The Story Behind the Red Dress…
Congenital Heart Defect Survivor
For all of Susan's life, she has had a heart murmur. With regular exams and check-ups, this was not a big issue – just something she was aware of and watched. Several years ago, her primary doctor noticed a change in the murmur and referred her to a cardiologist. An echocardiogram showed that she had a bicuspid aortic valve, meaning her aortic valve has two leaflets, instead of three. At some point in the future, Susan will likely need to have the valve replaced. Knowing this, she has worked to educate herself on ways to manage her heart health and take the best care of herself that she can.
About 15 years ago, her husband was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure which was caused by a simple virus. With three small children at home and knowing her own heart health issues, she was very afraid. The thought of her children having to grow up without one or both of their parents was terrifying – and not something she was willing to accept. This was personal, and Susan wanted to make a commitment to take charge of her own heart health as well as that of her loved ones. Susan doesn't want to be a statistic; she doesn't want her three boys standing on a stage telling their story of losing a parent.
That’s when Susan started supporting the American Heart Association and Go Red for Women. Through their support, Susan and her family hopes to raise awareness and funding for more research, and believe they get more out of it than they give! Susan and her family receive education, tips and connections that help them better manage their health. Susan believes, it’s a family affair. "My six year-old-niece, Katy, proudly wears her red dress pin each February, and my 17 month-old granddaughter, Amelia, will know how her MawMaw feels about women’s heart health here pretty soon as well."
The advice she wants to give to people reading this is the same she gives to her loved ones: "Take care of yourself. Don’t try to be everything to everybody. You can’t be there to enjoy the family you are blessed with if you don’t take care of your health. Forget about the dishes and take a walk after dinner. Forget about the toys on the floor and get outside and play with your family. Life comes with stress. Find YOUR way to deal with the stress – yoga, reading, walk, breathing techniques – listen to your body and DO SOMETHING when it is talking to you."
Open Heart Surgery Survivor
It was the spring of 1997, and Meghan Jupiter had gone in for a routine physical with her pediatrician prior to the start of the Spring softball season. Her pediatrician heard a heart murmur and made a comment that “many people have heart murmurs and since she was so healthy, she was not worried”. A week later, she called Meghan back in for an MRI and EKG “just to double check”, and that was then they found Meghan's aorta the size of a grapefruit!
The summer going into her freshman year of high school, Meghan and her parents traveled around visiting many hospitals for open heart surgery. That November, she had a partial aorta replacement and an aortic valve replacement.
She was tested for many heart conditions and in the end, they determined that she was either born with the heart defect or it was caused from a severe case of chickenpox. Her surgery was successful and today, she is living a heart healthy lifestyle!
Meghan is very lucky to be alive and she is thankful for all of her friends and family who supported her over the last 22 years!
Mary Deme and her family were always considered to have a slower pulse, usually ranging in the high 50s to low 60s. To them, it was a badge of honor, a way to show how healthy they truly were. Little did they know, it was quite the opposite.
Mary was 23 at the time, pregnant with her first child, two years into her enlistment in the US Navy, and recently transferred to the Naval Medical Center – San Diego for her new assignment. She had gone down to meet the Chief in charge of their group. Standing in his office, with another enlisted person, she began to feel light-headed and was encouraged to sit down. Her face continued to grow warmer and she became more light-headed, now unable to walk.
Her Chief immediately called to the emergency department of the hospital, who sent someone to transport Mary via gurney to the hospital. They ran an EKG and full-blood panel, with what they determined to be of no-significant finding. This was based upon the unfortunate assumption that she was active and therefore the lack of P-wave (indicator of normal pacing function of the heart) and slow rate, was allowed to be left untreated.
After five years of visiting hospitals and cardiologists, and almost giving up hope, Mary had yet another of the now many “episodes” of feeling light-headed, with a warmness in her neck and face. She left work early, and headed to the nearest emergency room, fearful of what may lie ahead. The ER doctor who saw her ran tests to ensure she had not suffered a heart attack, and then began to tell her the symptoms of anxiety and suggested it was nothing other than an anxiety attack. Mary assured him she is very well versed in what an anxiety attack is, and this was not it.
Mary believed he was looking to dot all of his “I”s and cross all of his “t”s, and ran an in-room EKG, thinking this would give her further proof that it’s “all in her head”. Her pulse registered in the 40s, no P-wave was present, and she had pretty consistent PVCs (premature ventricular contractions). Luckily for Mary, the cardiologist on call for her local ER was also a specialist in the Electrophysiology of the heart. He came down and spoke with her, asked about her activity level, and was willing to listen beyond hearing to determine that rather than a healthy heart, she was exhibiting signs of sick sinus syndrome.
Given the disease appears to be idiopathic in nature, Mary and her cardiologist team closely monitored the progress of her illness. At the age of 30, they decided to proceed with implanting a pacing device, as it was also discovered she had mitral valve prolapse with mild regurgitation, and her disease state was beginning to make her feel more and more tired.
