Opera star Measha Brueggergosman says when she felt a severe pain in her chest in June, her first thought wasn’t to race to the hospital.
“I can’t be the only woman who wakes up and thinks, ‘Well, maybe I can get the kids to school before I address this whole heart attack thing,'” Brueggergosman told CBC’s Information Morning.
Brueggergosman, who was in Calgary at the time, was having a heart attack and needed emergency double-bypass surgery. It was her second heart surgery in 10 years.
Five months later, the soprano who’s from Fredericton and lives in Nova Scotia, is returning to the stage for holiday concerts in Toronto next week.
She’s also urging women to advocate for their own health as the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada’s new ambassador.
“Women are less likely to really advocate on behalf of themselves,” she said. “They have no problems advocating for other people.”
In 2009, Brueggergosman suffered what could have been a deadly tear in her aorta that’s usually only detected during an autopsy.
Emergency doctors misdiagnosed her initially and sent her home with blood pressure medication.
“Women don’t know the symptoms because we haven’t devoted the time and resources to the research,” she said. “So it’s just a question of creating a system that considers both genders when it comes to helping us prevent the needless death of women from heart disease.”
A report from the Heart and Stroke Foundation found early heart attack signs were missed in about 53 per cent of women.
While the most common sign of a heart attack in both men and women is chest pain, women are more likely to experience symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, shortness of breath, light-headedness, and chest or upper body discomfort.
Rebuilding her voice
Brueggergosman has been building up her voice since her June surgery and easing back into performing, with concerts in Vancouver, Oslo and St. Catherines, Ont.
Next week, she’s teaming up with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for their Holiday Pops concert.
“It’s not the first time I’ve rebuilt the voice,” she said. “It’s to me a very exciting prospect because I get to know ‘her’ — my voice is a female. She’s very taciturn, but also stalwart and very loyal.”
Brueggergosman said her close calls have given her a new perspective on her career and family.
“I am now on my triple portion of grace because … after the first open-heart surgery and now after the second, there’s so much to live for,” she said. “I have young sons. I have a world to change for the better.”
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