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WOSU, NPR Help Save Listener's Life

Cynthia Ravitsky in her car.
Nick Houser
Cynthia Ravitsky of Westerville was in her car listening to an NPR interview about women and heart attacks when she suffered a heart attack of her own.

Can public radio save a life? Maybe so. Just ask Cynthia Ravitsky of Westerville.

Last month Ravitsky was driving to Ohio State’s Newark campus where she teaches math. She was listening to an interview on NPR's Here and Now on WOSU with author Gayle Forman about her new novel "Leave Me." The book which tells the story of a working mother of twins who’s so busy she doesn’t notice that she’s having a heart attack

Ravitsky was stuck in heavy traffic on state Route 161 when she started to experience a pinching feeling across her chest as she listened to the interview.  She thought the discomfort was possibly a muscle spasm, but didn't think the pain was related to a heart attack.

On the radio, Forman talked about how the symptoms of heart attacks in women are so unusual they're not the typical crushing chest pain.

Ravitsky, 67, said she eats a healthy diet, doesn't smoke or have diabeties. For a moment though she began to reconsider her symptoms, but figured the source of her discomfort had to be something else.

Like Maribeth, the overworked mom in Forman's novel, Ravitsky's focus returns to the day ahead and her teaching schedule. 

"I've got a lot of things to do, it's probably nothing," Ravitsky said on All Sides with Ann Fisher. "I'll go and teach and then on the way home I'll stop in to the doctors."

"Don't Ignore The Symptoms"

Before Ravitsky could focus on her day any further, she suddenly broke out in a cold sweat and became very nauseous. Still stuck in traffic and with the interview continuing on the radio, she heard Forman repeatedly say not to ignore the symptoms of a heart attack. 

"I heard Gail Forman say don't ignore the symptoms and I thought to myself oh my god," Ravitisky said. "Ok I have to make a decision here and I had time because I was stuck in this traffic. Do I go about my business or do I go to work? Do I teach? But then she said again don't ignore the symptoms."

It was at that moment, she decided to drive herself to the nearest hospital. Ravitisky arrived at Licking Memorial Hospital in Newark, parked her car, walked upto the emergency room reception desk and said that she thought she was having a heart attack. 

The hospital's staff immediately took Ravitisky into an exam room and conducted an electrocardiogram test which confirmed she was in the middle of a heart attack. 

Her right artery 99.9 percent blocked. Doctors used a balloon angioplasty and stents to open up the artery. Ravitisky was awake for the entire process.

"Time is of the essence as we all know to save the heart muscle, and so they were able to put the stent in and it all happened so fast," she said. "And here I was walking and thinking 'Oh maybe I have indigestion.'" 
Ravitisky is recuperating following her heart attack. She had her first appointment with a cardiologist earlier this week and will be starting cardiac rehab soon. 
Ravitisky is an avid listener of NPR on 89.7 NPR News and is amazed how the interview and the symptoms all happened at the same time to help save her life.  
"The key was, first of all listening to this show which probably literally saved my life, but also it was the combination of symptoms all happening at the same time that saved my life. Any one of those I certainly would have written off as due to some other cause, but when all of them were happening at once that is what clued me in."