‘Don’t make excuses... I was the master of excuses.’ Woman needs open heart surgery after repeatedly brushing off symptoms

One woman's story: Recognizing the signs of heart disease

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Jane-Medlin Smith is used to being on the move. “See Jane go,” she joked. “I’m big on going. That’s what I like to do.”

But, a routine stress test last week stopped her cold. She’d made the appointment at the insistence of her husband, Wyatt, and her cardiologist handed her a grim diagnosis: the 57-year-old was dangerously close to having a heart attack with four blocked arteries - and the blockage in two of them was at 95%.

“Within 30 minutes of leaving his office, they were calling me back, scheduling a heart catherization for two days later,” she recalled. “And then, [come to] find an hour and a half procedure was only 20 minutes and I knew then something was terribly wrong so now quadruple bypass is needed.”

A couple days later - Jane saw a story I did on women’s heart health story where Katheryne Stevenson shared her harrowing recount of the heart attack that nearly killed her. “My husband and I watched it together and we would just look at each other, you know,” said Medlin-Smith. “Cause every one of them was the same, right down to the sweating.”

In fact, Jane has now realized she has been having symptoms of the number one killer of women, heart disease, for five years.

“I can trace it back to 2014 when I was at my doctor's appointment and I was telling her that I was having shortness of breath,” she said.

Her doctor at the time diagnosed her with allergies and Jane told me, “you wouldn't believe the allergy medicines I have at my home - that now I don't need them.”

She also didn’t need the anti-depressants the same doctor prescribed in 2015 when she lost her mother to heart disease after years of being her caregiver. “I would take them for a while and then I just wouldn’t take them because I knew I wasn’t depressed,” she said.

Then there was the trip she and her husband, Wyatt, took to Key West in September 2018. “I was really looking forward to you know going out and walking the island because that’s one of our favorite things about Key West and the whole week I probably didn’t walk two miles,” she remembered. “I was out of breath, I couldn’t do it.”

But it wasn’t until last week, the Monday after the Super Bowl, that she finally saw that cardiologist. She’s still coming to terms with her own diagnosis. “I realize anything can happen to any of us anytime,” she said. “But you know it’s just like a ticking time bomb.”

Jane says it also made her realize there could be another woman out there with a ticking time bomb which is why she emailed me to share her story.

“I’m just so, so thankful for the women’s heart health - for your story,” she said. “You just came to mind – really. I said I need to call -- I need to find out how I can get in touch with Brigida about this and just get the word out to where there’s another Katheryne out there. There’s another Jane out there. Don’t ignore the signs.”

Signs Jane admits she repeatedly brushed off.

“I was the master of excuses,” she admitted. “Like I was telling you earlier about I thought it was the way I was sleeping in bed because of the soreness in both of my arms. Nothing was just on my left. I’d always thought oh I’m not hurting on my left side so it’s not my heart, you know?”

Constantly exhausted, she didn’t even have the energy to go on walks with their beloved dog, Millie. It’s why even though such a major surgery scares her, likening her anxiety to watching her beloved Clemson Tigers - “I feel like I’m watching a Clemson football game. I’m a huge Clemson fan and I just feel like I’m going to jump out of my skin, you know?” - she’s already looking forward to what’s next.

“I’m really looking forward to getting this behind me and being myself again and doing those walks with Millie,” she said. “And not taking my health for granted; thinking that it wasn’t going to happen to me.”

Editor’s Note: Jane’s open heart surgery today – Valentine’s Day - was successful. It turns out she only needed a triple bypass. Her surgeon said a quadruple bypass wasn’t necessary because her heart will heal and reroute on its own.

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