Peer-to-peer support and education for women living with heart disease
In all we do at the Texas Heart Institute, we keep in mind that helping those afflicted by cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 goal. We try to make certain that the support provided by generous donors has the greatest positive impact possible.
Such is certainly the case with WomenHeart Houston a patient support group that provides peer-to-peer patient support and education for women living with heart disease. This kind of support is crucial to a woman’s recovery and well-being, and that of her family. The national coalition, WomenHeart, has found that through its peer-led networks, women are better able to make well-informed decisions about their health and care based upon the educational programming and emotional support these networks provide.
The Texas Heart Institute – a proud member of WomenHeart’s National Hospital Alliance program – has partnered with WomenHeart to support women cardiac patients by serving as the host site for the WomenHeart Houston network.
Lisa Hulick and Rebecca Trahan have taken on the task of organizing this group and reaching out to other women.
Hulick, the proud mother of daughters ages 11 and 12, had been very happily married to husband, Ted, for almost 15 years when near-tragedy struck and, she says, she discovered she is married to her “true hero.”
In September 2011, Lisa suffered a sudden cardiac arrest at 3:30 in the morning.
“After hearing me get up and collapse, Ted came to check on me and found me not breathing and unresponsive,” Lisa says. “He called 911 and immediately started CPR until the EMS arrived.”
Lisa was rushed to the hospital and placed in a hypothermic state and drug-induced coma to help minimize damage to her body and brain.
It was determined that Lisa’s arrest was caused by a blood clot in an artery, and she had a catheterization and a stent placed in her left anterior descending artery (LAD). Months later, it was further determined that the blood clot that led to her cardiac arrest was the result of a Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD).
Fortunately, Lisa is recovering and feeling healthy, but she is driven by the thought that “so many women don't know that the risk of heart disease is just as real to them as it was to me.”
Lisa wants to help other women understand, through her own example that cardiovascular disease threatens all of us, and should be taken seriously.
“I am not a typical heart patient -- not older, or overweight, or male,” she says. “I am the face of today's heart disease in women and it IS a real concern.”
Rebecca Trahan, a distance runner, was logging miles and keeping her body fit as a way of life. Between running her miles and running her graphic design business, any thought of heart disease was nowhere in the picture.
When she experienced a serious heart episode in 2011, she discounted it because of her high fitness level, and even continued to exercise. But she had actually suffered a spontaneous dissection (SCAD) of her left main coronary artery, one of two arteries that feed blood to the heart muscle. It is a dangerous and relatively rare affliction.
Fortunately, Rebecca got the help she needed in time. She received an emergency triple bypass, and has since been a passionate advocate for women living with cardiovascular disease and for those many more who are at risk.
She's logging miles again, moving ahead with her life and recovery, and counseling fellow heart patients, which she says is helping her cope with her own recovery.
“I was in denial/disbelief about my symptoms, even though my instincts were telling me different. It almost cost me my life,” said Rebecca. “I want to help educate other women so they don’t make the same mistake.”
You can find out more about WomenHeart at the THI website www.texasheart.org/women.
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