- Lindsay Huie was the coach of five football teams and parents of five children when she had a heart attack.
- The 36-year-old former U.S. Women’s National Team player thought she had a stomach ache and resisted the ER.
- She shares her story to raise awareness among women and other members of the LGBTQ community.
- Visit the Insider homepage for more stories.
Lindsey Huie didn’t have time to get sick. The 36-year-old competitive football player had five children under the age of 11 and coached five football teams on the season field. She and his wife also did a rescue of kittens and cats.
So when Huie felt unusually breathless one day rushing between practices in September 2019, he justified it as seasonal changes or a bad night’s sleep – all of which wouldn’t require him to go to the hospital. After all, she was portrayed by health as the oldest LA Galaxy OC player she had ever played for the U.S. National Women’s Team. He avoided medications, relying on natural remedies for any ailments, and meditated regularly.
Even when Huie’s chest felt “when he tore a piece of paper in half with his hands,” he thought, “What did I eat?” Maybe it was stomach upset.
But when Huie sat down in the middle of the football field, other parents knew something wasn’t going right. One parent, a triage nurse, told her that the symptoms – such as the feeling that there was an elephant on her chest – corresponded to that of a heart attack. “I’ve had so much pain and I have such a high tolerance for pain,” he told Insider. “I feel like the only thing left to do was just cry.”
However, she resisted getting into the ambulance, worried that she would scare her children and be a waste of precious time. “In my head, I always think, ‘This is a terrible idea, one of my kids has a social studies test tomorrow, and we have to study for it.’
Now, Huie, 37, volunteers for the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women. ”Real Women“campaign, wants her to receive emergency care immediately. She has shared her story with Insider to raise awareness
in women – even among those who seem invincible.
Huie was sure she would be fired for stomach upset or anxiety
At an emergency care center, Huie was sure she would be discharged with a diagnosis of “anxiety” or “heartburn.” When the ECG revealed something to the left of her heart that needed emergency assistance, it was denied. “It’s clear that something is wrong with the car,” he thought.
Urgently, she resisted taking morphine for pain because of her homeopathic lifestyle, a preference for using more natural therapies than pharmaceuticals, but a doctor influenced her: “If you want to be here for your children, you’re going to make morphine, ”he said. (Now he says he’s not always happy that he had her in his system, but he was needed at the time to put himself, his health and his family first).
Later that night, Huie learned she had had a heart attack – specifically spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD). The condition occurs when an artery in the heart ruptures, blocking blood flow. The American Heart Association says it’s not uncommon to affect healthy women with few or no risk factors, such as Huie.
When the doctor revealed his diagnosis, “I just feel like my world is falling apart at that moment – there’s no more heartburn, no more anxiety, like something really serious is going on,” he said. “I think I could have died, and how ridiculous not to have just gone straight to the emergency room?”
Huie’s recovery has been more of a psychological challenge than a physical one. She was on several medications for a few months, felt tired all the time, and burned easily. “I was pretty depressed for the first four months because I couldn’t do everything I was used to doing.” But with the approval of her doctor, she slowly abandoned all medications, including Aspirin for the child.
She says the health care system still has a way to go to be inclusive for LGBTQ patients
Huie said she wants to be asked about her sexuality during her stay in hospital to add plot to the picture of what SCAD effects. After all, discrimination against LGBTQ is linked to high rates of mental health problems, which in turn can affect heart disease.
The more researchers know the characteristics of patients when studying any disease, the better they “lay the groundwork for future generations to know if there really is any correlation,” he said.
Surveillance is an example of the many ways in which the health care system could be more inclusive for LGBTQ patients, starting with the moment they walk through the hospital doorstep. “When I get to the hospital, the immediate question is always,‘ Shall we contact your husband? “Huie said. It’s like, ‘No, you don’t need to contact my husband because I don’t have one, but you can contact my wife.’
Huie’s uninterrupted lifestyle and other stressors may have contributed to his risk
Huie’s mother, grandfather and grandmother all had heart attacks, but Huie assumes that their healthy behaviors will nullify their genetic risk. She didn’t even take into account how the stresses of the previous few years could add up: her dog was diagnosed with cancer, she came out as gay, she was about to adopt two of her children, and she had just returned to competitive football after 15 years in retirement.
Their uninterrupted daily routine – packing lunches, preparing dinner, transporting children to and from various schools and football practices – may have added fuel to the fire. “My free time was 10:30, 11:00 at night,” Huie said.
That lifestyle was natural for her though, growing up playing competitive football – what she calls her first love.
“The athlete in you comes first and everything else comes last. Don’t do birthday parties. Don’t do the prom. Don’t do graduation night. Don’t do typical events because your whole life. it revolves around sports, ”Huie said. “Transferring to mom, kids come first, everything else comes last, you’re last.”
Not anymore, though. Huie now delegates some responsibilities to his children, and has put in place routines that are not necessary.
“I had made these fancy meals for kids with bears made with Nutella,” he said. “We don’t do it anymore. Which is more important: that the children come to school with a healthy mother, or that they eat Nutella in the shape of a bear?”
She can no longer play football competitively, and takes it easier as a coach, monitoring her heart rate and coming out when she gets too high. She encourages everyone to “know their number,” such as their cholesterol, blood pressure and BMI. “I’ve learned if I don’t respect what my body asks of me,” he said, “I’ll suffer and pay for it.”