'I went in for a standard breast reduction. The moment I woke up I knew something was terribly wrong.'

"Everything went very smoothly Kellie. We got a great result," the surgeon said. 

Oh good, I thought drowsily.

That sense of relief would last less than a minute as a crushing bout of tightness spread throughout my chest. What was supposed to be a routine breast reduction had suddenly turned sinister and I honestly should have expected it.

The feeling of something being wrong had been present for quite a long time by that point. During the early days of the pandemic, I had decided to focus on my fitness. I'd been routinely completing a 5km walk every other day. Some days were uneventful, but some walks began with an uncomfortable feeling in my chest. It was akin to someone throwing a rope around my upper body and slowly squeezing until I felt like my veins would pop. 

So, I did the right thing and described my various symptoms to my GP. "You’re in your 40s now, this is all part of being middle-aged," they said. "Are your periods still regular? Let’s check your iron levels." 

This sounded reasonable, so getting a blood test seemed like a good place to start.

Yet despite being told I was fine, the symptoms persisted. I decided to share the secret worry that I had been harbouring; could this be related to my heart? 

"Let me guess," my doctor responded in a kind, yet albeit slightly condescending tone. "You heard about that B list celeb that died of a mysterious heart attack, right?" 

Well yes I had, but that wasn't the reason I was bringing it up. "I get chest pain whilst taking out the bins, I have to stop and sit down on the back lawn after attempting to mow it for only five minutes. This can't be considered normal. I feel like you're not taking me seriously," I said. 


Image: Supplied.

All of this was met with a reluctant sigh as the doctor typed out a referral to see a cardiologist. Over the next two months, I had an ECG, an echocardiogram and an MRI. After all of these came back "normal", it was decided that I just had anxiety. Feeling confident that I must be okay, I went ahead with my breast reduction surgery — a surgery that I had wanted since I was 15. 

After waking up from the anaesthetic, I was told to calm down when I complained of excruciating chest pain. While the slow breathing advised alleviated the symptoms, they weren't completely going away. Why would I be feeling anxious? I pondered to myself. I'm happy I've finally had my breast reduction! 


The nurses were kind but seemingly un-alarmed. The doctors were gentle but obviously sceptical. The woman bought in to do an echocardiogram post-op mumbled that it was a waste of time. She had a point, seeing as all the bandages would make it next to impossible to get a proper reading.

Once again, I had to advocate for myself. Finally, action was taken when a blood test showed raised levels of troponin — these are proteins that are released when damage has been done to the heart.

Watch: I asked "The Doll Maker" what she'd do to my face. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

They immediately took me by ambulance to their sister hospital that was better equipped to handle my condition and an angiogram was performed. The look of fear on the doctor's face said it all.

"I'm so sorry but one of your arteries is 95 per cent blocked," he told me.

They quickly prepped me for double bypass surgery. I was introduced to the anaesthetist and the cardio thoracic surgeon. I was then asked to give my phone to the cardiologist with instructions on who to call first. "Call my brother," I decided quickly. "He can call my other siblings. Don't call my sister. She's listed as my emergency contact but she's with my son and I don’t want him freaking out just yet." 

I didn’t have time to panic or cry. Instead, I felt a strange sense of calm, like it was out of my hands now and I just had to trust in my medical team to fix what was wrong.


After hours of surgery, I awoke in the ICU completely under the influence of the lingering anaesthetic. My hallucinations were terrifying. I felt sure that I was unsafe. There were strangely dressed people surrounding me who were talking about whether I was going with them or not. 

I screamed out in panic until a doctor in a white coat managed to calm me down. 

I spent the next seven days in and out of a medication induced delirium. I was then slowly weaned off the stronger pain meds and finally felt like I could see light at the end of the tunnel. When I asked doctors how or why my artery had become so blocked, they weren't able to give me a clear answer. 

It has now been over six months since my ordeal and I feel about 90 per cent back to normal. They joy of having perky, smaller breasts has been marred by the angry looking heart surgery scar but I know that I wouldn’t be alive without it. I do unfortunately feel every bit of my 50 years but knowing I almost never had a chance to reach that milestone is sobering. I’m grateful that my breast surgery effectively saved my life. Because truth be told, before I went in for it, I had been given the all clear by the experts — when clearly, I was not fine at all.

So my advice to other regular folk: take your concerns seriously and advocate for yourself. To the Doctors: sometimes your patients are right. We know our bodies better than anybody else.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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