Soap-opera icon Susan Lucci has survived what she describes as a near-fatal heart blockage.
"On a late October afternoon, I had a wakeup call," Lucci, 72, who lives in Garden City, wrote on Instagram Wednesday. "Narrowly missing a severe heart attack, I realized how vulnerable life is and how incredibly grateful I am to be here today" after having developed "a 90% blockage in the main artery of my heart."
"I'm lucky to be alive," Lucci additionally says in the new issue of People magazine. Sometime last autumn, she had felt a tightness in her chest but "told myself, it's nothing, it will go away. And it did." Roughly 10 days later, the pain returned, "radiating around my rib cage. I thought maybe I had fastened my bra too tightly."
Then on Oct. 23, while at the Tory Burch boutique at the Americana Manhasset shopping center, the pain came back, intensified. "It felt like an elephant pressing down on my chest," she told the magazine, adding that the store manager offered to drive her to Roslyn's St. Francis Hospital, which specializes in cardiology. En route, she called Dr. Richard Shlofmitz, the cardiologist for her husband of 49 years, Helmut Huber. The surgeon oversaw a CT scan revealing 90 percent blockage in the main artery and 70 percent blockage in another, and inserted two stents to restore sufficient blood flow.
Lucci, on Instagram, called the incident the "shock of a lifetime" because she exercises daily and maintains a healthy diet. "Every EKG I had was great. My blood pressure was on the lower end of normal," she told People. But because her father, contractor Victor Lucci, had arteriosclerosis — a thickening and hardening of the walls of arteries caused by plaque in those blood vessels — she had a genetic predisposition to heart disease.
"This week, I will walk in the American Heart Association['s] Go Red for Women Red Dress Collection in honor of all women who have lost their lives, those who are currently battling heart disease and all the fearless survivors," Lucci posted. "No one should have to die of a heart attack — they just need to listen to their symptoms and act on them."
The actress, whose "All My Children" villainess Erica Kane was "unequivocally the most famous soap opera character in the history of daytime TV" according to TV Guide, starred on that daytime serial from 1970 until its cancellation in 2011. She won a Daytime Emmy Award for outstanding lead actress in a drama series in 1999 for her work on "AMC." Lucci has since starred in the Lifetime series "Devious Maids" and guest-starred on other programs.