KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A smart, savvy academic advisor and lecturer at the University of Tennessee ignored some odd but troubling symptoms the ultimately led to a heart attack.

Rochelle Nelson says climbing stairs no longer causes her pain, but a little over a year ago was a different story.

“I would have to go up one flight and I would have to stop and have a little ‘me’ time, ” Nelson recalls.

She wouldn’t get out of breath, but suffered bizarre pain in her hand.

“Where the pain would be focused would be in the webbing of my right hand in between my index finger and thumb,” said Nelson.

As time went on, Nelson’s symptoms started to change, but she put off seeing a doctor because she didn’t want to miss the work she loves, leading a class in public speaking.

“I would wake up and quite by accident I found one night that if I raised my hands above my head, that the pain would go away. Yay. So there is was doing this (raising her hands above her head) quite often, ” Nelson ruefully said.

Fast forward a few months, and Nelson finally made a doctor’s appointment. However, just hours before her appointment, she had more pain in her hand, arms, and back.

An EKG revealed it was a heart attack.

Nelson had surgery to place half a dozen stents just like this in her heart.

“When I was coming out of anesthesia, I looked at one of the staff members and said did you have to place a stent? And her response was, no, we put in six,” said Nelson.

Nelson’s twin daughters who attend UT and love popping in to visit with their mom , say they’re grateful she is here to share her story.

That scary episode changed things.

“I think it’s made us healthier, ” Victoria Nelson said. “We’ve definitely made some lifestyle changes.”

Alexander Nelson agreed, saying, “it’s very nice to have her around. We want her around for a good, long while.”

For more information on signs and symptoms of heart disease in both women and men, go to the American Heart Association’s website at: