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Teresa Williams, Gulf Shores

I'm a mother to five children, ranging in ages from 9 to 25, and a grandmother to two little boys, 1 years old and six years old. I am also a heart attack survivor. On October 5, 2012, I woke up to a pain in my back. This was nothing new; I've had back problems for years. Shortly after I started moving around, I began having pains in my upper arms. My arms felt like they were broken. I felt as if electricity was running through my legs and I started pouring sweat. I managed to tell my husband that something was wrong and he called an ambulance.

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I was rushed to the nearest emergency room, where I received the necessary medicine to survive long enough to make it to the hospital that was equipped to deal with a heart attack. My blood pressure was dropping and I had to have a stent implanted immediately. I spent three days in ICU and another day in a regular room. I was released and told to follow up with my primary care physician and my new heart doctor.

But I didn't have insurance, so I didn't have a primary care physician. It took me four months to be able to afford one. In the meantime, I was told to see the heart doctor every month for a few months. I could only afford to see him twice. Most of my medicine was around $150.00, except for the most important one and it was $700.00 for a month's supply. Luckily, I begged samples from my doctor.

I applied for Medicaid and was turned down because I exceeded the income limits. Since I received $400.00 a month in child support, I didn't qualify for Medicaid. Finally, I gave up my child support in order to qualify. Unfortunately, that was after my hospital stay and several calls that resulted in the EMTs coming to my house at $1,889.00 a visit. My doctor visits have cost me around $500.00, plus another $500.00 in medication cost.

I've been told that my condition would have been preventable had I been going to the doctor regularly. As a matter of fact, I was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat about five years ago. The doctor I was seeing at the time ordered some tests to be performed, but my health care coverage ran out before I was able to have them done.

Now, I have another blockage, a stent and permanent heart damage. I know I'm lucky to have survived, but I really wish It could have been prevented in the first place.

Thank you Teresa Williams, You're the Cure advocate, for sharing your personal story with heart disease. (Original Publication Year 2013)

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