Listen to Your Heart: One Women’s Heart Attack Warning

Debbie Schlise will admit she ignored her symptoms for months.  She remembers feeling tightness in her chest, nausea and sweating.  At one point, her arm froze from her wrist to her shoulder, but the pain always passed quickly, and she continued with her busy life.

“I just kept pushing it to the back of my mind,” she says. “You know, we’re women. We don’t have time for aches and pains and running to the doctor.”

The symptoms got noticeably worse this past July, right when she was preparing to travel for work.  She was burping, sweating, and felt a burning in her chest. 

But still, she felt too busy too act.  “I just wanted to get through this trip,” she remembers.

Ignoring the Signs

Debbie suspected she was having heart problems and knew it ran in her family.  Her mother had died of a heart attack in her late 50s—the same age that Debbie is now.

But Debbie didn’t want to believe this was happening.  She searched gall bladder symptoms and in essence convinced herself that was problem.

Five days later, she was back home in Green Bay. Her husband drove her to the hospital the morning after the trip. She waited patiently for her turn, and even tried to tell the nurse it was probably a gallbladder attack. The nurse, however, promptly hooked her up to an EKG machine.

“I saw her eyes get massive,” Debbie remembers.  “She told me, ‘You’re having a heart attack right now!’”

One of Debbie’s heart arteries was completely blocked. Dr. Scott Weslowinterventional cardiologist, brought her into the cath lab inserted a stent emergently.  “I was playing with my final vapors,” Debbie recalls, thinking about how close she came to death. 

A Message for Other Women

Now, roughly seven months after her heart attack, Debbie says she feels “absolutely wonderful.” She’s taking steps to change her diet and exercise routine.  And she is also speaking out to encourage other women to heed the warning signs.

“Take the time. Just take the time,” she says. “Your body is trying to tell you something. You need to stop and pay attention.”  


Women account for nearly half of all heart attack deaths. More than 40% of them have NO symptoms of chest discomfort at all.  Instead of chest pain, some women may experience shortness of breath; severe indigestion; pain in the stomach, back, or jaw; or flu-like symptoms such as sweating, dizziness, or nausea.

If you might be having a heart attack, call 911 or get to a hospital immediately. 

If you think you might be at risk, talk to your doctor.  Learn more about Women’s Heart Health and schedule a low-cost Calcium Scoring test at Aurora BayCare to find assess your risk.

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