In 1989, I was a healthy, active 32 year old woman. During an aerobics class I felt extremely light-headed and had to stop to let it pass. Days and weeks passed, so did that symptom, only to be replaced by other symptoms such as, tightness in my chest, shortness of breath and exhaustion. After repeated testing first in the ER, then at my doctor’s office, and finally after admittance to the hospital, I was finally diagnosed with pericarditis, inflammation in the pericardium (sack around the heart), and an infection. After two months of trying to manage this illness I started to experience a completely different sensation which I later found out was actually a heart attack due to complications from the infection! After a return trip to the ER I woke up in the ICU after having full-blown open-heart surgery to replace my aortic arch, which had completely disintegrated due to the infection which stemmed from a slow leaking aneurism. I remember waking up so grateful to be free of pain but quite unaware of what I had just been through. I was told less than 1% of people with this condition make it to the hospital, let alone survive. I would like women to remember to take care of YOU first! Be aware of your own body and listen to what it’s telling you. Be your own advocate!
Photo: Francine Keller (right) pictured with Go Red For Women Luncheon speaker, Denise Austin.