Like many people, Alice Shafer of Acton did not realize how caring for a loved one could make her sick. For years, she focused on taking care of her husband who had Alzheimer’s disease. Then, in winter 2021 when she experienced several bouts of difficulty breathing and dizziness, the experts at Emerson’s emergency department were there for her. She was diagnosed with congestive heart failure with rapid atrial fibrillation — an irregular heartbeat.
“I knew there was something wrong, but I did not know what it was. I was 77 years old and cared for my husband 24/7. He was my life, and he needed me. I took on too much. The physical and emotional stress of caring for him took a toll on my heart.”
Collaborative Care Close to Home
“The Emerson team gave me a thorough heart exam. I trusted their experience. I was in the best hands, and everyone was so nice. They diagnosed me and put me on medication to improve my heart rhythm. I stayed overnight for observation and went home the next day.
“Today, my cardiologist, Benjamin Tillinger, MD, and the team of nurse practitioners at Emerson Health Cardiology continue to watch me closely. I also see an electrophysiologist from Mass General Hospital (MGH) right at the Emerson office. He monitors the electrical rhythms of my heart to ensure it is beating well. I am grateful that Emerson partners with MGH for specialized care, conveniently located in my cardiology practice.
“I cannot say enough about the experts at Emerson. They truly saved my life.”
Time to Focus on Her Health
“My husband passed away in June 2021. Now I have time to focus on my health.
“I live a very active life. I am an artist and love to paint and restore old photographs. Several times a week, I exercise and walk on the treadmill. I lost 60 pounds with mindful and healthy eating. I enjoy traveling to Cape Cod — hearing the ocean waves is wonderful. I learned I can do things alone that I really want to do.
“It means the world that my medical team is right here for me. I live my life in the most joyful ways possible. I am very grateful to the Emerson team for helping me.”
Does Your Heart Need Help?
Here are some common symptoms of heart disease:
- Chest pain
- Sensations of a racing or fluttering heartbeat
- Shortness of breath that may continue when lying down
- Swelling in feet, ankles, and legs
- Weight gain
If you experience these symptoms, discuss them with your physician. If left untreated, heart disease can result in a heart attack. Symptoms of a heart attack may include:
- Pain or a feeling of squeezing or fullness in the center or left side of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, or upper part of the stomach
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweat
- Unusual tiredness (especially for women)
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sudden dizziness
If you think you might be having a heart attack, call 911.
For good heart health, see your doctor regularly for cholesterol, blood pressure, and body mass index (BMI) checks. Visit emersondocs.org to find a physician.
At Emerson Health Cardiology, experienced specialists partner with their patients to support their heart health. For information or to make an appointment, visit emersoncardiovascular.org or call 978-287-8767.
Emerson's Health Works Here podcast series features Emerson physicians and healthcare professionals. Subscribe to the Health Works Here Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and wherever podcasts can be heard.