For Andrea Marliani and her family, their vacation in Canada was supposed to be a kind of oasis in the middle of the stressful desert of everyday life. But suddenly the dentist’s health deteriorates and she has to go to the hospital. The attending doctor then determined: The 56-year-old had suffered a heart attack in two phases. It’s a miracle that she’s still alive.

Finally holidays. Finally to Vancouver. Andrea Marliani was looking forward to her first big trip with the family for what felt like an eternity. In the previous months, the then 56-year-old had always been in fifth gear and was almost immersed in stress – both in her work as a dentist and in her private life. After all, in addition to her job, Marliani also manages a patchwork family with a severely disabled adult daughter.

The stress is accompanied by mild attacks of dizziness. In addition, Marliani is often out of breath. Nothing unusual for the dentist: “I’ve always been a bit short of breath, even 10, 15, 20 years ago,” she tells FOCUS online. Examinations by various cardiologists and a pulmonologist also revealed no concrete evidence of heart disease. “As is often the case with women, it was assumed that stress, menopause and overwork were the reasons why I was becoming less and less resilient,” says the now 60-year-old. “And you like to believe that. It was a wonderful fit.”

One night, about a week before the vacation, nothing is wonderful anymore. After visiting a restaurant with friends, the dentist suddenly wakes up in the middle of the night, bathed in sweat. “I was actually standing in the water, I was freezing cold and then I had the feeling that someone was putting a jacket on me that was too tight for me and heating it up. “That was really strange,” she says. The woman from Kempen is at a loss to figure out why her body was going crazy.

She had not eaten foods such as raw eggs or fish, which can easily upset the stomach. She sits down in the living room in a daze and takes a painkiller. She doesn’t call an ambulance – for fear that the doctors won’t find anything or that the long-awaited vacation will have to be canceled.

“I just wanted to get out of this stressful situation and not be available for three weeks, close the door and be left alone,” says the 60-year-old. “I didn’t realize at the time that I was putting my life at risk.” Marliani now suspects that perhaps she didn’t want to recognize the seriousness of the situation at the time.

Finally she goes back to bed. She wakes up the next day feeling exhausted, as if after a night of drinking. However, the strange feeling went away and the dentist went back to work as normal. The following week she and her family set off for Vancouver. She had taken precautions for the flight and taken anticoagulant medication and also wore compression stockings. The ten-hour flight to Canada ultimately goes smoothly, reports Marliani. “I had no problems at all.”

After arriving, her family checks into the hotel – which was actually only her second choice. “We really wanted to have something else that we liked much better,” says the 60-year-old. However, due to a technical problem, booking the desired hotel was not possible for several days, which is why they finally decided on an alternative. What was initially a nuisance would later mean great happiness for Marliani.

Unpacked and freshened up in the alternative hotel, the family stretches their legs a bit after the long journey. “As soon as I went for a walk I noticed: I’m not really fit,” says Marliani.

But that doesn’t stop her from strolling through Vancouver’s central Stanley Park the next day. After one kilometer the dentist is already running out of breath, but she continues walking with her family – all day long.

Your perseverance will ultimately be severely punished. At some point Marliani is completely exhausted and can barely walk, and pedestrian bridges become insurmountable obstacles. To take a breather, she and her husband stop at a teahouse and have a drink. As they stand up, Marliani suddenly feels a tremendous burning sensation in her chest. “It feels like when you have really heartburn. Both arms and the fingertips became numb and then I realized: You have to go to the doctor, in Canada,” she says.

But where is the best place to go to the doctor in Canada? How exactly does the health system work there? her family asks themselves back at the hotel. A look out the window at least answers the first question. There is a clinic, St. Paul’s Hospital, just 80 meters away. “If necessary, I’ll go there tomorrow morning,” Marliani says to her family. Exhausted but somewhat calmer – “when I sat, the pain went away” – the dentist lies down in the hotel room.

She only wakes up again in the middle of the night around three o’clock. “I woke up to the fact that my heart was beating strangely. It rattled, rattled, bumped, stumbled like a car that had misfired. “It was scary,” she says. Marliani does not have a feeling of tightness, shortness of breath, as if an elephant were sitting on her chest, or even fear of death. But she feels: With this pounding heart, she urgently needs to go to the hospital. Before she makes her way to the emergency room, she jumps into the shower again, washes her hair and puts on makeup. Laughing at the absurdity of the situation, she says: “Yes, that’s what you learn as a girl: you don’t leave unwashed.”

When she reports to the emergency room and describes her symptoms, a nurse immediately takes her away. Examinations, ECG and cardiac echo follow. Within a few minutes it became clear: Marliani had a heart attack.

Nevertheless, the doctors present are still relatively relaxed, reports the 60-year-old. Finally, a cardiologist should examine her and place a cardiac catheter under the supervision of a senior doctor. The senior doctor breaks the whole thing off during the examination. “You can stop, that’s all,” he says to his colleague.

