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Apr 17, 2014 12:34 AM by Rebecca Taylor

Dog's death triggers Broken Heart Syndrome in Tucson woman

TUCSON - A Tucson woman so distraught over the loss of her dog had to be hospitalized.

Last week, we told you about three chihuahuas on leashes who were attacked by a pit bull. One of the chihuahuas, named Bella was killed.

Hours after the attack Bella's owner suffered stress-induced cardiomyopathy, also known as Broken Heart Syndrome.

According to the American Heart Association it can strike even when you're healthy. Broken Heart Syndrome can be misdiagnosed as a heart attack but there's no evidence of blocked heart arteries.

It's usually treatable with most people making a full recovery within weeks. Although in rare cases, it can be fatal.

The most common signs and symptoms of Broken Heart Syndrome are chest pain and shortness of breath.

Mary Ann Mayer spent two days in the hospital. Doctors say her body thinks it had a heart attack, but in reality it aches for Bella.

"They're so precious," says Mayer while stroking Bella's sister Sweetpea.

Mayer describes the loss. "My heart is heavy, I wake up and night and I see it. I raised seven kids, I'm alone now and these are my babies."

Last Monday, a pit bull broke loose from its yard near Pantano and Irvington. Mayer, age 72, was able to wrangle Sweetpea and Coco free, but Bella was killed.

A couple hours after the attack Mayer visited a Minute Clinic. "I thought I was having a panic attack, but the lady at the clinic wouldn't even, she told me you have to go to Emergency Room now," says Mayer. "So I went to the ER and they did an electrocardiogram, and man they admitted me, they thought I was having a heart attack. I was there for two days."

Cardiologist M. Reza Habibzadeh didn't treat Mayer, but says Broken Heart Syndrome is quite common.

"In a stress cardiomyopathy, this part of the heart starts getting dilated and doesn't pump well," describes Dr. Habibzadeh. "So you go the ER for chest pain shortness of breath and we usually take the patients to a Cardiac Catheterization lab like here, look at the coronaries, and if there's no blockage we say this person might have broken heart syndrome."

Mayer says, "It has scarred my heart, but they said because I didn't have a real heart attack it will heal itself."

To help with the healing she keeps Bella's ashes in a box with a cross. The veterinarian's office also mailed her a card. "This is her footprint, some of her little long hair," says Mayer holding the gift.

Mayer who keeps a part-time job at a drug store is back to work.

As for the pitbull's caretakers they've been cited for violating dog bite and leash laws.

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