‘Widow makers’ aren’t just a problem for men

‘Widow makers’ aren’t just a problem for men

Women in the prime of their lives aren’t supposed to have heart attacks.

But what used to be rare is on the rise and tried to take Amanda Bainer’s life.

In July 2021, Bainer went out one night with friends to watch the NBA Finals and celebrate the Milwaukee Bucks’ championship victory. The next morning, her friends found her lifeless on their bathroom floor. Bainer, just 35 years old, was in cardiac arrest.

Paramedics rushed her to Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee, but 45 minutes of CPR couldn’t resuscitate her. Bainer’s left anterior descending artery (LAD) was blocked.

She had suffered the type of heart attack commonly called the “widow maker.”

However, Aurora St. Luke’s has the only 24/7 on-site cardiac team in Wisconsin, and they quickly got to work. They placed a stent to open the blocked artery and put Bainer on life support.

“Less than 10 percent of people survive to the point she was at,” said Dr. William Fischer, cardiothoracic surgeon at Aurora St. Luke’s. “Our ECMO machine was doing the work for her heart and lungs and keeping her alive.”

After two days, she woke up, and was able to return home just days later.

“I had no idea I was susceptible,” said Bainer. “I had no chest pains or symptoms prior at all.”

More women aged 35-54 are having those literal heart-stopping moments that put their lives in peril. That age group now accounts for nearly a third of all heart attacks among women, up 10% in the last decade.

What’s worse is that group often forgoes the screenings and ignores the specific warning signs for women, which includes chest pain, nausea and shortness of breath.

Thankfully, Bainer was in the right place at the right time and is expected to make a full recovery. Now, she has a message for other women like her.

“Don’t take your heart health for granted,” said Bainer.

Want to learn more about your risk for heart disease? Take a free online quiz to learn more.

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About the Author

Matt Queen
Matt Queen

Matt Queen, health enews contributor, is a communication coordinator at Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee. He is a former TV sports anchor and journalist with extensive public relations experience across the health care spectrum. Outside of work, Matt enjoys watching sports (of course), cooking, gardening, golfing and spending time with his wife and two young children.