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More on Joyce: Heart Care

Joyce's Heart Care at LMH

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The following video was presented at the 2015 Go Red for Women luncheon in Lawrence:

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Joyce's story was published in the Go Red for Women special edition of Lawrence Journal World in February 2015:

Coming back from CAD: How I lived to tell about it

By Joyce Collins 

Joyce Collins, LMH Heart Center PatientLast April, I became a member of the coronary artery disease (CAD) club. I didn’t ask to join, but my other option was worse: becoming a statistic…another preventable death from heart disease.

It runs in my family. My mother, grandfather and brother all had heart attacks between ages 49 and 77, so I tried to be proactive about my heart health. I have always been conscious about eating and cooking healthy and managing my weight. I saw my doctor regularly – no cholesterol or blood pressure problems. I took a low-dose statin as a preventive measure and maintained a clean bill of health – or so it seemed.

Then strange symptoms showed up, symptoms I ignored for too long. Fatigue at first, then aching in my upper back, upper chest, neck and jaw. I chocked it up to pinched nerves from marathon sewing sessions, a favorite pastime of mine.

Over the next few weeks, my symptoms grew harder to dismiss. With mild dizziness and shortness of breath just going upstairs, it finally dawned on me that things were getting worse, so I called my doctor’s office and spoke to his nurse.

“Go straight to the emergency room,” she instructed after consulting with my doctor. “Go now – it could be your heart.” Her sense of urgency seemed drastic because I didn’t feel that bad, certainly not how I thought a cardiac emergency would feel. So imagine my surprise when I arrived at Lawrence Memorial Hospital and found out my life was in jeopardy.

A chemical stress test revealed 35 percent of my heart was damaged from CAD. One-third of my heart was affected by heart disease, even though I had ‘picture perfect’ blood pressure, cholesterol and dietary habits. More surprising numbers – potentially deadly numbers – came to light when an LMH cardiologist performed a cardiac catheterization to assess and treat blockage in my arteries.

“Oh my, most people don’t survive this,” I heard him say when he found 99 percent blockage and a blood clot in my left front main artery. To restore much-needed blood flow, he inserted a stent, a tiny device that’s with me for life.

My doctors said I would have died if I had waited any longer to get help. Thankfully, with the right intervention, I survived – and I even returned to work the following week. And now, after cardiac rehab and several months of recovery, I’m happy to report that I feel better than I have in years. 

Readers, if you take only one thing away from my story, please let it be this: know your numbers. Blood pressure and cholesterol levels alone are not comprehensive measures of heart health. To prevent heart disease or begin treatment as early as possible, ask your doctor for a heart risk assessment and live life with heart health in mind. Know the symptoms for women and share that information with family and friends. With the right information and care, heart disease can be treated, prevented, and hopefully one day, eliminated.

Watch Joyce's Stay for Life video.

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