MERRILLVILLE | It was 17 degrees below zero outside, but Nicki Caylor was sweating.
The Valparaiso woman was 29, physically fit and training for the military when she collapsed from a heart attack.
Her superiors initially wrote off her complaints of discomfort and rapid heartbeat as a panic attack, leaving her to walk 2 miles back to her barracks while she carried 75 pounds worth of equipment.
Only after collapsing was she taken to an Army hospital.
It was not a panic attack. It was a heart attack, doctors confirmed.
Caylor shared her story Thursday at the annual Go Red For Women educational symposium, which drew nearly 400 women to a ballroom at the Radisson.
The stories of a dozen other women and girls, depicted in the annual Go Red calendar, also were shared.
The Go Red campaign educates women about heart disease. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, claiming the life of one in every three.
Shortness of breath, cold sweats, nausea and discomfort in the upper body are some common heart attack warning signs.
Among the chatter, red feather boas and heart-healthy lunch of chicken and vegetables at the symposium, women visited information booths and sat for health screenings by staff from Methodist Hospitals.
Saundra Parrott, of Gary, had her blood pressure checked. Parrott, a nurse with Methodist Hospitals Northlake campus in Gary, said she has congestive heart failure and high blood pressure that she monitors.
She also serves as physical and mental health chair for the Gary Alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and said it is important to disseminate health information to the community.
Most women are not aware of how deadly heart disease is, said Lynne Braun of the Preventive Cardiology Center and the Heart Center for Women at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
A 2009 survey showed only 60 percent of white women, 43 percent of black women, 44 percent of Hispanic women and 34 percent of Asian women knew heart disease was the top cause of death in women, Braun said.
Braun, the keynote speaker, explained the importance of keeping blood pressure and cholesterol numbers at a healthy level. Maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking and eating healthful food are easy ways to keep cardiac disease at bay.
The symposium also served as a way to celebrate those contributing to the cause.
Michael Finissi, NIPSCO senior vice president and chief operating officer, was recognized for raising $130,000 for a Go Red fundraising walk. He was the No. 2 walker in the country.
And Methodist Hospitals was awarded for the second year in a row the Get With the Guidelines Award Gold Performance Achievement Award for Stroke.
Couresty of The Times.