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Strange Symptoms: elbow pain ends with heart attack

The Saturday before Easter Sunday in 2015 was a busy one for Gena Dutton, LPN, endoscopy technician at OhioHealth Marion General Hospital. She worked in the morning and then had to shop for and prepare an Easter dinner for her daughter who was bringing friends home from college that evening. So, despite a nagging pain that she says, “felt like a rubber band tightening around my left elbow,” she got on with her day. As the afternoon progressed and the unusual pain worsened, she then got nauseous and even vomited. She says, “In the back of my head, as a nurse, I knew what was happening. But I was in total denial. I kept coming up with excuses for what was going on.”

She was so focused on all the prep-work for the meal and seeing her daughter home from college, that hours passed. But, the second her daughter, Riley, walked through the front door, she looked at her mother’s face and instantly knew something was very wrong. Riley took her mother to the Emergency Department at Marion General where Gena says she received “phenomenal care.” Her first EKG did not show anything unusual, but, by this time, Gena was pale with grey lips and was still nauseous. And, that bizarre elbow pain was getting worse, almost unbearable. She was admitted to the hospital.

During the night, she alerted her nurse when she felt pinching in her chest. She underwent another EKG, which showed something abnormal. She was taken to the Catheterization Lab on Easter morning, where Imtiaz Ahmed, MD, an interventional cardiologist, found a blockage and inserted a stent.

Gena’s recovery from the heart attack hit some stumbles when it came to her cardiac rehabilitation. She says, “I really struggled with rehab because it seemed like every time I got moving, I would have trouble with my blood pressure. I was also having trouble staying awake during the day and was still feeling some pain.” So, she sought specialized care at the OhioHealth Advanced Heart and Vascular Center at Riverside Methodist Hospital. There, Steven Yakubov, MD, system chief for the structural heart disease program, found an additional blockage in Gena’s heart. He inserted another stent next to the one she already had and performed angioplasty on an artery.


The only symptom I had was an unusual pain that felt like a rubber band tightening above my left elbow.
Gena Dutton, LPN, endoscopy technician, OhioHealth Marion General Hospital

That had her on the road to a full recovery and a successful completion of cardiac rehab. She has also continued making healthy lifestyle changes. “Before my heart attack, I had lost 95 pounds. Since then, I’ve lost another 40 pounds. I eat much smaller meals now and I do not deny myself food when I have a craving. I’ll just eat a few bites or a smaller portion.”

She also has advice for other busy women. “I can be an example of what NOT to do. Do not delay getting checked when you think something is wrong. I am very lucky of the outcome that I had. The alternative could have been much worse.”

To learn more about heart care at OhioHealth, go to:

Learn about the risk factors for heart disease that you can and can’t control, and use our online tools to assess those risks. You can find those tools here: Is your heart health at risk?