Know your heart; know the signs of heart disease

The story of Casey Bantz

At 35 years old, Casey Bantz of Spokane isn't who many would expect to be at St. Luke's Outpatient Cardiac Rehabilitation program after suffering a heart attack at a young age. Casey is sharing her experience to help others realize heart disease can happen at varying stages of life.

"I never imagined this would have happened to me at my age," Casey says. "I want others-women-to talk with their doctors, listen to their bodies and take symptoms seriously."

Taking notice of signs and symptoms
"I was getting ready for work, just like any other morning, when I suddenly had the worst heartburn I could imagine," Casey remembers about the first sign something was wrong. "It was incredibly painful; I started sweating, getting hot flashes and then my arm felt numb."

Casey says she initially figured nothing was really wrong, but she increasingly felt pain as she continued to get dressed. By the time she realized she needed to call 911, she was shaking and crying in pain. "It felt like someone was sitting on my chest," she says. First responders told Casey she needed to go to an emergency room immediately. She let them know exactly where she wanted them to take her, "I told them to take me to Sacred Heart," she says. "I couldn't imagine being taken anywhere else."

Stabilizing the heart
Once at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, Casey says she was given medicine to help her calm down and was told she was having a heart attack. 

"I just kept thinking, I'm 35 years old," she says. "I couldn't believe this was happening. I thought I was doing everything I was supposed to do at this point to be healthy."

Casey says she was told there were no blockages or plague buildup, nothing cuing the providers on the cause of the heart attack. "I'm not your typical patient," she adds. "Everyone's symptoms and causes are different, and I'm an example of that."

Working it all out
Casey came to St. Luke's outpatient program three times a week for three months, receiving heart education, monitor exercise routines, heart disease prevention and management and support from therapists, dieticians and other patients enrolled in the program. 

"When you're at St. Luke's Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, therapists work very closely with your cardiologist," Casey says of the collaborative effort to make patients the center of care. "And I just adored everyone there. I was really sad when my time was done."

"While it's not as common to see patients as young as Casey in our cardiac program, we know that heart disease can affect even young adults," says Shelley Schmidt, one of St. Luke's Exercise Physiologists. "Our goal is to empower our patients to make lasting lifestyle changes with diet and exercise, and it was inspiring to see Casey do just that. It's stories like Casey's, that remind me of the positive affect cardiac rehab can have both mentally and physically on those we serve." 

"My warning signs aren't going to be the same as others," Casey says. "Don't shrug it off when you think something is wrong, even at a young age. It's better to be safe."

Learn more about how St. Luke's Outpatient Cardiac Rehabilitation program can help you by visiting: .
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St. Luke's Rehabilitation Institute
711 S. Cowley St.
Spokane, WA 99202-1330

Inpatient Information: (509) 473-6058 or 1-833-FOR-SLR-1
Outpatient Information: (509) 473-6869