Judith Collins

Judith CollinsJudith Collins

Judith Collins was keeping pace with a bullet train — working, looking after an infirmed daughter, traveling, and exercising. As she set off on a hiking trip in Yosemite Valley, she had no idea how close she was  to a train wreck.

After a few short hikes, Collins and her husband headed on a long trek, up and out of Hetch Hetchy Valley. As they reached their destination and turned homeward, Collins felt her heart race; searing chest pain nearly took her down. She pressed on — until she dropped.

In a twist of fate, a Boy Scout leader, a doctor, a paramedic, and a nurse were also hiking the trail.  One gave her aspirin. Another began the three-hour hike to the rangers station. The paramedic stayed  by her side.

 “As I lay there,” says Collins, “it felt like someone  had grabbed my heart and squeezed.”

A helicopter landed nearby and she was flown to a Modesto hospital. An angiogram identified a modest amount of plaque in her arteries, but nothing serious. Yet her heart was bulging at the bottom, in a stunned state instead of rhythmically expanding and contracting. It was takotsubo syndrome, often called “broken heart syndrome.”

The emergency department doctor prescribed medication — and stress reduction. Five months later, she retired and relaxed. She also took part in Community Hospital’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program and is now continuing her exercise program, including spending time on a treadmill, elliptical machine, and in the pool, all at Peninsula Wellness Center in Marina.

She also returned to Yosemite, and completed  her hike.