On my 41st birthday – I received three stents in my heart.
It was after an eight-week hiatus from running due to injury, and I could not wait to get back to it. I was 10 minutes into a run when I didn’t feel right. It felt like my heart was beating in my throat and there was a pulsing sensation in my muscles that felt like fatigue after an exhausting workout.
Two days later while visiting the dentist, I told him everything that was happening to me. He wanted me to see a doctor right away. I visited a local clinic that ran tests. My pulse, blood pressure and EKG all came back normal. Everyone told me, ”You’re young, you’re fit, you’re female, you’re fine.” Writing it off as an anxiety attack, they actually gave me a prescription for Klonopin. But with hereditary high cholesterol and both my parents having heart attacks, I demanded an Echo Stress Test. I was scheduled for an angiogram the next day.
Hours later when I woke up, Dr. Coppola came into see me. He said, “In my 30 years as a cardiologist, I’ve never seen a heart like yours. Both of your arteries were blocked. I had to put three stents in your heart immediately. It’s a miracle that you are still here after having a heart attack in progress the past five days. The only explanation I can give is that your years as an athlete created other passageways for blood to flow.”
Shock washed over me as I processed what he was saying. Dr. Coppola continued telling me that I was young and strong and would be okay. – Best birthday present ever!
I started the cardiac rehab program at NYU Langone, where I did cardio attached to a monitor to strengthen my heart again. It gave me the confidence to push myself and get back to my former athletic self. I was able to run the AHA Wall Street 5K, just nine months after the stents were put in. I no longer felt like a victim due to my diagnosis.
Heart disease and stroke cause 1 in 3 deaths among women each year – more than all cancers combined. I beat the odds. I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. I exercise 4 to 5 times a week. I follow a gluten-free and plant-based diet. I spend time with people and animals that make me happy. I realize how precious life is.
I was asked to be a spokesperson for the American Heart Association. I was honored to be asked to share my story and help raise awareness about heart disease. I’m grateful for the advances in medicine that gave me a new lease on life.
When it comes to your health, I tell everyone to trust his, her or their instincts. No one knows your body better than you. I want to continue to share my personal experience and encourage people to make their heart a priority. Life is why.