Local woman back to work after serious heart condition

POSTED: 5:46 PM Aug 05 2013   UPDATED: 12:33 PM Aug 05 2013
KINGSPORT, Tenn. -

Our quest to bring you all the facts on women's heart disease continues as part of our partnership with Wellmont Health System.

Monday was 58-year-old Debbie Hurd's first day back at work as a medical technologist at Holston Valley Medical Center. She had to take a few sick days for the first time in ten years.

Back in May her everyday activity, like her exercise routine, suddenly began to hurt. "Every time I was doing something [that required exerting energy], I would get this severe burning in my throat," said Hurd.

She chalked it up to simple heartburn, at least for a while. "I couldn't even walk up one flight of steps. [After] two months, I had really gotten to where something had to be done," Hurd told News 5.

Dr. Chris Metzger, a cardiologist with the Wellmont CVA Heart Institute, told us that was the right thing to do -- what Hurd thought was heartburn was an extremely severe case of coronary artery disease, where 90 to 95 percent of a crucial entryway into the heart was blocked. "She had a blockage in her left main coronary artery that supplies two-thirds of the heart muscle," said Dr. Metzger.

"It was shocking to me because I had no family history [of heart problems]. All my lab work and cholesterol, everything you hear about was absolutely normal. I'm in no way hypertensive," said Hurd.

We're told most times, doctors have to perform an open heart surgery to repair a condition as serious as Hurd's, but she was able to avoid that inside a catheterization lab.

Dr. Metzger said because of the severity of the condition inside such a vital artery, not all doctors will perform a stent procedure in the left main artery, but to Hurd's relief Dr. Metzger said it can be done in Kingsport; that means the recovery is much quicker. "You don't have to be put to sleep with general anesthesia, and don't have to have a sternotomy," Dr. Metzger said of the benefits of using stent technology.

As it turns out, it was the perfect fit for a woman as active and driven as Hurd. "A week of recovery, and I'm doing fine!" said Hurd.

She's back at it to help other men and women analyze their own heart health from inside her lab. "That's just who I am," Hurd added. "I don’t like to sit around and think about how I feel."

Doctors told News 5, as in Hurd's case, no one is immune to coronary artery disease, but there are some ways to can lower your risk factors. For example, don't smoke. Eat responsibly and exercise regularly.

Doctors also remind us to be aware that men and women can have different symptoms.

Like Hurd, some women experience pain in other parts of their body, like in the throat and arms, where men more often might experience chest pains.