I know I'm a day late for International Women's Day but I didn't want to ignore this important day. I am going to acknowledge the occasion by talking about some of my (s)heroes.
A little background
In 2018, I had the honor and pleasure of an invitation to become a WomenHeart champion. I received my training at the Mayo Clinic for this position. Yes, it was THE Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN, the mothership of women's heart health. And I was one of 50 women in the country asked to do this. Everyone who was part of this illustrious group of women either has heart disease or experienced some sort of cardiac event. In my case, it was the latter.
On September 11, 2017, I was sitting in a Toastmasters meeting at the hospital. I just returned to my seat after a brief presentation and began to feel a burning sensation in the middle of my chest. It spread to both shoulders and into my jaw. I even felt it in my bottom teeth. It wasn’t particularly painful but it was a sensation I never experienced before. I sat for a few minutes and tried to squirm my way out of the feeling but a voice in my head that became louder and louder said, “women’s symptoms are different from men’s” over and over again.
I turned to the gentleman sitting across the aisle from me, as he was the closest, and asked him to walk out with me because I was afraid I might get worse if I walked out and I didn’t want to faint...or worse. We walked out, I thought inconspicuously, and flagged down a hospital employee who quickly rallied the troops to get me into a wheelchair and off to the ER. While I waited for the wheelchair, I called my husband to tell him of my new adventure.
As the reality of what was happening started to settle in I began to panic. I had too much to do to be laid up with a heart attack. I’m a vegetarian so this can’t be happening to me. My blood pressure and cholesterol are on the low side so this can’t be happening to me. I’m a health coach and I teach people how to avoid such situations so this can’t be happening to me.
As soon as I arrived at the ER they hooked me to an EKG and sure enough, it was happening to me. I was in the throes of a heart attack. They whisked me up to the cath lab expecting to unblock what they thought was a blocked artery. What they found was something else. I had a spontaneous coronary artery dissection aka a SCAD.
What is a SCAD, you say? It happens when one or more of your coronary arteries starts to come apart and cause a blockage resulting in a heart attack. I didn’t have a plaque buildup or a normal blockage. No, my artery started to peel apart and caused its own blockage. I was fortunate that it wasn’t a main artery and I feel like I dodged a gigantic bullet because here we are, almost three and a half years later and I feel pretty good.
Now, why do I tell you this story? I tell you because this event led me to WomenHeart and all the courageous heart warriors I had the privilege of meeting at Mayo. There were women from as young as 27 to some well into their 70s who have experienced multiple near death experiences and several trips to the ER.
Often, they were not taken seriously and could have died from their illness. There were women whose hearts were nearly shredded from the damage they incurred. It was enormously humbling to hear their stories of triumph and survival. Some of them were born with a heart abnormality. Many were misdiagnosed over and over again. Some had multiple events and multiple life threatening conditions and they were all there for the same purpose…to help other women navigate the terrifying uncertainties that come with a catastrophic cardiac event.
These women were feisty, strong, funny, smart, curious, generous, loving, creative, supportive and still alive and wanted to give back. They were all so grateful to be alive and for having defied the odds. I am in awe of them.
These are the people I hold up as my (s)heroes. They make me want to make them proud of me. I am so honored that was in their company and I get to call them my HeartSisters.
As a health coach, I work with women who are facing serious health challenges like heart disease, metabolic syndrome and diabetes or who have been diagnosed as having a precursor to a serious health issue such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high blood sugar. I help them make food and lifestyle changes so they can get healthy, live longer and enjoy a fuller, happier, more energetic life. If you would like to have a free consultation about the health challenges you have and the improvements you would like to see in your health, click here to schedule a no strings attached call.