People Helping Each Other

SURVIVORS 7 SISTERS

Aids Health Foundation

by Erica Annise

“My grandmother is a very strong woman who has taught me to be strong and  independent. I can always count on her from anything to baking cookies, helping  me figure out what’s wrong with my car, to getting healthy together.  I don’t  know what I’d do without her. “  Bella Hernandez

Heart Disease is the #1 Killer of all women in America.  Why?  It is #1 because women are under so much stress to be the perfect wife, mother, girlfriend, co-worker, CEO, church go-er, and so much more.  The biggest issue too often is that women most often neglect themselves.  Most women overlook being tired and don’t acknowledge having heart palpitations as something to cause alarm. However,  statistics show there is much to be worried about.  There is an alarming rate of women who believe they are invincible and find out the hard way by waking up after a heart event.  Heart & Soul has gathered seven amazing women, with incredible stories, that we hope strike your heart and soul in order to stop, listen and act together we fight against heart disease.

Monic Lowe’s  Story,
African-American, 44 years old,
Housewife & Community Volunteer

 

Monic Lowe
Monic Lowe

What happened to make you aware that you were affected by heart disease?

My heart stopped beating in its arrhythmic.  My family does have a history of high blood pressure which now I know to be a significant risk factor in developing major heart disease.

What were the emotional/psychological stages that you went through and how long did it take to strengthen your resolve to fight your disease?

I went through depression and I lost over 20 pounds I could not walk, rehabilitation for 8/10 weeks and prayer helped me.  The impact on my heart took my family by surprise.  They were  shocked,  scared,  an sadden when this horrible situation  occurred but they were faithfully by my side every painful step of the way. They researched everything the doctors told them in order for us as a family to begin to understand the spectrum of this disease.

Having gone through this battle, how has it changed your overall outlook and approach on life?

It has changed me every day.  I no longer take life for granted. It has definitely made me a stronger person and I’m totally committed to God because his Grace is sufficient. I was so depressed that I would sit in my bedroom in the dark just trying to understand how this could happen to me.   My family literally had to come over open my blinds,  get me out of bed and take me to therapy. The prayers of  many got me out of that state of mind and my soon determination to live and create a different life was my new mantra..   I changed my eating habits drastically.  I am more conscious about eating lots of fruit , no fried foods and limiting my salt intake.  I am on an exercise plan that has me up to 5 days a week.   I thank God my husband children and family for supporting me through this time of my life. To God is the Glory.

What advice do you have for
other women?

Get blood pressure checked as often as you can.  Eat and live healthy, treat your inside as good as you treat your outside, stay current with your checkups and live everyday like it’s your last.  Thank you.  God Bless you sweet lady.

 

Bella Hernandez’s Story,
Spanish/Salvadorian, 30 years old,
front desk assistant for a cardiovascular group

Bella Hernandez
Bella Hernandez

What happened to make you aware that you were affected by heart disease?

Well, I kept having really bad migraines, so bad that I would have to go to the hospital.  Every time I went my blood pressure was extremely high, close to stroke levels.  The doctors however felt that the migraines were causing the high blood pressure. This continued for about a year until a Dr. I was seeing finally said that the headaches were being caused by me having high blood pressure not the other way around. Since I was only in my mid 20s, I feel like the doctors thought I was too young to have issues with my blood pressure, but I did have quite a few risk factors.  For instance, I was overweight at the time and had a strong family history.

What were the emotional/psychological stages that you went through and how long did it
take to strengthen your resolve to fight
your disease?

To be honest there wasn’t any emotional or psychological stages I went thru.  I honestly didn’t change a thing!  It took me about another year after I started working for a cardiologist to finally start taking my health seriously.  My Dr., Dr. James Park, who I still work for, actually opened my eyes and encouraged me to take charge of my health and not just rely on medication. I began to eat healthier, exercise regularly, and have lost close to 20 pounds!  I also was able to cut my dose way down from 360mg to only 80mg!

Having gone through this battle, how has it changed your overall outlook and approach
on life?

Going thru this has definitely changed my outlook on my health! I have realized that my health is something I need to take more seriously.  It’s not just about eating healthy to look better, IT REALLY IS ALL ABOUT FEELING BETTER!  So many illnesses can be prevented if we took better care of our bodies. It sounds so silly, but I honestly never stopped to think that everything you do good or bad for your health will affect you in the future.

