"Heart disease knows no age, no gender, no race. It can affect anyone!"
My name is Shannon Leardi, and it is an absolute honor to be an advocate for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA)! The AHA/ASA is an amazing organization that has given me the opportunity to share my story, and make sure that nobody feels as alone as I did when I first learned of my heart issues.
I am currently 34 years old, and my heart adventure began at age 25. I always played sports growing up, never seemed to have any heart problems and if I did, I ignored them. I was a Division I collegiate athlete who appeared to be in tip top shape, at least from the outside. However, I never felt quite right, but always found something to blame it on, like dehydration or adrenaline. In reality, my heart was only beating about half as much as it should have been. Learning about all the electrical problems I was facing with my heart made me feel very alone and scared. I was by far the youngest patient at my doctor’s office, and I always thought if I was healthy and fit, I wouldn’t have to worry about heart problems. I was wrong! In 2009, I had a pacemaker implanted to help with the electrical problems I was plagued with. This helped, but certainly did not make me feel like I was operating at 100%.
After years of testing and second opinions, I felt really frustrated, and gave up searching for answers for a little bit. I was probably even a little depressed at some points. I would get so dizzy that working out was no longer an option. In 2015, my body started screaming at me to figure things out. The dizzy spells were back in full force, I began losing consciousness with minimal activity like walking upstairs, and I finally decided that this was not the life I was going to live for the rest of my life. I was way too young to accept that!
My doctor & I continued to search for answers on how to make me feel whole again. It wasn’t until this year (2017) that I felt I was operating at 100%, when I underwent a new procedure my doctor had recommended to allow for electrical resynchronization therapy, using a direct HIS bundle. I have never felt as good as I do today, and that is thanks to the continued research and development aided by funds from the AHA.
My reason for sharing my story, and getting involved with the AHA, is so that nobody feels alone like I did. I also want to encourage people to get checked out if something doesn’t feel right, because heart disease knows no age, no gender, no race. Heart disease can affect anyone! Working with the AHA has been such a rewarding experience, and I look forward to all my future endeavors with them!