Alzenia Melton leads a jam-packed life, so she was not happy when she awoke one morning in December of 2010 and felt severe chest pain and shortness of breath when she attempted to get out of bed. Thinking that moving around a little might help, she got up, only to end up feeling worse. She phoned her daughter, who took her to the Emergency Department at Northwestern Memorial. When doctors examined her, they discovered her blood pressure was sky high.
“I think the pain is what brought my blood pressure up,” says Mrs. Melton, 73, who takes medication to treat her high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and rheumatoid arthritis. An electrocardiogram (ECG) and other tests didn’t reveal any problems with her heart, so the doctors worked to control her pain and bring down her blood pressure.
It took a while to stabilize her blood pressure, so Mrs. Melton, who works as a social worker and supervisor running seven food pantries and the Basic Human Needs Program for Catholic Charities of Chicago, was admitted to Northwestern Memorial.
After spending the night in the hospital, Mrs. Melton felt much better and the decision was made to discharge her from the hospital and refer her to Northwestern’s Outpatient Chest Pain Clinic for patients with a very low risk for short-term cardiovascular events. Mrs. Melton was able to get a clinic appointment that morning with Keith H. Benzuly, MD, interventional cardiologist on the medical staff at Northwestern Memorial and associate professor of Medicine at Feinberg, who examined her and ordered additional tests. Additional testing found no major problems, but it did reveal that Mrs. Melton has mild aortic insufficiency, a heart valve disease in which the aortic valve does not close properly causing blood to flow backward instead of forward through the valve. Mrs. Melton will continue to see Dr. Benzuly as an outpatient to monitor her aortic insufficiency.
Mrs. Melton was happy that her chest pain was determined to be musculoskeletal in nature, rather than heart-related, and she was eager to get back to her very active lifestyle, which, in addition to working, includes volunteering weekly at a supper program for homeless and hungry people, growing flowers and vegetables in her back yard, and singing every Sunday in her church’s 200-member choir.
Mrs. Melton was grateful for the short hospital stay and being seen so quickly at Northwestern’s Outpatient Chest Pain Clinic. “I’ve always received such good care at Northwestern,” she said.