Tracy Hover was enjoying a “couch potato” moment, sitting back and sipping coffee. It wasn’t her usual behavior—she enjoyed running and being active. In fact, she was training for a 10K run later that year, in 2015.
Then it happened: chest pains.
“I felt pain down my arms, in my chest and between my shoulder blades, and I did exactly what I had told thousands of other people not to do,” Hover says. “I ignored it.”
Hover knew better. For 25 years, she had worked as a paramedic in Grand Rapids, was a long-time supporter of the American Heart Association, and for the past seven years, she worked in cardiovascular research. All her career, she had been telling patients and friends—do not ignore chest pains.
“The chest pains continued off and on for the next couple of days,” Hover says. “So I asked a colleague at work to do me a favor and run an EKG.”
The results of the EKG was abnormal, and Hover called a cardiologist at Spectrum Health. A stress test came back as “mildly suspicious.” Hover’s cardiologist was befuddled, as she did not fit the typical heart disease patient profile. She was fit, active, had healthy eating habits, low cholesterol, and didn’t smoke. She did, however, have a family history of heart disease.
“I work with cardiologists in different hospitals as part of my job,” Hover says. “I was at Borgess Medical Center when I heard about a clinical study being done there, for people with a family history like mine.”
Hover participated in the study, and as
part of that study, she had bloodwork and a 64-slice cardiac CT scan done. She was stunned when the results indicated a left atrial myxoma, a benign tumor inside her heart’s left atrium and attached to the septum.
While Hover’s cardiologist described the tumor as non-cancerous, it did put her at extreme risk for stroke. She underwent open-heart surgery. The tumor, the size of a golf ball, was removed, and Hover recovered quickly.
“I’m told it takes twelve months to recover from open-heart surgery, but I was jogging again before six months,” Hover admits. “You have to use common sense. If you feel punky, take it easy for a couple days.”
Hover relearned the lessons she has been teaching others for years. Listen to your heart.
“If you have chest pains, do NOT ignore them!” she says. “And participate in clinical studies, if possible. Clinical studies accomplish great things. This one saved my life.”