What advice do you have for other women?

My advice to other women, especially to the younger women would be to be proactive about your health.  Do not wait until something bad happens to you to start taking better care of yourself.  Start now just little by little eating a bit better, exercising a little bit more and getting your regular checkups.  Your future self will thank you!

 

Carole Lofton’s  Story,
African-American,
Planning Technician & Wellness Speaker

 

Carole Lofton
Carole Lofton

What happened to make you aware that
you were affected by heart disease?

Watching the affects the disease had
on both of my parent’s health.

What were the emotional/psychological stages that
you went through and how long did it take to strengthen
your resolve to fight your disease?

My fight is an ongoing emotionally profound journey.
Devastation and depression greeted my bedside in 2009, even though I had experienced at least a decade of all the signs, risk factors including a family history and high blood pressure.  Entangled in a web of anger, grief, fear and denial, made it challenging for me to find the strength to fight.  After the loss of my dad to Heart Disease in 2012, I began to speak out against the silent killer, pouring my grief into volunteering, showing others how to fight, yet in denial.  I became unstoppable in the community, speaking to anyone who would listen, anyone but me.  It’s hard to admit I had given up.  My fight began in April 2013 after the echo of “Ms. Lofton you’re heart has grown weaker, if you want to live I will help you”, still rings in my ear today.  For the first time since my journey began nearly two decades earlier, I stopped and said yes to taking care of me. I had to acknowledge that I had Coronary Artery Disease and it wasn’t going away.  I finally asked God to grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.

Having gone through this battle,
how has it changed your overall
outlook and approach on life?

Wow!  I can truly say that I have become the Queen of Hearts!  I hid my grief of losing my dad, and a lifelong journey of struggles behind a crown and sash as a pageant queen.  I had to forgive myself for the years of reckless and unhealthy habits that contributed to my heart disease and make the decision to live. Now I am sharing my passion for living a heart healthier lifestyle and proud to say that in 2014
I am committed to be Fit,
Fabulous & Fifty!
 
What advice do you have
for other women?

Love yourself!  Love your heart!  Less stress makes for a happy heart!  Women are taught at an early age to put others first.  We ignore the shortness of breath, the rapid heartbeat, frequent headaches, and tightness in our chest.  Life is too short ladies, let’s not make it shorter!  Knowledge is power so educate yourself.  Heart disease is called the silent killer for a reason.

 

Francisca Vilano’s Story,
66 years old, driver for GISD

Francisca Vilano
Francisca Vilano

What happened to make you aware that you were affected by heart disease?

How I found out that I had a problem, was when my granddaughter Bella came to me and told me she wanted for me to go see her employer.  She happened to be working for a heart doctor.  Her biggest concern is that she wanted for me around for a long time so my health was most important.  I really didn’t want to go but my daughters also got involved so at this point I had to agree.  If it wouldn’t be for my granddaughter, I would have had a heart attack because when the doctor came back with my results my arteries were blocked.

What were the emotional/psychological stages that you went through and how long did it take to strengthen your resolve to fight
your disease?

When the doctor told me that I needed surgery because they found the arteries we clogged, and I needed to schedule the surgery as soon as possible. While I was waiting for the day I scheduled the surgery, I felt very scared and nervous. I had never been sick and couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I did struggle with this for a while because it was hard to except. It took me about a month and a half for my body to recuperate, but a lot more to except what just happened to me, and be myself again.  I am still fighting for to keep my heart well and need to exercise more.

Having gone through this battle, how has it changed your overall outlook and approach on life?

I Thank GOD every day for having my family that love me so much in my life, and I am
loving my life and trying to help other people as much as I can. In a nut shell I Thank GOD for giving me another chance.

What advice do you have for
other women?

For the women that read this, take of your heart, and have checkups make sure you don’t go through what I did. I thought i was healthy
but look what happened to me, out of the blues. Listen to the people that LOVE YOU, they might be saving your life, mine did.

Wenter Blair’s Story,
Italian-American, 46 years old,
Rancher & Homemaker

 

Wenter Blair
Wenter Blair

What happened to make you aware that you were affected by heart disease?

