“If you have an heart, you can have an attack,” says James Tolbert, a renowned hairstylist/entrepreneur, and owner of James the Great Hair Salon located within the Florida Panhandle. Most people would believe that certain health conditions only affect the elderly and those who live a particularly unhealthy lifestyle but that wasn’t the case with James.
Nearly four years ago on November 18, 2017, James Tolbert, a 35-year-old man found himself clutching his chest, having shortness of breath, and feeling numbness on the left side of his body. James said, “All that week, up until that Saturday morning; I was having symptoms like shortness of breath and chest pains all week. I was just overlooking it because I thought it was acid reflux. And I was tired too, because I’ve been overworking myself and it got to the point that toward the end of the week, I had to sit down [in a chair to do my client’s hair]. I had no strength, and I kept pushing myself and working through the pain. Then on Friday, the pain became more intense. So Friday night, I never made it to my bed. I laid out on the floor at home.”
James said he reached out to his cousins who work in the medical field and told them he was in pain. But he thought it was his acid reflux acting up. “So they gave me one of those GI cocktails and it soothed it down some…But as soon as I woke up Saturday morning, I immediately had to jump up in get into my car. Because the left side of my body was numb and tingling. The pain was coming from the middle of my chest, all up to my shoulders, and alongside my arm.”
“I jumped up, and I wasn’t thinking of calling the ambulance or to call somebody. All I was thinking about was getting to the hospital, right now. Because I know this feeling, and I haven’t felt it before and it was intense. So I made it to Sacred Heart Hospital, and I ran… I mean I made it up to the counter, because it wasn’t any running then,” he chuckled. I was short of breath, and couldn’t breathe either, I was literally fighting for my breath. I was aching and fighting for my breathe. But I’m telling you, with all this pain I could still my right side of my body. It felt normal but the left side, my upper body, my shoulders, from my chest to the top of my arm it was achy.
They rushed me to the back, and the man drew my blood and said, ‘Sir, you’re having a heart attack right now.’ When he said that, I went to stand up and when I stood up my vision left me. I had my eyes open, but I couldn’t see nothing! It was black, it was black but my eyes were open. It was scary! So he was like ‘Sit down, calm down, and lay back on the table!’ And while I was laying there my vision came back but then the [staff] came in and rolled me out to do tests to see if I had any clogged arteries,” said Mr. Tolbert.
As the medical staff continued to access James’s health condition to find out what was causing his heart attack. He stated he remembered checking into the hospital around eight in the morning but after they checked his arteries with the blue iodine he slept for almost 12 hours.
“When I woke up at eight something that night, I was already in my hospital bed. And the pain was still there on my left side. Then the nurse came in and said they did not find any clogged arteries and they were going to run a few more tests to figure out what caused it [the heart attack] because they could never tell me what caused it, explained James.
‘They told me it could be stress-related, it could be, but they didn’t know. So I actually left the hospital not knowing what caused my heart to attack me or fail me. The first three days was the hardest. I was there for a whole week and I was really in pain for those first three days. But after the third day, they started telling me my tests were coming back normal. They gave me every test you can give anybody and they would come and draw blood three or four times a day. And not only are you hurting, then you start falling into depression when you’re in the hospital because I’m thinking, I’m 35-years-old why am I here for this? I felt weak in my body and I never felt that weak in my body like that ever before in all my life,” he says.