February 14, 2023
Eve Mayer of Arlington Heights was just 41 when she had a heart attack. Surprised? So was she. Here’s her story in her own words.
May 13, 2003 was a normal evening. I mowed the lawn, took my son to swim practice, had dinner and watched TV. When I went to bed around 10:30 I felt fine. Around 3 am I woke up, feeling really nauseous and ran for the bathroom. I laid in bed for a while trying to think of what could have made me sick to my stomach. At some point a heart attack crossed my mind – but I was 41, had dropped 30 pounds in the last year, was doing Jazzercise regularly, there is no history of heart disease in my family and my cholesterol was low. I didn’t think it could be a heart attack. I finally fell asleep.
In the morning I dropped my son off at school and drove to work. Even though I felt fine, it really bothered me that I had gotten sick the night before so I called my doctor’s office on the way to work. I was connected to the nurse who asked me a few questions and then told me to pull over, call an ambulance and go to the hospital immediately. I was already very close to Northwest Community Hospital so I drove myself to the ER.
Once there I told the triage nurse what had happened and that my doctor’s office had told me to come to the ER. They kept asking what my pain level was but I wasn’t in any pain.
I met Cardiologist Stephen Zaacks, M.D. in the ER. He explained my oxygenation levels and my EKG were normal. We needed to wait for the results of my troponin levels to determine next steps. When they came back high, I was moved to the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory very quickly. I had a 100% blockage mid-LAD – commonly referred to as “the widowmaker.” Dr. Zaacks did an angioplasty and placed two stents. I spent a couple of days in the ICU and then a night on the telemetry unit before going home.
About a month after my heart attack I started the Cardiac Rehabilitation program at the NCH Wellness Center. My case manager, Cyndy, and the whole Cardiac Rehab team were wonderful. They were encouraging, but also made me stay within the guidelines so I gave my heart the best chance for a full recovery. As I got stronger, I was able to do more and more and really push myself.
It was while I was at Cardiac Rehab in late 2003 that I saw a flyer for the Hustle up the Hancock (now called Hustle Chicago). It was then I decided that walking up all 94 floors of the Hancock building was my goal. I wouldn’t have even considered such a “crazy” thing before my heart attack, but I climbed for the first time on February 26, 2005 and have climbed every year since then. This year will be my 19th climb.
My family, friends and neighbors have been so supportive of my climbs, encouraging me, donated to support the Respiratory Health Association (the beneficiary of the climb) and a few have joined me. My partner, Jim Such, joined my team in 2010 and has been in the staircase with me since then. Dr. Zaacks joined me in 2012 and has been on my team several times since then as his schedule allows. His son, Joshua, has been a regular on the team since 2012. This year, Jim, Dr. Zaacks, Joshua and my physical therapist, Stamati, will be climbing with me.
I truly don’t know why I called the doctor’s office that day in 2003, but I am so thankful I did. At 41, as a single mom with a 10 year old son, my goal was to see him graduate from college. Thanks to the great care and advice I received from Dr. Zaacks and my extended support teams I saw him graduate a few years ago. My current goal is to be the oldest female climbing the Hancock building. Just 22 or so more climbs to go!
Women’s symptoms are different and sometimes more subtle. We often don’t have the classic elephant on your chest pain or tingling in the arm symptoms. At my age, in 2003 many healthcare professionals would have told me I was fine and sent me home. I was very lucky I went to the right hospital. For more information about Cardiac Rehabilitation at NCH click here.