The Story Behind the Red Dress…
On June 10, 2018, Lynn had went to church as part of her normal Sunday routine. She went home and began changing clothes so that she could prepare dinner. It was in that moment, she started having chest pains, her left arm went numb and then her jaw started hurting. Lynn called for her husband but he was gone to the store, so she called her son who sent his girlfriend to the restroom to check on her. She had to be assisted to the couch. She told her son that she was having a heart attack, and to get her aspirin and call her husband because he was closer than the ambulance. Of course they were both in shock, and it took a few seconds for her son to realize it was real! When her husband got home, he picked Lynn up and rushed her to the hospital in record time.
Once Lynn arrived, the first doctor told her that she was not having a heart attack and that he would find out exactly what was causing her chest to hurt. A few minutes later a young doctor came in and told her and her husband that her troponin levels were high and that she was having Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection, what is commonly known as, SCAD. She only had a small window of time for her to get to a heart hospital. She was rushed in an ambulance an hour away and more test and more medication was started. Lynn stayed in the hospital for a week. It was determined that they wanted to try and let her heart heal itself with just medication because stents could cause more problems and bypass was the last option. Lynn claims that it seems like no one is that familiar with SCAD.
It has been seven months since that day and Lynn states that it’s still very hard. She constantly experiences chest pains but they can’t find anything related to her heart that could be causing the problems. Lynn was a very active 51 year old who took pride in the fact that she was self-sufficient. She rode horses all the time and could carry a bale of hay in each hand to go feed. She loved life and being outdoors, now Lynn find herself basically afraid to do the things that she once did.
She prays in time that this feeling goes away and her old self comes back. Lynn does find herself forcing to push past her comfort zone and doing things that she once did. She doesn’t think she will ever be able to carry the amount of weights that she once did; now, she just make several trips and carries smaller loads. The extra walking is an added bonus. Lynn’s advice is to never give up! She struggles every day being afraid, but life must go on! She found a great support group on Facebook for SCAD survivors and it has helped her immensely! She states, “Only the ones who have been through this will understand, so seek out a great support system!”
Congenital Heart Defect Survivor
In 2010, Amy Kochan, senior manager with a financial consulting firm, was a 36 year old marathon runner and the picture of health. After having her first son in June of that year, Amy began having trouble with her blood pressure, unusual swelling and loss of energy. At her six week postpartum checkup, she was told her lack of weight loss and energy was probably from depression. Amy knew her condition was NOT postpartum depression and went to see a cardiologist. He diagnosed Amy with a pulmonary embolism in her left lung and immediately started her on a regimen of Coumadin. They told her she was lucky to be alive.
On Friday, December 14, 2010, Amy went back in for another echocardiogram. The following Sunday, Amy was grocery shopping when she got a call from her doctor’s office. This test had shown a hole in Amy’s heart, about the size of a nickel. What was probably a congenital heart defect had gotten significantly more serious due to the strain of her first pregnancy. She would have to have surgery to close the hole and worst case scenario, a heart transplant. Amy sat down in the middle of Harris Teeter and started crying. She and her husband, Patrick were signing their will on Christmas Eve and on December 29, Amy had a a septal occluder implanted in her heart, a fairly new procedure in adults. Interestingly enough, Amy got the chance to watch her surgery while it was happening. She wrote her husband and child love letters. Thankfully, they never had to read them
During the next few months of recuperation, Amy and her husband were encouraged not to have any more children. In October of 2011, Amy found out she was pregnant and was told to terminate the baby. Amy’s cardiologist told her she would be fine and that he would be with her every step of the way. On June 12, 2012, Amy had her second son, Caleb, almost two years to the date after having her first son, Jackson. Thankfully, both of Amy’s children have been checked for congenital heart defects and are perfectly healthy.
The Story Behind the Red Dress…
Heart Transplant Survivor
Fort Mill, SC
Advice from her transplant doctor when she was trying to get pregnant: Go live your life!
For Andrea, her heart condition began when she was a 14-year-old high school student. After becoming short of breath walking up flights of stairs, she assumed she was out of shape. Then Andrea noticed a rash on her arms so her mother took her to a local clinic. One of the nurses asked her mom if she had knowledge of her daughter’s heart murmur. This came as a shock to both Andrea and her mother, but it was just the beginning of her story.
