Meet AHA Ambassador, Volunteer and Survivor, Melanie McIvor!
What brought you to be an advocate for the American Heart Association?
After my diagnosis of peripartum cardiomyopathy, I was working on my recovery by completing a cardiac rehab program. During one of my sessions, I saw a poster advertising for the American Heart Association's Heart Walk. They were advertising for the cardiac rehab walking team. I went online and decided I needed to start my own community team. After the walk, I found out that I won a drawing for a visa gift card. Upon receiving this card, an employee from the American Heart Association recommended that I volunteer with the community teams side of the walk. I worked with this volunteer board for eighteen months until it was disbanded. Then I was privileged to share my story with the Go Red for Women Campaign. It has been such an honor to have been given such a wonderful platform to share my story and spread awareness of this rare heart condition that strikes women during pregnancy.
What issues or policies are you most passionate about and why?
I am most passionate about educating women about their heart health during their child bearing years. Peripartum cardiomyopathy is a treatable condition if caught early, but there are so many doctors who are unaware of the signs, since they so closely mimic pregnancy symptoms. My recovery would have been so much easier had I known what to look for.
I am also very passionate about cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure patients receiving insurance coverage for cardiac rehab. This program was so very beneficial to my recovery and my confidence. My husband and I thought it so important that we paid for it out of pocket after six months of being on disability. It was a financial strain.
Another issue that I am passionate about is Palliative Care. Currently, palliative care is only available for cancer patients to help improve quality of life. This program needs to be expanded to include heart patients as well. After a major change in one's health, there is so much to learn and care to coordinate. Having palliative care available would have eased the stress of figuring out the health care system while also caring for a new born baby and a three year-old.
What is your favorite advocacy memory or experience so far and what made it great?
It is hard to choose just one. We have had so many special moments with the loving community at the American Heart Association. A year ago, the AHA brought a camera crew to our home and made a short movie about my story. This was so special to my young girls. We also had a photo shoot where the photos were used on billboards around the twin cities. My daughters (and myself) felt like local celebrities for the month of February. Attending and speaking at the Go Red for Women Luncheon was also a major highlight.
All of these memories have been so very special as they included my whole family. They have helped me share my story and transform a very terrifying diagnosis into a recovery that I can be truly proud of.
Through this process, I have been able to identify with many other women and find new like-minded (heart healthy) friends to connect and share.
What is your favorite way to be active?
When I was first diagnosed, my doctor recommended that I go for daily walks to strengthen my cardiovascular system. As a mother to a newborn and three year old, it seemed impossible to find the time for myself. Now that they are 7 and 4, it is much easier to sneak out for a walk. I am able to enjoy a 2-3 mile walk four times per week (still not every day, but better).
We also go for bike rides in the summer when it is nice outside.
What is your favorite fruit or vegetable?
My favorite vegetable right now is roasted cauliflower. Eating a low-sodium diet can be challenging but we have created a recipe that the grown-ups and little ones will eat.
Directions/recipe: cut up head of cauliflower and place in 9-12 baking dish. Melt unsalted butter over the top and lightly sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes or until the cauliflower starts to brown.