GUEST BLOG: From My Heart - Family Matters

I’ve been so privileged with many opportunities to share with others about heart health in the last few years. And each time I do, I realize that so many people around me struggle with heart related challenges. In the last month, I’ve come face-to-face with heart problems within my own family. And I was reminded of the truth that sometimes heart issues come with warning signs and sometimes they don’t.


My Nana, Kay Irvin, who always took such good care of me growing up, recently experienced high blood pressure which can be a warning sign of a heart attack or stroke. She went to Baptist Health for a doctor’s visit because she was experiencing vertigo. When she stood up from the table, she felt like she was going to fall because she was so dizzy. She had to sit down for a while before she was able to go home. When she took her blood pressure, it was 184/78 and her heart rate was 62. Later in the day, she started shaking and felt terrible again as her blood pressure began to rise.  She went to the doctor and her EKG came back normal. By the time she got home from that visit, her blood pressure had risen again. That night she had trouble sleeping and the next morning it happened again. Her blood pressure was now 200/100. Thanks to the medicine the doctor prescribed the day before, she was able to take that and her blood pressure went down.

Nana was fortunate to have experienced symptoms which prompted a visit to the doctor. They are now watching her blood pressure closely and making sure she is on the proper dosage of medication. We are so thankful for the symptoms she experienced (even though it was very scary) because it probably saved her life.

(L to R) Fred Irvin, Me and Kay Irvin, my Nana

My great-uncle Jim Bob had a completely different experience with his heart. We recently traveled to Florida for Spring Break and had a chance to catch up with our family that lives there that we don’t see often enough. Over dinner, Jim Bob thanked me for my efforts towards educating others about heart health. He shared with me about his massive heart attack that happened on March 26, 2011.

(L to R) Mark Davis, Me, Tammie Davis, Lisa and Jim Bob Leatherwood

Uncle Jim Bob was just going about his normal day of working as a marine technician. He stopped to say hello to a customer and then went out to work on his boat. The customer happened to be looking out at just the right time and noticed him collapse, take a deep breath, and let it out. The man quickly called 911 and administered CPR for almost 5 minutes until the paramedics arrived. The paramedics defibulated him 3 times before they could get a pulse. The ride to the hospital took 22 min and they defibulated him 21 more times.

First responders and the customer that saved Uncle Jim Bob's life!

When they arrived at the hospital, they determined his widow maker artery was blocked 100%. He was taken to the cath lab for emergency catheterization and stenting. Later that night, he was taken back to the cath lab for a balloon pump placement to help his heart to pump blood. He was on life support for 9 days. They told my aunt Lisa that if he lived, he would probably be brain dead because they didn't know how long his brain had been without oxygen. He was in the hospital for 18 days but miraculously had no brain damage He is so very grateful for the quick response of his customer that gave him CPR, for paramedics that never gave up, and for family that never stopped praying. He was diabetic and under a lot of stress. But leading up to the day of the heart attack, he had no obvious signs he was sick.

Uncle Jim Bob and his family at Heart Walk one year after his heart attack!

Heart disease is known as the silent killer for a reason. There are often no apparent signs or symptoms that let you know your heart may be in trouble. I’m so thankful for the brave and caring individuals that helped save my great-uncle. I’m also thankful for my Nana for having her blood pressure checked that provided clear signs that something wasn’t right and that she acted promptly by going to the doctor.

We can all learn from these examples from my family and it should lead us to action. Knowing CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and recognizing the signs of a heart attack are so very important. Let’s make sure we put the signs of a heart attack to memory. And if you’ve never become CPR certified, now is the time. Also, we need to take our health seriously. When we notice that we are not feeling well, let’s be prompt about going to see our doctor.  And it’s important for us to all remember that the majority of heart disease is preventable. Through simple actions like eating healthy, getting active, and reducing stress, we can make sure our hearts stay as healthy as possible.

Until next time,

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