ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Heavy feeling in the chest, light headedness, nausea. These are some of the symptoms Abilene heart attack survivor, Shelly Jaquez experienced in the days leading up to her cardiac arrest last fall. She said she didn’t know what was happening, or just how dire her situation was. As part of American Heart Association’s 2023 Go Red for Women campaign, Jaquez is sharing her story and encouraging others to be wary of the signs.

It was Friday, September 16, 2022 when Jaquez’s life as she knew it would change.

“I remember walking around the mall with my friend… All the sudden, I turned and I felt this waviness in my head like I was about to pass out. But I ignored it because nothing else hurt,” Jaquez recalled.

Over the next few days, Jaquez said those small episodes would happen more frequently. But with the daily stresses of work and life, she didn’t look any further into those symptoms. This would lead to the night of the 15th, when Jaquez found herself in the middle of an episode she just couldn’t shake.

“The night we had to call the ambulance, the heaviness in my chest was so bad I think I sat up for a good 30 minutes to an hour, trying to compose myself,” said Jaquez.. “I asked my husband to please call 9-1-1, not knowing what it was, but I knew it was something I couldn’t control.”

In the ambulance, an EMT suggested they go to the hospital closest by, rather than Hendrick North. This was Jaquez’s first sign that things were not okay. At that point, she said she began to wonder what her next few hours would hold.

“He said (the EMT), ‘you know you’ve had a heart attack right?’ And it surprised me… It’s like all the sudden, you have to know that if you pass away, are you gonna be okay,” Jaquez pondered.

As an Abilene EMT wheeled Jaquez into the emergency room, she said she had to consider whether she would survive this or not. It was a thought that hadn’t crossed her mind until that moment.

“That’s the last I remember, until I woke up in the hospital with a ventilator, which was very uncomfortable,” added Jaquez.

Shelly Jaquez’s daughter, Brooke

When she awoke, Jaquez said the ventilator made it impossible for her to speak. Only able to gesture to her then fiancé, Mario as he stood by her side, she said he was the one who had to call in her daughter to make the decisions only family could legally make at such a critical time.

“Hour by hour, they don’t know if I’m gonna live or not for a couple days… They’ll ask you, ‘who’s going to make that decision,'” Jaquez recalled. “And, unfortunately for her, it had to be her, and I hated that she had to have that burden even thought about.”

Thankfully, that moment never came. But the experience changed each one of them forever.

Shelly Jaquez with Husband, Mario

“He (Mario) said, ‘when you get out of here, we’re getting married,’” fondly stated Jaquez.

Since the attack, Jaquez and Mario have gotten married, and she said she works each day to ensure that the uncertainty they faced that night would never be sprung on them again.

“I make sure I go to the doctor when I’m scheduled to… It’s devastating to a family to deal with that, when I could have prevented it,” Jaquez confessed.

Now taking the time to take care of herself by making regular trips to the doctor and watching her diet, Jaquez said her husband reminds her just how lucky they are to have made it through:

“He tells me all the time that I need to appreciate the second chance.”

Birthdays, weddings, graduations, and so much more she might have missed out on. Now, she sits happily on the horizon as she takes time to take care of herself.

“If I had just gone, I would not be in the position. I wouldn’t have burdened everybody else,” Jaquez looked back. “I missed about four days just being in the hospital, so a couple of days out of your life isn’t that bad.”

Don’t miss a special KTAB News broadcast Thursday night at 6:30 for the American Heart Association’s 2023 Go Red for Women campaign.