Posted at: 01/24/2013 5:28 PM
Updated at: 01/24/2013 5:32 PM
By: John Doetkott
(ABC 6 News) -- When we think of heroes we often picture men wearing capes, flying in to save the damsel in distress. But more often than not, the real heroes in our lives don't come with quite so much fanfare.
Helen Jahr and Lynn Cunningham love to walk.
“She's a pretty fast walker,” Jahr said. “So I always hustle to keep up with her."
But during one of their 5-mile hikes back in September of 2011, Cunningham said she felt tired and started having pain in her thumbs.
“We were laughing and making jokes about her thumbs hurting,” Jahr said. “But it was sort of strange."
When they got back to Cunningham’s house, the pain had started to creep up her arms, and when aspirin didn't help, Jahr, a certified first aid instructor, knew something had to be done.
“She said, 'You know Lynn, we're going to the emergency room.' And I said 'No we're not.' ‘Yup, we're going to the emergency room,’” Cunningham said. “She literally made me go. I thought she was nuts."
A short while later, Cunningham underwent cardiac surgery, which likely saved her life.
And on Thursday the American Red Cross honored Jahr with a medal and a certificate of merit for her heroic actions.
While she felt slightly overwhelmed, Jahr said she was happy she could help call attention to an important women's health issue.
“I think women live in denial about a lot of things,” Jahr said. “And to actually realize, ‘Wow, I could be having a heart attack,’ is a difficult realization and a lot of people ignore it."
Jahr and Cunningham now teach a class on recognizing a-typical heart attack symptoms in women as a way to try and help save more lives in the future.
But regardless of training, Jahr said when it comes to emergencies, it's important to go with your gut and always seek help.
“I think we reason a lot of things away in our mind,” Jahr said. “Don’t do that. Really it's a simple mistake and it could be a life-saving mistake so I would err on the side of caution.”
February 1st is National Women’s Heart Health Day and everyone is encouraged to wear red to show support and raise awareness.