WAUWATOSA, Wis. — Linda Kiewit never knew that one day, her workplace, Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin, would save her life.

What You Need To Know

  • What Linda Kiewit thought was severe acid reflux turned out to be a heart attack 

  • She wants other women to know heart attack symptoms can differ from men

  • Cardiologist Dr. Stacy Gardiner said jaw, shoulder and back pain can be symptoms of a heart attack

  • Dr. Gardiner said heart disease is the number one threat for women

Just two months ago, Kiewit was experiencing severe acid reflux, so she decided to see a doctor about it. She quickly learned it wasn’t just heart burn — it was a symptom of a heart attack.

“It turned out I was having what they call a widow maker,” said Kiewit. “Fortunately, I survived. I had 100% blockage in my main artery.” 

Doctors were able to save her life with a heart stent, which kept that artery open. She’s now surrounded every day by those who helped her survive.

“As I walk through the halls, I see physicians that helped save my life,” said Kiewit, who leads a team responsible for donations and fundraising efforts that support the hospital. “I see nurses. I understand what they do. I see patients that have gone through the same pain as I do, or as I did.”

Kiewit said the stent has given her a new lease on life.

“I want to have not only longevity in my life, but a robust life,” said Kiewit. “That includes working out, eating well, having great social interaction, doing volunteerism, loving my work and having wonderful relationships, and I have all of that.” 

She said she also wants to use her story to inform and educate other women about the many symptoms of a heart attack that often go unnoticed or are ignored.

Dr. Stacy Gardiner, a cardiologist at Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin, said that heart disease is the number one health threat for women. Their symptoms, she said, can be very different from men.

“It is still true that women have chest pain as their predominant symptom or as their most commonly presenting symptom, but often, especially in younger women, symptoms can vary,” said Gardiner. “It can be something like indigestion, jaw pain, back pain, shoulder pain, extreme fatigue or profound exhaustion.”

Kiewit said it really comes down to being aware of your body and following through when something feels off. She said delayed action can mean the difference between life and death.

“We’re the only people who can know our body and know our risk factors, and advocate for health care, and ask questions to our physicians,” said Kiewit.