I was made aware of my heart disease by an unexpected heart attack.  It didn’t feel or look like what I had understood a heart attack to be; severe chest and left arm pain.  Instead, I had why I thought was the world’s worst hot flash with excessive sweating and only mild chest discomfort that mimicked indigestion.

What were the emotional/psychological stages that you went through and how long did it take to strengthen your resolve to fight your disease?

I was terribly frightened because my medical team was conflicted.  The OB/GYN I had first seen, thinking I had a hormone issue, insisted I had a heart problem. My new cardiologist, a female, told me I had a hormone problem.  As they volleyed me back and forth I found the resolve to stand resolute as my own advocate.  It saved my life.  I had four arteries to my heart blocked at 90%!  The cardiology team kept calling my False Positives on cardiac diagnostics “nothing to be concerned about.” and coupled their insistence with comments that I was too blonde, thin and cheerful to be a heart patient.

It was in the final diagnostic, a heart cauterization that they learned I was near death and it was then that I turned my face to the light and vowed to serve as many other families as I could possibly reach in an effort to expand awareness of heart disease and my contributing factor, Familial Hypercholesterolemia.

Having gone through this battle, how has it changed your overall outlook and approach on life?

Life was always precious but now, I live full throttle in grace and compassion.  I am unapologetic for the silver linings I choose to find in each day and having had 2 more heart attacks, I love with all my heart, nurture me and my families soul and live each day is if it were going to possibly be my last.

What advice do you have for other women?

YOU KNOW YOU!  Doctors are phenomenally well educated and care for the well being of their patients but on occasion, the life you have spent with yourself is a greater judge of your physical state.  Listen to your heart, you are worth the time and testing it takes to “rule it IN or rule it OUT!”

 

Johnrice Newton’s Story,
African-American, 59 years old,
registered nurse (32 years)

 

Johnrice Newton
Johnrice Newton

What happened to make you aware that you were
affected by heart disease?

As a nurse, I can be a workaholic and whatever job I do I pour myself into it to make sure I deliver quality service for those in my care.  For about a 4 year period I worked seven days a week, 60 to 70 hours a week. I had very little time for rest. In 1990 I was at my desk and became extremely nervous and shaky. I could feel my heart racing in my chest, sweat was pouring down my face and I had periodic chest pain that felt like I was being kicked in the chest. I had my colleague check my pulse and it was well over 180! About an hour later I drove myself to the emergency room. On the monitor my pulse was 190-202. I thought I was dying and began to make my peace with God. They eventually stabilized me and had me stay overnight for testing. I was diagnosed with Tachycardia due to severe Mitral Valve Prolapse. They placed me on medication that I only took sporadically because I still did not want to see myself as having heart problems. I went to another cardiologist that gave me a stress test and Echocardiogram in his office. He diagnosed me with Pulmonary Hypertension with right heart enlargement. I do not smoke or have asthma, so the disease did not fit my profile. The doctor’s only rational for the pulmonary hypertension was that I was about 50 pounds overweight. I had always been physically active and not had weight problems but the few years of working and not exercising and eating poorly had caught up with me.  I had just turned 42 and had my first grandchild. A few more years was not enough time. My mother died at the age of 52 from complications of diabetes.  I had to do something fast or I would not live as long as my mother had. I called my daughter for help, and she found us a walking club to join. Initially it was very heart to change my eating habits from fatty foods to healthy eating, and exercising, but I knew God was not pleased with how I had treated the gift of life I had been given. Each Saturday I met with the group I was able to walk longer and run some. I eventually ran and completed my first 5K walk run.  After a year I returned to my cardiologist for a checkup, and had lost 40 pounds since I had seen him last. He did not recognize me! He repeated my test and my heart enlargement had reversed! I would have to take medications for the rest of my life for the arrhythmias and would have to maintain my weight to prevent the return of pulmonary hypertension.

What were the emotional/psychological stages that you went through and how long did it take to strengthen your resolve to fight your disease?

