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American Heart Month

Heart disease has been the leading cause of death in the U.S. for quite some time. However, the good news is that it is preventable! February is American Heart Month, which is the perfect time to remember to take care of our hearts as part of our self care. This month is especially important to my family, as my mother is a survivor of a heart condition. I’d like to share her story with you…

“March 2009 I was out of breath walking upstairs. Soon, I was out of breath doing simple tasks like laundry and dishes. Family and friends noticed me taking deep breaths every 3-4 words I spoke while trying to have a conversation. I couldn’t walk more than a few feet without stopping to rest. A visit to my primary care physician and a cat scan revealed that my heart was slightly enlarged and had a hole in it. Next came tests with a cardiologist, pulmonologist, a sleep study, and an angiogram. My diagnosis: Atrial Septal Defect (ASD), meaning, a hole in my heart, a defect that had been present since birth (also known as a congenital defect). While doctors had heard a murmur in my heart my entire life, it never caused me problems. Then, at 48 years old, after four successful pregnancies and other various surgeries, I was going to have to undergo heart procedures.  

The first procedure used an umbrella device to plug the hole in my heart but, unfortunately, the hole was too big for this to work. So now it was time to meet with a heart surgeon.  

My husband had all his questions answered including how the bypass machine worked. To this day I cannot repeat the bypass information.  It was too overwhelming. Surgery was scheduled for July 1, 2009 at Baylor Heart Hospital in Plano.

My husband and 4 children were at the hospital supported by friends.  My husband and oldest daughter, Jennifer, were allowed to accompany me to the pre-op staging area. Do you know how difficult it was to hug and kiss them all before surgery?

Surgery was a success.  Recovery was slow.  My family made sure I was taking my walks around the hospital hallway.  My 2 daughters, Jennifer and Lisa, spent many long, quiet hours with me and even got in trouble for making me laugh.  My oldest sister came and spent a few weeks at our house helping.  I was home 5 days later to continue my recovery.  Before long I was walking a mile every day.  Walking is still a beneficial exercise for me.

Over the years we have participated in the Dallas Heart Walk, Go Red for Women Day in February and other events.  A great resource is The American Heart Association for education, recipes, resources and support.

October 2020, I saw my cardiologist for my annual appointment.  Results from an echocardiogram and stress test once again showed no problems with my heart.

Each July 1st, I am thankful for the surgery in 2009. I am grateful for all the prayers, love, and support from so many during that year.”

2009 was a very challenging year for my family with many unknowns, lots of testing, and many hours of worrying. However, my mom remained strong throughout the entire journey and we are beyond grateful she is healthy and here with us today.

This experience has inspired my husband and I to teach our children about the importance of heart health. We encourage our daughters to make heart healthy decisions each day with food and exercise. Here is a list of heart healthy foods to introduce your kids to!

Another great way to keep our hearts healthy is by staying active. Encourage your kids to try a few of these exercises each day for a month! Who can do the most squats in 15 seconds??

Download here.

About the Author

Jen was born and raised in Carrollton, TX. As a former 2nd grade teacher, she is now a stay-at-home mom raising her two beautiful daughters, Madeline (3yo) and Charlotte (1yo). She joined the CECPTA in February 2019 and is part of the purple and green playgroups. She enjoys date nights with her husband of 9 years, playing outside with her kids, exercising, a good cup of coffee, and traveling.

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