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Local Woman, 39, with Misdiagnosed Heart Attacks Credits St. Joseph Medical Center with Saving Life

When Angela Persinger, a workforce manager from Independence, Mo., turned 40 in November, she felt like her body was giving up on her. She was experiencing mini heart attacks that were misdiagnosed due to her young age. After spending an entire year enduring numerous tests with various doctors, she was exhausted and felt she had no quality of life left. By New Year’s Day, she wanted to give up.

attachment“I got so frustrated because I kept saying I don’t feel right. Something inside is wrong, but because I was only 39 nobody expected a heart attack,” Persinger says.

She was tested for cancer, seizures, sleep apnea, anxiety, COPD – nothing was conclusive, and her blood work results repeatedly came back clear. But she was a long-time smoker with a history of heart disease on both sides of her family. In Sept. she experienced her first mini heart attack.

“I had tightening in my chest and pain that went up my left arm into my throat. It felt like I was choking on the inside and then jaw-shattering pain, like someone was taking a sledgehammer to my jaw. I had about seven of those episodes both at rest and when active, so my primary physician scheduled a cardiac score test. When I was on the table, I had another episode.”

That same day, the offices contacted the Heart Institute at St. Joseph Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri to schedule a consultation with Dr. Gerald M. Mancuso, a cardiologist with the Healient Group, a prominent physicians group re-located to the hospital campus last year in a multi-million dollar renovation.

“Dr. Mancuso wanted to see me immediately,” Persinger says. “The first time I talked to him, I just knew this doctor was going to figure it out.”

Persinger says that from the moment she arrived at her appointment on Jan. 9, it was a positive experience.

“It was a new office, and everybody was helpful and pleasant. They got me in quickly, did the EKG and blood work onsite, and discussed meds and my family history. When Dr. Mancuso met with me, he said, ‘I know you just turned 40, but these episodes sound like a heart attack, and that concerns me. Let’s get you in for cardiac catheterization.’

Persinger says in that moment, she was overcome with emotion. “I started bawling because for a year I felt like nobody had been listening to me, thinking it was one thing, then another. It had gotten to the point where I’d nearly given up the week before I saw Dr. Mancuso. I just didn’t care anymore. My quality of life was so abysmal.”

After discovering that Persinger’s artery was 90-percent blocked, Dr. Mancuso implanted a stent. Persinger says she started to feel better within hours of the procedure. She has high praise for Dr. Mancuso and the medical team at St. Joseph Medical Center and says she would recommend them “one thousand percent.”

“Having the lab located on-site for emergencies was life-saving,” she says. “The whole staff in that surgery room was amazing. They made me feel so comfortable. I didn’t even know what I was going into, but they were right there holding my hand with every step and telling me what was happening, and I could see my heart on the monitor. Finally knowing my arteries were causing this health crisis made me so appreciative of such great care. Just realizing I would make it out to see my husband and children speaks volumes.”

Persinger has even quit smoking after 27 years.

“Dr. Mancuso looked me in the face and told me if I don’t quit smoking, I’ll die. Just knowing what I’ve gone through the past year made me quit cold turkey.”

Now one month later, Angela Persinger says she feels 40 and fabulous. She even bought a new kayak and can’t wait to row it on the river for miles. “When your arteries are flowing and pumping blood like they’re supposed to, you feel like running a marathon,” she says. “No matter what your age, when your heart is talking to you, you need to listen.”

Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of in women, claiming the lives of one in three women. Cardiovascular disease kills one woman about every 80 seconds and about four million stroke survivors alive today are women. Over 40% of Hispanic adult women age 20 and older have cardiovascular disease. More than half (57%) of black women have cardiovascular disease.