My name is Eliz Greene from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This is my heart disease story I want to share with you. Seven years ago, I was seven months pregnant with twins when I had a massive heart attack. Fortunately, I was there in the hospital on bedrest so I was able to have wonderful help right away. If had been home alone by myself, I wouldn’t be here today.
What happened to me is that because of the hormones that are naturally in the body because of pregnancy and the massive amount of blood that I was pumping for myself and the two babies, something happened to my cardiac artery.
Cardiac arteries are like garden hoses, they have an inside layer and an outside layer. The inside layer of mine pulled away and so across the opening and created sort of like a trap door that stopped the flow of blood and that’s what caused my heart attack.
It happened very, very quickly. I started out feeling as if I had heartburn but then it progressed very quickly into something that I knew was very, very wrong. As I said, I was in the hospital. I had wonderful help right away, which was good considering that in a matter of minutes from the time that I started feeling that heartburn, my heart stopped and I was without a pulse, I didn’t breathe for 10 minutes, which is a long time.
But fortunately, there were those wonderful people to help me, they used the defibrillator and were able to reach at my heart and then on the day got rather exciting. My girls were delivered by C-section and right after they were delivered, they started my open heart surgery. I ended up having a triple bypass that day.
One of the interesting things about what happened to me is that because of the type of hospital where I was, I was able to have something called beating heart bypass, which is different from the traditional bypass, and that the heart doesn’t stop, the body isn’t chilled and you don’t go on a heart-lung machine.
The doctor basically uses this cold, old device that has a foot on that like a sewing machine that holds just very small parts of the heart still, one little part at a time, the surgeon is able to stitch on that little part, fix that little section and then move on to the next one.
So the heart continues to beat throughout the whole thing. It’s a more gentle procedure and women survive it better than they do traditional bypass. So as I said, I was very lucky, that technology didn’t even exist 18 months before my heart attack.
So had it happened 18 months earlier, had it happened even in a different hospital, I wouldn’t be here because they were fairly certain that is, they needed to put me on the heart-lung machine, I wouldn’t have survived.
In order to go on the heart-lung machine they need to pin your blood quite a bit and because they had already had the C-section, they were pretty certain that I would lead to death.
Now, I was very lucky to be able to have that technology. I am very lucky that I was where I was, that I had wonderful help right away and very soon after I came around, even in the ICU that night, I realized that I had survived for a reason.
There was a reason that I was still here, that I had come through it OK, and there was something that I was supposed to do with it and over the next seven years, since it had been, since then I have really dedicated myself to educating other women about heart disease.
Certainly what happened to me is sort of a fluke but it points out the fact that none of us are new. We can do all the things that we are supposed to and weird things can happen, but if we don’t do the work, we’re not going to survive. We’re not going to recover well.
The reason that I was able to survive what I did, was the reason that I was able to have a good recovery was that I had been very active before it. I watched what I eat, I was very healthy so was able to survive and certainly now, I am very, very careful about what I eat, careful about making sure I get enough exercise, careful that I am managing my stress so that I don’t give myself heart disease. I certainly don’t want to go through that again.
So that’s what I do. I go out and make sure that women pay attention to their heart, that they understand that it is the No. 1 killer of women and there are things that we can do to limit our risk factors and to limit the effect that something fluky happen to us, that we’ll have as well.
There’s a power in women sharing stories. It’s one of the reasons that I go around and do what I do. Thank you for letting me share my story with you. Please share yours with other women by visiting Empowher.com.