Four years ago, I was on a plane en route to a family trip in Europe, when I started having heart flutters. I remember thinking “that’s weird” since there weren’t any altitude drops or signs of turbulence. As the child of a diplomat and an international lawyer, I’d traveled all over the world since I was young, and never experienced anything like this. Then, during the trip, I started having intense night sweats, which didn’t make any sense to me, either.
Toward the end of the trip, I was walking through a museum, when suddenly I had chest pains and it was hard to breathe. I sat down and then I was fine, but I had no idea what had happened. A couple days later, I flew back home without any issues, so I didn’t think much of it.
However, the day after I got back from the trip, I was relaxing on my couch recovering from jet lag, when I went into tachycardia (that’s 100 beats per minute or higher while resting.) I thought I was probably just dehydrated or tired.
The next day, I had a big client meeting for my company. On the drive, I started having intense chest pain again. Then, the pain started moving down my left arm. I pulled over, and checked my heart rate, which was at 135 BPM.
I should note that I used to be Pre-Med, plus all of my degrees are in health. Based on that background, I immediately thought I was having heart attack symptoms. But it made no sense to me. I started going over my own clinical assessment: I had no cardiovascular problems at that time, no family history of cardiovascular issues, I didn’t have high blood pressure. I determined I was probably dehydrated from traveling—so I got an electrolyte drink, went to my meeting, and scheduled a check-in with my health provider for the following week.
Then, I woke up the next morning with pain going down my arm again. When I called urgent care, they told me to call 911 and go to the emergency room immediately. But I was 34 at the time, I had no cardiovascular history, and I’m a Black woman—so I thought they weren’t going to admit me. I ended up asking my neighbor to drive me to the ER, where all the tests came back inconclusive.