Hampton, Va. - When people stare at the large scar on Kathryn Moore's chest, it does not bother her. She knows it means she is a living miracle.
"I say 'Oh, I had open heart surgery. I had five heart attacks. Do you want to hear about it?," said the 48-year-old Hampton woman. "This heart attack made me realize how short life is."
It has been more than a year since Moore's heart attacks. Four of them happened before she stepped foot in the emergency room.
"It`s really important to know the symptoms because they manifest in women differently than they do in men," Moore said. She is sharing her story on national Go Red for Women Day, an American Heart Association campaign for heart disease awareness in women.
The first signs of Moore's heart trouble started on a Thursday. She was tired and could not shake it.
"I just became very exhausted as the day went on," said Moore. "I was tired. I was lethargic. It was hard for me to walk from one room to the other."
Then, she started having pain in her jaw.
"I thought maybe it was a toothache," she said.
By that Friday, her upper back was hurting, and by Saturday her left arm started to go numb. She decided to go to the emergency room.
"I`m thinking my tooth may have gotten infected," she recalls telling doctors.
The doctors tested her heart and learned she was in the middle of a heart attack. Soon, she was on the operating table.
"My cardiologist told me that if I hadn`t [gone to the hospital that day], I would have been dead within a week," Moore said.
Bon Secours cardiovascular chief, Dr. Robert Lancey, said knowing the different signs of a heart attack in women is the difference between life and death.
"Women can have chest pain, but more often present with other symptoms. Jaw pain, or back pain, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting."
The American Heart Association says more women die of heart disease than all forms of cancer combined. Their research shows one in three women are dying from heart disease, which averages one death each minute. Dr. Lancey said that is why women need to know the signs, and be adamant with their doctors to check for heart disease, even if the physician does not bring it up.
"Heart disease is not diagnosed as well in women, and this has been going on for 20, 30 years," he said.
Luckily, Moore's doctors knew what to look for when she came to the emergency room. Now, she knows her life's purpose - creating awareness and promoting prevention as a volunteer with the Hampton Roads chapter of the American Heart Association.
"When I tell people my story, they say God has you here for a reason," said Moore. "If my story can help save one person, it`s all worthwhile to me."