After living with this diagnosis for 11 years, Andrea suffered a transient ischemic attack, which is known as a TIA and often called a mini stroke, while getting ready for work. After a visit to the hospital, everything in her life seemed to be changing. In the left ventricle (the heart's main pumping chamber), an ejection fraction of 55 percent or higher is considered normal, Andrea’s ejection fraction was down to a 13. After 12 more trips to the hospital for various heart related issues, she was put on an LVAD and remained in the hospital for 156 days. On August 21, 1996, she received her new heart--a day she’ll never forget.
Since her heart transplant, Andrea has placed her heart health at the forefront of her life. She married her best friend, Rob, and was also one of 40 women in year 2002 to give birth after a heart transplant. Her son is turning 17 this year and is very healthy!
Andrea has survived by never giving up, and always maintaining a positive attitude through both the good times and bad. Her goal is to live life to the fullest! She advises everyone to get regular check-ups, don’t ignore signs and symptoms, exercise as much as possible, and live each day as if it’s a new beginning! Andrea wants everyone to know that no matter how young or how old at heart you are, be kind to yourself. Take care of YOU. If you make it your mission to do this, you will realize life is full of possibilities to celebrate each and every day!
Story Behind the Red Dress…
Heart Attack Survivor
Christine O’Boyle is a vibrant, active, healthy wife and mother of three sons. She exercises daily and always has the energy to stay on the go.
In November 2001, Christine’s shoulder began to hurt. She wondered over and over how she could have pulled a muscle in her shoulder and laughed at the absurdity of it. A few days later, while out for her daily walk around her south Charlotte neighborhood, Christine began to feel sick. As with her shoulder pain, she thought it was nothing serious and self-diagnosed it as
When she arrived home after her walk, she told her husband, Tom, how she was feeling. He was worried and kept a close eye on her. As soon as she
began vomiting, his instincts and suspicions took over and he insisted Christine go to the emergency room. She laughed at him and told him he was crazy. The hospital staff would certainly laugh at her and send her right back home. Tom persevered and insisted that she had no choice and was going to the hospital. She decided to humor her stubborn husband and even told her sons that they would be home in fifteen minutes.
Upon arriving at the hospital, Tom explained to the attendant what his wife was experiencing. They told them to sit down and a doctor would be with them as soon as possible. This wasn’t good enough and Tom’s instincts told him that the minutes were ticking. He stood his ground and firmly said, “ Do I look crazy to you? My wife is having a heart attack!”
Thanks to Tom who recognized the warning signs, Christine was seen
immediately and her husband’s suspicions confirmed. She was having
symptoms of an imminent heart attack, but thankfully received medication in time to prevent fatal damage to the heart.
Unfortunately, even though Christine took care of her health by eating right, not smoking, and being physically active, she had genetics against her. When her father was just 46 years old he died in her arms of a sudden massive heart attack. This is what she thought having a heart attack was like, not what she experienced.
She has also learned the signs of a heart attack and takes every opportunity to educate her friends, family and the organizational groups she belongs to about heart disease and the importance of knowing the signs and symptoms.
The Story Behind The Red Dress…
Heart survivor - 40 years old
On May 26th, 2009, I gave birth to two healthy little boys. Six days later at the age of 30, I suffered a heart attack. My day started out normal. I took the boys to their three-day check-up with their pediatrician and he told me that I didn’t look well. I was feeling bloated and was having some issues breathing. Their pediatrician insisted I call my doctor after leaving the appointment. Unfortunately, my doctor’s office was closed when I left the pediatrician’s office. Later that evening, I started having shortness of breathing, and tried to lie down. My mom was with me and knew something was wrong. She immediately told me to get dressed; she was taking me to the emergency room.
At the ER, they began to run a series of tests and blood work. My blood work showed that I was highly anemic and needed a blood transfusion. I was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure, and the doctors knew they had to remove fluid around my heart and lungs, or it could be fatal. They also did a sonogram and told me that I suffered a mild heart attack. I had a rare condition called postpartum cardiomyopathy, which affects 1 in 3,500 women and can be caused due to pregnancy. The doctors drained the fluids and put me on medication for my heart. Within a year, I was back to normal, and I’m proud to say I am a survivor!
It is vital to stay healthy and fight for other women to be healthy as well. I encourage all women to Go Red. Going RED means that you are fighting for your fellow “sisters” to be aware of the signs of stroke and heart attack. I want all women to know, heart attacks can happen at any age. Look at me, I was only 30 years old and never had any health issues. It is important to know the signs and trust your gut. I also believe that if you can share your story with just one person, it can possibly save their life!
