event in 2012 at age 50.
During a stop by “The Best Podcast Ever” with host Raven-Symoné and wife Miranda Pearman-Maday, O’Donnell explained how she initially brushed off her pain and why people should be aware of how heart attack symptoms differ between men and women.
“I should’ve died,” O’Donnell said.
The comedian told the podcasters she didn’t think there was anything out of the ordinary when her arm began to hurt after helping a stranger into their car while visiting a friend at the hospital years ago.
That was, until her son told her she looked as pale as a ghost.
“I was in my little art studio, and my son, who was only young at the time, said to me, ‘Mommy, you look like a ghost,’” O’Donnell remembered.
Rosie O'Donnell, shown here at a theater performance on Feb. 19, says her son noticed she had turned pale before she knew she was having a heart attack.
A weary O’Donnell then Googled the symptoms of heart attacks in women and, though she felt “a few of them,” the comic didn’t think she needed to “sound the alarms.”
“The truth of the matter is I had this heart attack on a Monday at 10 a.m.,” she admitted. “I get home, I can hardly walk upstairs. I take two baby aspirin, I go to sleep, I wake up and my family goes, ‘You have to go to the doctor.’ I waited until the next day. So I had it Monday and on Wednesday I saw a doctor.”
When she finally got medical attention, doctors immediately sent her to the emergency room, where she learned she had a 100% blockage of the left anterior descending artery, a type of heart attack known as a “widowmaker.”
“I was like, ‘Wait, wait, what?!’ I couldn’t believe it,” O’Donnell said. “And then I came to find out that the symptoms for a woman having a heart attack are very different than the symptoms for men having heart attacks. Yet what we see on TV are always men having heart attacks.”
O’Donnell told the hosts she was “really lucky” to be alive after the heart attack, which she said “forced” her “to be in touch” with her “body in a way that [she] never had been.”
The American Heart Association warns women to be on the lookout for heart disease, which is the number one killer of women in the United States.
According to the AHA, women should seek immediate medical attention if they experience intense chest pressure; pain in the chest, arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach; shortness of breath; cold sweats; nausea; or lightheadedness ― all signs of a heart attack.