Susan Miller’s heart story began 15 years ago when she experienced shortness of breath and coughing at night. She went to the doctor, who told her she had reflux and gave her medication for her symptoms. For four months, she continued living not knowing her heart could stop at any minute.
At age 50, Susan was rushed to the hospital due to extreme chest pain. She was diagnosed with Caridiomyopathy, which led to her congestive heart failure and ultimately her heart attack. She was also found to have atrial fibrillation. She had an Automatic Internal Cardio Defibrillator (AICD) implanted for her cardiomyopathy. Cardiomyopathy can cause sudden cardiac death and Susan had no idea how life threatening her illness was.
In December 2015, Susan had a double bypass surgery and a valve repair. She fully recovered and is continuing her volunteer work with the American Heart Association. She currently is serving her second year on the state advocacy committee and volunteering in her community. She hopes to educate women on the many signs of a heart attack, as women’s signs are often different than men. She is thankful for all of the research efforts the American Heart Association is able to support and fund.
We recently spoke with Susan about her passion for fighting heart disease and stroke.
How long have you been a volunteer with the AHA and in what capacity?
Sixteen years. I have been a chairwoman for Go Red For Women and served on various committees with my local Heart Walk and Gala, raising important life-saving dollars. I have served two years on the state advocacy committee.
Who or what inspires you to help and volunteer your time to the work of the American Heart Association?
The fact that one in three women will have heart disease and most do not know the symptoms. I do not want anyone to go through what I have been through. I know the value of research and the need for funding.
What heart healthy issue is most important to you and why?
Knowledge is power. It is important to overcome obstacles in this world. Anxiety, what to eat, how to exercise and so on. After my first event 16 years ago, I experienced the most crippling anxiety. Back then, they did not treat this disorder. I suffered greatly with it.
What are two ways you keep yourself healthy?
Diet and exercise.
How is your community healthy that makes you proud?
There is a beginning awareness of healthy eating; however, there is a long way to go.
How do you stay updated on current public policies in your state?
I read the newspaper and check my state advocacy emails from You're the Cure.
If you could help advocate for one change in your state, what would it be and why?
No smoking! This is so dangerous and no amount of second hand smoke is safe.
Do you have a favorite AHA/ASA event you annually attend? What is your motivation to participate?
The Go Red For Women Luncheon, because it raises public awareness of heart disease in women, the symptoms and the need for research.
Have you attended a state or federal lobby day on behalf of the AHA? If so, please briefly explain your experience.
Yes, I have attended both state and federal lobby days. To be face to face with our leaders on behalf of important life-saving legislation is very empowering. I find that many lawmakers are not aware of some of our issues and having a face to face conversation is very important to educate and advocate.
Why would you tell a friend or family member to join You’re the Cure?
To help ensure that someone will prevent this disease from affecting their life.
Tell us one unique thing about yourself.
My determination is strong to not to let heart disease get me down. I choose to swim rather than sink.