Stroke survivor- 33 years old
Meghan, a 31-year-old physical therapist, always knew her congenital heart defect could lead to a stroke, but it didn’t stop her from playing college athletics or regularly exercising throughout her life. She played volleyball, basketball and was an avid runner, cycler and skier. With two New York City marathons and triathlons under her belt, she was the picture of health and an inspiration to all her patients who strived to regain their own physical strength.
On a Saturday in late November 2015, Meghan had gone to a spin class in the morning and then out to lunch with her husband. Upon her return home she went to grab her water bottle off the bedside table, however missed it with her left hand. Meghan didn’t think much of it and simply compensated by picking it up with her right hand. As she walked to the bathroom, her husband Steven noticed her slurred speech and left side paralysis. He called 911 and she was rushed to a primary stroke center. Within hours, she received TPA which helped to dissolve the clots that were blocking her carotid artery in her neck and two other main arteries in her brain. The neurosurgeon also conducted a thrombectomy, and using the newest technology, pulled the remaining clots from her brain. Ten hours later, she was up walking the halls of ICU and is fortunate not to have any residual disabilities from the event.
Meghan sees the effect of stroke on many of her patients. Her own experience has given her a deeper connection with them and a sense of compassion that could only be found through this journey. She works hard to encourage stroke victims to keep getting stronger and healthier. She educates others on the signs and symptoms of stroke as well as the importance of getting help fast to improve the outcome for stroke victims. Meghan is a shining example of what the quality of care and technological advancements mean to our community.
Noelia Chumpitaz, a young Peruvian mother of three, has always been anxious about the well-being of her husband and children. Typical of any Latino female, this caregiver’s goal was to make sure everyone in the family was eating right and exercising. She stressed the importance of a good diet and healthy habits and lived by example. To Noelia’s surprise and her husband’s astonishment, she found herself being rushed to the hospital for a serious health condition. On June 29th, Noelia suffered a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or a minor stroke.
If it weren’t for her involvement with the American Heart Association and the recent Power To End Stroke Jazz Brunch and Stroke Education Event in Charlotte, N.C., Noelia would not have recognized the signs of what was happening to her, nor would she have known that a 39 year old in good health with no family history, could suffer from this condition. In fact, she had attended the event one month prior to her stroke because she was concerned with her husband’s health and had come home armed with risk factors and stroke education to share with him.
As they watched television together late that night in June, Noelia felt a tingle in her left arm. She decided she must have overused it during the day. A few minutes later her speech began to slur and her face showed signs of drooping. Within seconds, she and her husband realized she was having a stroke and called 911. By the time the ambulance arrived, she had numbness in her left leg as well. Noelia was taken to a Primary Stroke Center in Charlotte for immediate treatment. She remained hospitalized for three days, but has no residual effects from her stroke. Noelia credits the education she received from the American Heart Association-American Stroke Association for helping to save her life.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest Survivor
For Linda Daley, a casual lunch date with a friend and coworker, quickly turned into a life changing event. One minute she was walking back from lunch, and the next thing she knew, she was in a hospital bed and four days had passed. Linda suffered sudden cardiac arrest on November 20, 2012. Fortunately, Mark Buskey, a security professional with Universal Protection Service at BOA, was close by and ran to the scene. Mark assessed the situation and immediately began Hands-only CPR. Another bank employee called 911. A crowd began to assemble. Mark continued with his compressions, never stopping until medics arrived.
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women; yet very few females consider it their biggest health threat. Linda Daley knew the risks, had an irregular heartbeat with mitral valve prolapse, but she was 57 years old, a triathlete, and a healthy eater. Never in a million years did she think it would happen to her. Neither did Linda’s friend, Patti Stiene. Patti was the coworker who was with Linda when she collapsed. But Patti jumped into action and found the closest AED just in case Mark might need it. She was thankful that there were people nearby who were willing to help.
Nearly 400,000 sudden cardiac arrests occur outside of a hospital setting in the United States annually. Sadly, 89 percent of people who suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest die because they don’t receive immediate CPR from someone on the scene. Most Americans feel helpless to act during a cardiac emergency because they don’t know how to administer CPR or they’re afraid of hurting the victim.