“Not very happy and looking thrifty,” the senior doctor then sits down next to Marliani’s bed and shows her a drawing of a heart on which he had drawn the blockages. “Their front wall is completely closed at the top. We didn’t even get in there. They’re only alive because they have collateral vessels,” he explains – vessels that the bloodstream uses as a kind of side street when the vessels on a main route become blocked. “Most people don’t survive such a heart attack.”

In any case, the doctor is amazed at Marliani. He explains to her that her heart attack happened in two stages. She had suffered the first one that night at home, when she woke up drenched in sweat and wearing what looked like a tight hot jacket.

The doctor can hardly believe that she survived the flight after this medical emergency. The fact that her family ended up booking a hotel just 80 meters from the hospital – which, incidentally, has one of the best heart surgeries in British Colombia – also seems like a miracle to him. “Do you actually know how much pig you’ve had?”

The heart patient is aware of this. “I just shouldn’t bite the dust yet.”

A few days later, Marliani will have four bypasses placed. The operation went perfectly, and the doctor described the care afterwards as first-class. Six days later, she was allowed to fly home with her family with a medical certificate in her luggage. On the KLM plane, a stewardess takes care of you almost exclusively.

What do people in Germany get sick with? In a major focus area, FOCUS provides online information about the four major widespread diseases

We shed light on the medical background surrounding causes, symptoms, risk factors and treatment options. At the same time, we show you what you can do for each illness to minimize the risk.

In case histories, one affected person also reports on their life with cancer, heart disease, dementia or depression – moving, sometimes sad, but always encouraging.

“There was everything except a goodnight kiss,” says Marliani, whose Rhenish wit flanks her entire story. Despite all the tragedy, she describes the events surrounding her heart attack with dry humor and provides insight into her thoughts in an ironic way. For example, when she goes to the clinic with a heart attack and her husband – “he slept like a bear” – doesn’t notice anything.

Or using Rhenish idioms to explain that she’s not yet “past Schmitz Backes” or that “there’s a raisin in every pile of shit.” In view of the life-threatening heart attack, the smile about this may almost remain stuck in the corners of your mouth. But at the same time, dealing with the event also shows Marliani’s strength and her will not to let what happened get her down.

The heart attack was a turning point in many ways for the sprightly Rhinelander. “The view of life and what is important has changed dramatically,” she says. Back in Germany, she wants to tackle the cause of the heart attack. “And there’s the issue of lifestyle change,” she says. The dentist is taking time off from work after the bypass operation in order to fully recover. She looks for a replacement for her practice, and after a few months she returns and works hourly. Today the 60-year-old only works part-time in the practice.

She is also optimizing her already healthy Mediterranean diet and doing more exercise. Almost every day she gets on the ergometer and follows a fitness program that a special sports cardiologist has created for her. The small, irreparable heart damage she suffered from the heart attack doesn’t stop her.

Marliani is also turning her life around in her private life. She assigns household tasks to her husband and her son, who still lives at home, and cleans out the house. But she not only separates herself from things, but also from people – who are not good for her, steal her time and energy, and completely drain her. She learns to say no and not to constantly bend over backwards.

Today Marliani lives almost without restrictions. Apart from minor, irreparable damage to the heart, the heart attack had no physical aftereffects.

That she would ever have a heart attack was unusual given her history. “I’m normal weight, sporty, always on the go. The couch hardly knows me. I have always eaten healthily, never smoked, never drank, and have never had diabetes or high blood pressure. “It was rather too low,” she says. “I actually have nothing – except stress and a lipid metabolism disorder.” The latter is known in the family. “However, I am the only one who probably had a heart attack because of it. Until then, the high LDL value had not been consistently treated. “That has changed since then,” says Marliani.

In Marliani’s case, this runs in the family and means that the LDL cholesterol, i.e. the bad cholesterol, is too high. She has known about this disorder since she was a student and has since had it treated with medication. However, there was never any talk of a high risk of heart attack.

Marliani now knows from her own experience how the risk of a heart attack can be kept as low as possible. That’s why she now works as a volunteer representative for the German Heart Foundation. “I want to help people understand what kind of illness they have and how they can do the best for themselves,” she says.

The most important thing is to work on yourself. “The only person who can influence your health is the person who looks at you in the mirror in the morning,” she says. This can happen in a variety of ways.

She advises women in particular to distribute tasks and responsibilities across several shoulders.

Not drinking alcohol and changing your diet are other possible measures. “Maybe you can also think about making your favorite recipes a little different and healthier,” says the 60-year-old.

You should also think about taking some time out and doing things that are good for you.

This also includes regular physical exercise, for example in a cardio sports group. “You don’t need an ergometer or a gym to do sports. A brisk walk for three quarters of an hour or half an hour once a day is worth its weight in gold,” explains the heart attack sufferer. “That would be a good start.”

If you want to stay healthy, you should exercise. But did you know that certain sports can actually extend your life? Here you can read which three sports you can do to stay fit into old age.

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