After a week of remote work in Farmington Hills, Michigan, Denise Castille was packing up her desk and preparing to leave for the airport to catch a flight back to her home in McKinney, Texas.
Most of her co-workers had already left for the Independence Day long weekend when Denise, then 46, started experiencing sharp chest pain. She began sweating profusely. Her skin suddenly appeared gray. She called out to a colleague, who called 911.
The paramedics arrived and checked her heart’s electrical activity using an electrocardiogram. They determined she was having a heart attack. Denise was rushed to the hospital where doctors discovered a 99% blockage in her heart’s main artery.
Denise’s mother, Shirley Castille, booked a flight from Dallas-Fort Worth airport and rushed to the hospital to be at her daughter’s side.
“There just aren’t words to explain how a mother feels when she sees her daughter fading away,” Shirley says. “I asked God to give me the strength to do what Denise needed me to do.”
Denise spent a month recovering in Michigan before doctors gave her permission to travel home.
A series of misdiagnoses that could have been fatal
Looking back on the 2015 heart attack, Denise believes things could have turned out much differently.
“The thing that we do as women is ignore signs. We put a Band-Aid on it. We take aspirin, promise we’ll rest,” she shares. “We have got to know what the risk factors are (and) what it looks like if someone is having a heart attack.”
It wasn’t just that Denise dismissed her symptoms. Her doctors did, too.
About six months before her heart attack, Denise saw her primary care physician to discuss why her feet and ankles were swollen. The doctor told Denise she was overweight and the swelling would resolve if she lost weight. One month later, Denise started experiencing chest pain.
“It scared the heck out of me,” she recalls. “But at no point did I make the connection that the chest pain had something to do with