CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Many women do all they can to prevent heart disease, but that is no guarantee it will not happen.
Hillsborough artist Alice Levinson, 60, loves to share her work with others.
"For me, art has to begin in truth," she said.
The truth is that a heart attack was the farthest thing from Levinson's mind three years ago.
"I have a low blood pressure, I eat the perfect diet [and] I exercise regularly," she said.
The surprise heart attack is now the inspriation behind her latest creation, which is truly a work of the heart.
Within the fabric of her latest work is the story of her thoughts and emotions as she realized she was having a heart attack.
"The words reflect my disbelief, my confusion. A growing awareness that I needed help," she said.
Levinson's piece, titled "Call 911" is hanging in the Heart Center at University of North Carolina Hospitals.
Cardiologists there said women experiencing heart attack symptoms often do nothing, and hope the pain will go away.
"She was educated enough to know the symptoms and the signs and not put it off and not say, 'I'm in such great shape, this can't be happening to me,'" said Dr. Paula Miller, a UNC Hospitals cardiologist.
Levinson remembers being carried into a Colorado emergency room.
"A nurse greeted me with these huge shears and cut my T-shirt off," she said of the shirt that is now part of her artwork. "Anyone of us, at any day, at any time can experience a sudden catastrophic illness."
Levinson's message is not just about reducing the risks of heart disease, but about recognizing its signs.
Most women can have the classic symptoms of chest pain and shortness of breath. Some of signs can be far more subtle than in men, including nausea, a cold sweat, unexplained fatigue and pain in the shoulders, neck or jaw.
"We need to know that if you feel something is wrong, it is. If you believe you need help, then you do. Call 911. And that's the name of the piece, Call 911," she said.