A heart attack was my lemon. Advocacy is my lemonade.
On June 17, 2014, at age 38, I suffered a near fatal, massive heart attack while recovering from emergency gall bladder surgery in the hospital. I had an 80% blockage in the widow-maker, which had burst and collapsed the artery causing my heart to fail. Luckily, doctors were by my side within minutes and treated my heart with a stent and a temporary balloon pump. My heart ejection fraction got down to about 15% (normal is 55-70%), I had pulmonary edema, and was in critical condition for the first night in ICU. After a few days in the hospital, my condition miraculously improved. My heart ejection fraction increased to about 42%, the temporary balloon pump was removed, and I was sent home with a much better prognosis than I was given the first night.
The decision I made when I was in the ICU, after I was given the news that I’d had a massive heart attack, was that I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to start blogging to help others going through the same thing I was going through. I had no idea that heart disease was the #1 killer of women, so I made it my mission to let other women know this fact so they could begin early to make changes in their lives to prevent heart disease from happening to them.
Since my heart attack, I have made several lifestyle changes to help with my recovery. I completed 36 sessions of a cardiac rehab program, have changed my eating habits, work out more frequently, have eliminated certain foods from my diet, am limited to 1500mg of sodium per day, and am limited to no more than 2L of water per day. It’s amazing how you will change your lifestyle when it is a do or die situation and your life literally depends on it.
Advocacy and sharing my story have also played an important part in my recovery and has been very therapeutic. Through my blog, I have met several people (both men and women) around my age who have had similar experiences with heart attacks. We have shared our stories, and it has comforted us to know that we are not the only ones out there.
I have remained positive through most of this ordeal when I could have turned it into a very negative situation full of depression and self-pity. Instead, I choose to see only the positive in it. I am thankful for my life and remember my blessings every day. Keeping this in mind, I do not take life for granted and now try and live each day to the fullest – also taking each day as an opportunity to work on my blog and share my story. Even meeting someone in the grocery story, I try to share my story or bring awareness to this dreadful disease somehow. I’ve also made awareness bracelets with my blog name on them that I pass out to remind people to love their heart.
The medical/health reasons the doctors suggest triggered the heart attack were that I was under a lot of stress at work, I was a little over weight, was living mostly a sedentary lifestyle (not working out like I should), I had high cholesterol, and a history of heart disease in my dad’s family.
The thing that I’ve learned the most from this experience that I would like to share with others is that you should learn to love your heart. It is so important to live a heart healthy lifestyle all your life. Always watch your diet and eat healthy foods, continue to work out, find ways to decrease the stress in your life, and if heart disease runs in your family, visit your doctor and ask questions, get your cholesterol checked. Ask your doctor if you should be on preventative medicines such as statins. I had an 80% blockage. I don’t know how long it took to build up, but I wonder if I had not stopped running and eating right years before if I still would have had a heart attack.
When something negative happens to you, you have a choice. You can let the negative take control of your life, or you can take control and turn the negative into a positive. I chose to take control – and I turned the lemons into lemonade!