Rosie O’Donnell opens up about heart attack scare

Posted at 2:52 PM, Oct 25, 2012
and last updated 2012-10-25 19:46:38-04

(WTVR) - Have you wondered what ex-daytime TV darling Rosie O'Donnell has been up to lately?  We'll, Rosie recently sat down with Dr. Oz for a chat about the heart attack she survived last summer.

Rosie said it all started when she and her partner, Michelle, spotted a distressed morbidly obese woman in a handicapped parking spot at the mall.

"Her door was open and her legs were out and a walker was out of the car," Rosie said. "She looked like she may have been in chemo.... and she said, 'Can you help me?"

As Rosie came to the woman's aid, essentially pulling her out of the car, Rosie told Oz that it was much more difficult than she imagined. She said the woman basically had no way to get out of the car, but that she managed to pull her out. 

Two hours later, Rosie was suffering from severe pain in both biceps and the inner part of her right breast.

Rosie assumed that she must have pulled a muscle, but one of her children told her she looked like a ghost because of her pallid complexion.

Later that day at a therapy session, Rosie even joked with her therapist that she thought she might be having a heart attack. But after quickly researching symptoms on Google, the therapist thought Rosie was probably just suffering from panic. 

However, once Rosie got home she was extremely tired.

"[I was] more tired than I had ever been in my whole life," she said. "I was so tired that walking up the steps to the bedroom felt like Mt. Everest." 

Rosie said she crawled into bed and fell asleep for three hours. 

When she went downstairs for supper, Rosie downed a few Saltine crackers and drank some water. But she still wasn't feeling like herself. 

Once she climbed the stairs again, Rosie said she vomited, which felt like an important warning sign from her body.

Later that night, Michelle gave Rosie four Aspirins before she fell asleep. However, even as the symptoms persisted, Rosie still did not call 911. 

As it turns out, 50 percent of women who think they are having a heart attack do not call 911. 

"It was the stupidest decision I ever made in my life," Rosie told Dr. Oz.

And more than 24 hours later, Rosie finally made it to her doctor's office.  That's when she got confirmation of what she feared. 

"You've had a heart attack and we're going to be putting in a stint," Rosie said her doctor told her. 

Rosie said that the near-death experience forced her to take a hard look -- and finally be conscious -- of her body and what it was telling her.

When a nurse told one of Rosie's friends that she was doing excellent compared to other patients, they thought it was a good thing. However, the nurse said that was because most women do not survive what Rosie went through.

That's when Rosie first heard the term "The Widow Maker" and realized the situation's grave nature.

After receiving the stint, Rosie said she felt like a new woman. And these days, she said she has a new outlook on life -- and a new goal. 

In fact, now Rosie is on a mission to teach women, especially those in their forties and fifties, about the danger of heart attacks.

Here are Dr. Oz's five heart attack warning signs every woman needs to know:

  • Chest, jaw, neck and shoulder pain
  • Nausea, indigestion and stomach pain
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Dizziness and/or light-headedness
  • Shortness of breath

If you have any of these, call 911 or see your doctor immediately. [BONUS: Click here for a printable checklist to keep in your wallet.]

Watch the Dr. Oz show weekdays at 4 p.m. on WTVR, followed by CBS 6 News at 5 p.m. with Julie Bragg and Lorenzo Hall.