Northern Ireland

Co Fermanagh woman tells of ‘traumatic experience’ after suffering heart attack aged 24

Rachel West from Newtownbutler is sharing her experience to encourage others to be aware of their heart health

Rachel West suffered a heart attack, aged just 24

A Co Fermanagh woman who suffered a heart attack aged just 24, has told of how she hopes her 100-mile walking challenge will encourage others to be aware of their heart health, no matter what age they are.

Rachel West from Newtownbutler had been experiencing slightly uncomfortable pains in her chest, which she attributed to stress due to teacher training work.

“I didn’t think it was anything serious and I certainly didn’t think it had anything to do with my heart,” she said.

But while out shopping in April last year, Ms West said she “experienced the worst pain I had ever felt”.

“I actually had to stop in my tracks,” she said.

“My sister was walking slightly ahead of me, and the pain was so severe I couldn’t alert her to what was happening until it had subsided.”

Tests were carried out, including an angiography, which later found Ms West had suffered a heart attack.

“The doctors decided I needed to have a stent placed and that is when they gave me the diagnosis that I had had a heart attack,” she said.

“The news came as a complete and utter shock; I was only in my early twenties.

“The medical team were also quite shocked because of my age.”

Ms West said it was “totally different to the stereotypical picture of someone clutching their chest and falling to the ground”.

“I think because my heart attack was so different to that, and I wasn’t expecting to hear the words ‘heart attack’, I couldn’t quite believe that is what had happened,” she added.

“It took me a long time to try to come to terms with everything.”

Rachel West
The Co Fermanagh woman is sharing her story to raise awareness

One year on from her heart attack, Ms West decided she wanted to do something to try and put her “traumatic experience” behind her.

“I wanted to do something to bring my year of recovery to a close and move on with my life,” she said.

“I was talking to my sister one night and the idea of a 100 miles walking fundraiser for charity came up.

“It seemed like a good way to try and do something positive after everything I had been through.”

She said the fundraiser for Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke is also a way for her to raise heart health awareness amongst others, especially younger people.

“Everyone is so shocked when they hear I had a heart attack at 24, but if it can happen to me at a young age, it can happen to others,” she said.

“Through sharing my story and doing the fundraiser I wanted to make people aware of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack and tell people to get checked out if there is anything they are experiencing that doesn’t feel quite right.

“Don’t brush things aside because of your age.”