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Cardiovascular Health

A Survivor’s Story: ‘You’re Never Too Young for a Heart Attack’

For most of my life, I thought breast cancer was my top health risk, and that heart disease was something that happened to older people. I was wrong.

On the morning of March 31, 2010 I picked up my friend to go for our usual three-mile walk. During our walk, I felt a little short of breath, but I just thought I was talking more than usual.

On the drive home I had chest pain. I thought nothing of it. At home I felt another pain. I decided to go on the Internet and look up “chest pain.” I immediately found heart attack information.

It can happen to you

My chest pains seemed unusual, but it didn’t seem possible that I could be having a heart attack. After all, I was a non-smoker, walked a couple times a week, thought I ate fairly healthy, and carried only about 10-15 extra pounds. I sat down, hoping they would go away and felt another pain.

“This can’t be me,” I thought. “I’m too young.” After another pain I decided to drive myself to the ER. I was one block from the hospital, sitting at a red light, when I had another chest pain. I parked right in front of the ER doors and walked in and said, “I think I’m having a heart attack.”

The nurse put me in a wheelchair and asked why I thought that. I didn’t answer her. She looked at my unresponsive body and called a code blue. Seconds after arriving to the ER I had suffered sudden cardiac death. I was defibrillated with one shock to the heart.

Road to recovery

After I was brought back to life, I received a stent in my artery, which was more than 95 percent blocked, as well as a balloon pump to help my heart pump. I spent one week in cardiac ICU.

Soon after getting out of the hospital, I started cardiac rehab. I had never even been on a treadmill before cardiac rehab, but I ran my first 5K on Thanksgiving Day 2010 and have been in a 5K every Thanksgiving since.

Through diet and exercise and the help and support I received, I lost 25 pounds and went from a size 10 to a size 4. I cut my cholesterol in half and lowered my blood pressure.

Sudden cardiac death is the leading cause of death in the United States, and it is estimated that fewer than 5 percent of people who experience sudden cardiac death survive. I hope that through my story, I can encourage and help others to live better, healthier lives.

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