By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A young Philadelphia doctor ended up needing a heart transplant after ignoring a persistent cough. Dr. Alin Gragossian is being recognized during American Heart Month.

American Heart Month aims to raise awareness that symptoms for heart disease are often very different between men and women. While some symptoms like high blood pressure or cholesterol can be detected, heart disease can also be sneaky and strike anybody, even a young, healthy doctor.

She’s only 32, but Gragossian depends on medications to stay alive.

“I’m taking it one day at a time now,” she said.

Gragossian is back to work as a resident in emergency medicine after surviving her own medical emergency.

“I crashed,” Gragossian said. “I went into heart failure.”

It happened in December 2018. From the outside, Gragossian looked perfectly healthy and was busy working, but she had been ignoring a persistent cough.

“Women, in general, have different symptoms than men,” she said. “It’s important to understand your body.”

The doctor turned patient was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a progressive disease of the heart muscle.

“Once I woke up they were telling me this might be your heart, your heart has stopped working. I said, ‘What? How can this even be possible?'” Gragossian recalled.

The next shock was learning she needed a heart transplant.

“When they told me I was going to get a heart within a couple of weeks, I knew that meant you’re probably going to die if you don’t get a heart within a couple of weeks,” Gragossian said.

She was on the wait-list for 11 days before getting a new heart.

“I still can’t believe it,” Gragossian said. “I wake up in the middle of the night sometimes thinking, ‘Is there someone else’s beating inside of me?'”

After finishing her residency, Gragossian wants to work in emergency medicine even though it’s risky, because she has to take anti-rejection drugs that weaken her immune system.

“All the time I have to be very careful,” she said. “I wear a mask pretty much around everybody.”

Gragossian, who was working at Hahnemann University Hospital when she had the heart attack, says it closing was more stressful than the transplant, because not only was her job in jeopardy, so was her insurance that she depends on for the expensive drugs she needs to live. She eventually landed at a hospital in Harrisburg.

Stephanie Stahl