Tracy Withrow, RN is a clinical nurse at Oklahoma Heart Hospital. She shares her story of her experience of a heart attack and how important it is to take action on the warning signs.

by Vickie Jenkins, Staff Writer

Oklahoma Heart Hospital is providing cardiovascular care and is physician-owned and designed by cardiologists. Here, you will find a hospital full of exceptional doctors, nurses and staff members. One particular nurse is Tracy Withrow, RN. Tracy is a clinical nurse for Dr. Williams and Dr.Valuck.
Growing up in Piedmont, OK, Tracy attended OSUOKC, Francis Tuttle and Platt College. “The Oklahoma Heart Hospital is the only place that I have ever worked. I started out as a medical assistant, then an LPN and now, I’m an RN,” she said.
I asked Tracy if she could explain why she chose to go into the medical field and why she enjoys her job as an RN at OHH. “When I was a little girl, my parents helped take care of my grandma, Mary. I always admired my parents for the love and support they gave to her. They always encouraged her, telling her not to give up. That is why I knew that I wanted to go into the medical field so I could care for others. I guess you could say that I was influenced to be a nurse by my grandma Mary and my parents,” Tracy replied.
Tracy’s story didn’t stop there. She had a special story to tell.” It was the day before Thanksgiving, November 27, 2013; a very busy time. I was working at the Oklahoma Heart Hospital. I hadn’t felt well all day but I just assumed it was because I was exhausted. At the time, I was a single mom and my eighteen year old had just moved out and I had a thirteen year old and eleven year old at home. I just needed some rest! I had heartburn which I chalked up to the fried food that I had at lunch. I had a feeling something was wrong…I thought about going to the ER but that would be ridiculous! After all, I was a nurse! I went home to get some rest.”
“I got to the car and that’s when I had a dull pain in my chest. I sat in the car and stared at the ER that was about 100 yards away. Again, I knew it wasn’t anything to worry about. I made a twenty minute drive to my town’s grocery store to pick up a few things for the kids. Now, my brain was cloudy and I felt nauseated.”
“As I grabbed a few things in the store, my left arm began to cramp. I’m sure I had grabbed the six pack of soda wrong. I ignored the chest tightness. I don’t remember the two mile drive home. I went straight to my bedroom and my head was in a fog. Then, the jaw pain started and it was excruciating. I knew I was in trouble but was still in denial. The next thing I knew, my dad was driving me back to the ER at the Heart Hospital. All of a sudden, there was a rush of IV’s, EKG’s, Nitro, medications and oxygen. I had no recollection of the angiogram. When the sedation wore off, I learned I had an uncommon heart attack, a coronary artery dissection. It was too small of an area for a stent without risking perforation; I would be on blood thinners long term.”
I spent three days in the hospital for observation. I had a lot of time to reflect. I was a cardiac nurse and had done everything wrong! I ignored how I felt, did not seek evaluation in the ER, I did not call 911, I did nothing that I told my patients to do in all the years I worked there. It was an epiphany of sorts; I had no idea how strong denial can be.”
“Up until that day, I had smoked a pack a day for twenty years. I ignored my high blood pressure and had not taken care of myself. Now, it was time for a drastic change in my life!”
That was six years ago. Now, I know that my heart attack was a blessing in disguise. I better understand my patients and can relate to their feelings. It started my journey to take better care of myself and others.
“I still work at Oklahoma Heart Hospital as an RN. I have since gotten married to an amazing man, along with gaining two step-daughters and becoming a grandmother. I know how close to death I was that day. I am so very grateful that God’s plan is bigger than ours and I am here to share my experiences and celebrate life!”

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