Mark, a former NYPD officer who had just been hired by the security company in July and recertified in CPR a few months earlier, was familiar with emergency situations and did his job without hesitation. Linda is forever grateful. Today, she has an Implanted Electronic Defibrillator (IED) that regularly monitors her heart for anything abnormal. She says she feels completely normal. Ironically, Linda has been an active volunteer with the American Heart Association since 2009 including leading a Heart Walk team and joining the Go Red for Women movement.
American Heart Association events such as Heart Walk provide funding for cardiovascular research and education. Research such as the science and technology used to develop the IED implanted in Linda’s chest and the cooling chamber used to preserve her brain function after the heart attack. The American Heart Association also created the guidelines for CPR. Linda knows that the AHA and her new bff, Mark Buskey, both played a major role in saving her life.
At the age of 33, five days after the birth of my second child, I suddenly began experiencing what I would later realize was chest pain and a blockage in my left anterior descending and circumflex arteries, better known as the widow maker. It was a typical day for a postpartum mom of a newborn and a 2-year-old daughter. I was tired, but relieved to be home from hospital. After a cup of coffee and a few happy posts to social media, I felt intense heaviness in my chest. The pressure was intense. Although my husband and I hesitated briefly (given my age and no history of health issues), within five minutes of my symptoms, we rushed to the hospital. Making that decision, probably saved my life.
My heart attack was caused by SCAD (or Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection), which is a rare event that occurs mostly in women where a tear in an artery wall, which causes blood to be trapped, restricting necessary blood flow. Once at the hospital, I was taken in for emergency double bypass surgery. I was given only moments to hug my husband and say my goodbyes. It was something we will never forget. I have spent the past year recovering and enjoying time with my husband and two precious children. Miraculously, my heart function is back to normal. Timing is everything in a case like mine, and I attribute my prompt diagnosis treatment (and a lot of luck) to my full recovery. I Go Red to spread the importance of not ignoring your symptoms and remembering that every second counts.
Married for 23 years, Julia is also the mom to three growing boys age 11, 15, and 18. Her full-time career means each day is packed between family time and work time. Like most women, Julia used to believe that even though there aren’t enough hours in the day, she could get it all done if she kept moving. Now, Julia slows down to enjoy what matters most in life: her health and her family. In April of 2013, Julia woke up feeling fine. Later that morning after arriving at work, she began to experience symptoms of heart burn, nausea, hot flashes, shortness of breath, tightening of the jaw and lethargy. “I thought it was a cold or possibly the flu,” Julia says. “I continued to work, sat in on a conference call, and tried to take a nap in my office thinking a few minutes of quiet would help me to feel better.” A few hours later, while at her desk Julia looked up the symptoms of a heart attack online and was shocked at sites that said she was having a heart attack.
“I was only 44 years young and I didn’t have friends my age with heart problems,” says Julia. “That website listed heart attack symptoms, and I had almost all of them, but I still dismissed the possibility and kept working.” A few hours later the symptoms returned and were much worse. Julia started searching online again and saw the same heart attack symptoms listed on the American Heart Association (AHA)’s Go Red For Women® website. “I kept clicking around hoping to find another diagnosis with the same symptoms,” says Julia. “But I read one story about a real woman and then another, and another, and realized I was having the exact same experience.” It was undeniably a heart attack.She called her physician’s office to describe the symptoms and the nurse told her to go immediately to the hospital. Julia chose not to call 911 to avoid the bill of an ambulance ride. “I allowed the possible cost of immediate care to affect my decision,” says Julia. She left work, drove herself four miles to the house to leave the door key for her two younger boys, and then drove another few miles to the emergency room.
“My name is Julia Allen and I think I had a heart attack,” is what she told the hospital registrar right before collapsing into an emergency room wheelchair. She was admitted and had a second heart attack that evening. Myocardial Infarction, commonly referred to as a heart attack, can be fatal, especially with each passing minute that the heart loses oxygen. Thankfully Julia finally convinced herself to go to the hospital. Julia’s treatment plan and recovery included months of cardiac rehab, daily dose of aspirin, four prescription medications, and carrying nitroglycerin in her purse always in case of another heart attack. The family pediatrician urged Julia to have all three boys tested for heart disease and lab results showed that her oldest son had high cholesterol. “This was such a surprise because he is a middle/long-distance runner and eats well,” says Julia.