Over the past three years, the regurgitation has developed to a moderate state, and they have discovered more diseases within Mary’s heart with the help of the pacing device monitoring system and additional testing; atrial flutter, tachycardia, and thickening of the ventricular walls. At 33 years old, Mary knows she has a long road ahead of her, possibly filled with more surgeries, replacement of pacemaker batteries, etc. But at 33 years old, Mary also has the proper awareness, equipment and medical staff to provide a long and healthy life.
With less than a 5% survival rate at 1 lb, 4 ounces, Jayna spent the first three months of her life in the intensive care unit. She survived her lungs collapsing 14 times due to pulmonary distress, open heart surgery at six weeks old and two complete blood exchanges. The experimental heart surgery she received helped advance the field and pave the way for procedures completed in children today.
Time is precious to Jayna, and she loves an effective workout! She is involved to a fitness group called “Be Amazing”. Through encouragement, evening gym classes and group events, this allows her to combine fitness with her friends!
Today, Jayna is active in the community, and can be found combining her love for fitness and volunteerism. She has traveled more than 150,000 miles and helped raise over $12 million dollars working with numerous charities. When asked why she gives back, Jayna states” Because it’s in my heart. God gave me the passion to demonstrate that ‘life is why’.”
Her advice? “We have one life to live. Take care of your heart – literally and figuratively. It holds your most precious treasures, and therein, is life itself.” — Jayna Altman
At 48 years old, Lisa recently separated from her husband. She had woken up one morning to the alarm going off to get her three kids up for school. When she tried to get out of bed, she fell. Her left side was paralyzed, and this was just the beginning of her journey. Six months later, she had a second stroke. This time, a week in the hospital and many tests later, they found she had a hole in her heart: Apparently, a probable birth defect. Although Lisa had a history of high blood pressure, the hole in her heart put her in waiting for corrective surgery before any rehabilitation would be authorized by insurance. Long story short, it was another six months before she was cleared for rehab, and six months after that before her physical and occupational therapy was complete.
During that time, Lisa was unable to work or support herself or her children. She was forced to release her children to their father so that they could be taken care of. She had not secured a home or a job during that time, prior to the second stroke, after her separation occurred. The second stroke left Lisa Healy homeless, physically compromised and cognitively challenged. She spent two months trying to financially recover to afford a place to live. Lisa was waiting for heart repair, (homeless) in a campground, waiting tables (because her deficits prohibited her from being able to work in her trade).
The struggle to regain her strength, faculties, and family was a long road, full of combatting despair, mental and physical challenges and the responsibility of embracing radical self-care! This is what GO RED means to Lisa! You must “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams….” Because you CAN ABSOLUTELY live the life you can DREAM!
Now Lisa has a wonderful home again, a job of her dreams and has her children back with her who she is able to do more for, and do it better than ever. A DEEP appreciation for your health and this life we take for granted, are just a couple of blessings we can take away from overcoming this health challenge!
Joan Gerrard has experienced two major stokes in her lifetime. Her first one, at the age of 46, and another one at 53. Joan initially experienced a Hemorrhagic stroke, meaning she was bleeding from inside her brain.
As a result of her first stoke, Joan thought she was fine. However, when hospital staff held up things for her, Joan was unable to put into words what exactly they were holding up. She was perfectly able to describe the object, but she was unable to say the actual name of the item being presented. This is called aphasia, where one is unable to properly express their speech. After working for a month or two, Joan made great progress.
However, just seven years after, a second one affected her and she was left paralyzed on her left side. She has gotten most of her abilities back, and even went back to work just short of a year from the date of her stroke.
Joan says that presenting a Go Red story positively impacts her self-confidence. She also enjoys speaking in front of others, and believes by doing this, she can teach others what can happen to them when they least expect it! Joan is an advocate for Go Red For Women and strives for women to know the importance of taking care of themselves and living a healthy life!
At the age of 57, Lisa Riggins experienced heart flutters (premature ventricular contractions) and this alerted her to go to the hospital. Her doctor repeatedly thought the EKG might be inaccurate due to her excellent health.
Overwhelmed and in disbelief, Lisa Riggins was nervous and concerned. She was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm; however, her PVC’s were unrelated because an aneurysm does not prevent symptoms until it is very critical and too late.
She and her husband sought professional opinions, and it was evident that her only option was open heart surgery to repair the aneurysm. Several months later, she underwent open heart surgery and thus began a new life with a much healthier heart.
Surprisingly, the anticipation of the surgery was much more difficult than the actual surgery and recovery. The surgery was successful and the recovery went smoothly. Three months later, Lisa was hitting tennis balls and moving slowly back to her old routine. Lisa is forever grateful to the excellent doctors, nurses and care she received, and is hopeful that others can be able to trust their bodies when something's not right and seek additional help.