My initial reaction to the diagnosis of Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP) and then the Pulmonary Hypertension was denial. I thought I could make a few adjustments here and there, not really take my medication and change my lifestyle.   But after a few bouts with reoccurring arrhythmias it made me realize I had a problem. You could not look at me and tell I had heart problems, even as I lost weight and began to feel  better, I still had a feeling of being flawed. I had never been sick until then, and I did not know how to adjust to it. My daughter was the only I would tell I was on medications. I did not want people that depended on me to see me as weak or see me as incapable of caring for them. I was a caregiver and did not want to be the one to be cared for. It took about four years for me to realize I had a condition that I would have to live with and manage for the rest of my life if I wanted to see my grandchildren grow up. My mother missed my sons growing up because of her struggle with accepting and managing her diabetes. I did not want that same fate for the next generation.

Having gone through this battle, how has it changed your overall outlook and approach on life?

I now approach life with a sense of gratefulness and taking nothing for granted. I still work hard and have a hectic schedule but I have learned to take better care of myself by taking my medications, getting enough rest, eating healthier, getting exercise and keeping my spiritual connection with God in praise and worship. I cherish the quality time with family and friends. I seek opportunities to learn how to manage my health and encourage my family to eat healthier and be concerned about their health. I have but this one body, this one life to live as a gift from God, and I want to take care of this gift in a way that pleases and honors God.

What advice do you have for other women?

My advice to other women would be to take time to do self-care. We women have a tendency to take care of everyone else and give ourselves the left overs. Take time to take a few days each month to intentionally take a break from their routine by resting, pampering themselves, pursue hobbies, spend quality time with family, friends or whatever you find relaxing. I had to learn to recognize when I am too stressed, too busy and am becoming over tired. I have learned to stop and smell the roses. My heart loves it!

 

Joanne Herda,
Hispanic, 38 years old,
former Aerospace Engineer; current Artist

Joanne Herda
Joanne Herda

What happened to make you aware that you were affected by heart disease?

A little over 8 years ago, I was diagnosed with heart disease.  It took over a year after my son’s birth to get diagnosed.  At first, I just thought it was my body’s way of adjusting to motherhood.  But, as the months progressed so did the intensity of my symptoms.  My General Practitioner and I were able to discount other illnesses and issues.  My doctor wisely decided that I should see a cardiologist, especially since heart disease runs in my family.  I went to a cardiologist.  However, as a 30-year-old “healthy” female, the concerns regarding my symptoms were just shrugged off as anxiety over motherhood.  At my insistence, required tests of my electrical and mechanical cardiac functions were performed. The test results confirmed both electrical and mechanical cardiac issues.  I transferred cardiologists and have since had a wonderful partnership with my heart doctor concerning how to best care for my heart health.

What were the emotional/psychological stages that you went through and how long did it take to strengthen your resolve to fight your disease?

Since my initial complaints to a cardiologist were shrugged off, I constantly questioned the intensity of my symptoms.  I questioned the limits my heart was demanding of my body.  I was exhausted physically and emotionally.  I couldn’t sleep at night due to the physical state of my heart and the emotional state of my mind.  I was on overload.  It took me several months of frequent cardiologist visits and the help of family to assure me what I was experiencing was real, and not in my mind.  Just when I was starting to accept my disease, my world was really shaken when my cardiologist and obstetrician both advised me not to get pregnant again.  Although to the outside world I seemed to be handling the challenges of my disease, emotionally it was difficult to adjust the vision I had for my future.  But, I came to realize that my plan in life wasn’t what God had planned.  So, I changed courses and adjusted my goals and priorities, which included fighting my heart disease.

Having gone through this battle, how has it changed your overall outlook and approach on life?

I have always been a spiritual human being.  But, there is something about a deep dark battle that makes you appreciate the days you have been given on this earth.  I want to do something with those days.  I want to make an impact.  I want to share what I have been given to help others with my time, abilities, and love.  Battling heart disease inspired me to approach life with added gusto and vigor.

What advice do you have for other women?

We are our best advocates for our health.  Listen to your body.  If you believe it seems to be telling you something, pay attention to it.  But, don’t stop there.  Tell your doctor and together  work to identify the problem.  We have the power to fight any battle that may come into our lives. I am now 38.  I have had three heart surgeries.  I go in for frequent monitoring and testing to determine the state of my heart health.  My fight is not over, but I am a survivor.

 

Fashion Stylist: Tito, ICON | Make-up: Lead MUA , Bridgett LaDawn
Assistants: Brittney Williams & Jessica Mann
photography: umoja turner

Aids Health Foundation
HTML Snippets Powered By : XYZScripts.com
UA-33579627-1