Liz Crowther is a five year stroke survivor. In May, 2013, at 51 years old, she was living a busy life with her three kids and working part-time. She exercised regularly and tried to maintain a healthy diet. One day, as she was getting ready to walk with her daughter, she started to slur her speech, was numb on one side of her body, and felt very foggy in her brain. She wasn’t sure what had happened and decided to rest and slept for several hours.
The thought of a stroke was far from her mind. She knew something was wrong and told her sister the next day. Her sister encouraged her to call her doctor and they sent Liz to the hospital. After being told she had a stroke, she had an stent put in her carotid artery and began a new journey. Life has not been the same since. It was a slow process with lasting issues.
She is just thankful to be here and enjoy a new normal with her family and friends. Going Red for Liz is knowing the signs of stroke and heart attack and educating family and friends to do the same. It is also exercising regularly and eating a heart healthy diet for the rest of her life.
She advises all women to be aware of the signs of heart attack and stroke. Also, she recommends knowing that signs in women are not as obvious as for men. She emphasizes the importance of staying positive and living a healthy lifestyle.
For a young girl who grew up determined to race cars, Georgette had no idea that she would one day be in a race against time. Georgette’s grandfather and father both suffered from heart disease, but never in a million years did she think she could have a congenital heart defect. Georgette pursued her dream of racing in the world of go-carts, late models and mini stock cars. She left her home in St. Augustine, FL to move to the racing mecca of Charlotte, NC in the early 90s. Even though her dream of racing professionally came to an end, she traveled for years on the NASCAR circuit working as a sports marketing & hospitality event manager. Georgette went on to marry her husband Art and have three children, Julia, A.J & Mark.
During a family visit in August of 2010, her dad had a major heart attack while racing go-carts with Georgette. He was rushed to the hospital in Charlotte and received three stents. This was a wakeup call of sorts, but Georgette never assumed that she was at risk. She was the healthiest of her five sisters and she was a young mother with the rest of her life a head of her.
Probably spawned by her dad’s recent event, Georgette began an exercise program at the age of 39 by jogging with her girlfriends. In the fall of 2010, she noticed that she was easily getting out of breath and felt extremely tired most of the time. During Christmas holiday, Georgette & her husband were walking their dog and she realized something was desperately wrong. She was having trouble breathing and her chest felt heavy. She went to a cardiologist. But her tests were indecisive. The EKG was normal, she wasn’t overweight, and she didn’t smoke so they said it was probably just from lack of exercise and stress of being a mom with three children. Her doctor was ready to dismiss her but she insisted on scheduling a stress test.
After the stress test, she went immediately in for a catheterization. When Georgette came out of the cath lab, doctors told her she would need double by-pass surgery. Apparently, Georgette’s LAD was ruptured, a congenital heart defect that could have killed her much earlier in life, but her heart had built collateral tissues that were keeping her alive.
On January 11, 2011, after eight hours of surgery, Georgette’s heart was repaired. Today, Georgette is healthy and happy. She is an advocate for Go Red For Women and celebrates her birthday every year with a Heart Party to increase awareness about the movement.
Karen Hill Meyer
Her entire life growing up, Karen struggled with heart disease and was chronically misdiagnosed. When she had problems, people said she had sun poisoning, was just tired, or eventually was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder due to her rapid heart rate and tendency to hyperventilate. When she was 25 years old, she was taken to the emergency room where doctors had to stop her heart as she was experiencing supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) where her resting heart rate was over 250 BPM. Shortly thereafter, she had a catheter ablation done to correct a congenital heart defect.
Unfortunately, Karen continued to have issues and found herself making regular visits to the cardiologist to manage another heart-related condition. She was unwilling to let any of this get in her way though and was unwilling to be a couch potato. Karen started exercising vigorously, running races and riding her bike. Her cardiologist and general practitioner were both shocked at her activity levels, but she felt OK so she kept going.
Karen actually started to feel better on a regular basis. Her resting heart rate was dropping a bit (in part due to medication) and she felt like activities like climbing stairs became much more manageable. She fell in love with fitness and how it had changed her life. In 2015, she opened a fitness studio (First Wind Cycling & Fitness) and she became a fitness instructor.
Karen has several pieces of advice. For starters, she was told when she finally had the correct diagnosis that heart disease is commonly misdiagnosed as anxiety in women. Karen feels this is not okay! Her advice? If you feel like something is wrong and you don’t like your doctor’s diagnosis, go see another doctor. Karen did and it changed her life. Secondly, a healthy diet and exercise are SO important. She used to feel awful every day. Walking was a task, stairs were a nightmare and running was out of the question. She felt uncomfortable in her own skin.
Fitness made Karen feel alive. Her vitals improved with it, her mood and her attitude about her “limitations”. Karen says these things are key in living your best life to stave off cardiovascular disease and to improve your well-being if you are already living with it. Even if you are just going for a walk, you are making a difference. Get out there and treat your body with love and it will return the favor!
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.