Page 1







Photo: Melissa Donald

Sara Boyle was excited to be featured in the Heart Special Section of Today’s Woman magazine. She shared her heart attack experience with me in November 2015 and had her photo shoot at the magazine’s offi es in mid-December.


er first heart attack came soon after the birth of her fourth child in March 2014. Sara had high blood pressure and diabetes prior to her pregnancy, but she kept an extra close eye on her numbers as directed by her doctors. Despite following her doctor’s orders, including visits with a high-risk obstetrician every two weeks, her high blood pressure contributed to her son’s prenatal distress and his premature birth at 29.5 weeks. Although Sara’s son, Cohen, was unable to leave the hospital, she was released soon after his birth. She started feeling poorly three weeks after delivery, but thought she was just stressed out because of the baby. When she began having uncontrollable shakes and feeling constantly hot, she went to the emergency room. She said, “I felt like I had the weight of the world on my neck.” Soon after her arrival, she was diagnosed with a 100 percent blockage in an artery. She had two stents placed and went through rehab until shortly after Cohen was released from the hospital. When I interviewed her, she said her blood pressure was under control, but her doctors kept a close eye on it at regular checkups every three months.



On January 6, 2016, Sara thought she was having unusually painful menstrual cramps and realized that she hadn’t urinated all day. She resisted letting her partner, Thomas Edwards, call an ambulance until she began to have trouble breathing. Because Cohen and his 7-year-old sister, Elizabeth, were sleeping, Tom remained at home. Emergency services soon called Tom and told him that Sara had taken a turn for the worse. He says, “They brought her back five or six times, used the paddles on her, and gave her two adrenaline shots.” By the time she was transferred to Cincinnati from the small hospital near Bedford, where Sara and Tom live, a machine was keeping her alive. Tom says, “Her kidneys were gone, and there was no brain activity.” Sara Boyle died at age 43 on Friday, January 8, 2016 at 5:35 pm. She is survived by Cohen, Elizabeth, Matthew (15) and Jordan (20), as well as family and friends in both Bedford and Louisville. As difficult as it was for Tom to talk about Sara’s death, he knew what being featured in this article meant to her, how much happiness it gave her, and he wanted her story to be told. He hopes that hearing about Sara can help other women catch or prevent a fatal heart attack.


WHEN MY HEART HURT By Carrie Vittitoe

Illustrations: Silva Cabib

A common misconception about heart disease in women is that left arm ain and chest pressure are the primary warning signs that the cardiovascular system has gone haywire. The truth, though, is that heart disease symptoms can be varied, which may be part of the reason women don’t seek medical care as quickly as men do. These four survivors’ experiences are proof that women need to understand how complex heart disease symptoms can be. [CARLEEN HAAS]


Carleen Haas was doing everything she could to avoid heart problems. Her mother had been diagnosed with heart disease in 1978, so Carleen, 64, was very much aware of her genetic risk and the importance of eating well, exercising, and checking in with a cardiologist. She had noticed that her legs felt rubbery and tired, but she didn’t think anything of it. “I pushed through, as women do…taking care of the rest of the world,” she says.



During a trip to Amsterdam in early May 2014, her leg tiredness worsened. She rented a bicycle in order to sightsee but couldn’t even pedal because of her fatigue. Within a week of returning from her trip, she underwent an emergency heart catheterization where her doctor found blockages in three arteries. “This was a very hard pill to swallow for someone who was determined not to follow in her mother’s footsteps,” she says. Following her surgery in June 2014, Carleen has continued to live a healthy lifestyle but is even more cognizant of what she eats and the signals her body gives her.



On a flight home from vacation in 2010, Mary Ann James had a headache and trouble focusing her eyes, but she chalked it up to just being tired from a busy trip. At home, she felt clumsy when she tripped down a couple stairs. A few days later, she had a car accident in a parking lot due to continuing vision problems. “I couldn’t coordinate my eyes,” she says. During the accident, Mary Ann’s hand was injured due to a broken mirror, but this was the least of her worries



when she sought medical attention. She had suffered a stroke as a result of marantic endocarditis, which is when a growth forms on the mitral valve of the heart. In her case, it created a clot that caused the stroke. Mary Ann, 52, was hospitalized for 11 days, suffered seizures for a time, and permanently lost some of her peripheral vision. Though scary, the experience was not without positives because it motivated her to take better care of herself. She began going to Body Shapes Medical and lost 60 pounds as a result of changing her diet and exercising more regularly.



Vanessa Turpin thought she had bronchitis. She had been coughing for weeks and weeks, but numerous antibiotics and doctor visits hadn’t resolved the issue. When she was sent to a pulmonologist, she learned that her heart was enlarged. At a consultation with a cardiologist, she learned that her ejection fraction, which measures how much blood the heart is able to pump, was at 10 percent (a normal heart’s ejection fraction ranges between 55-70 percent). Vanessa, now 44, was hospitalized for two days and



has been on heart medication ever since. She takes between 12-15 pills per day and had an implantable cardioverter defibrillator placed two years ago. “The only predisposing factor I had was being a black female,” she says. “The doctors believe a virus attacked my heart.” It was a terrifying experience for Vanessa, especially because her two children were toddlers at the time, but she hasn’t allowed it to hold her back. She lost 80 pounds and takes every opportunity she can to support and mentor other women with heart disease through Norton Hospital support group and WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease.


EXCESSIVE FATIGUE Women are often tired after having babies, especially when they are breastfeeding every two hours. Takeysha Baldon’s fourth child was born in February 2015, and she was staying with her mother to recover after his delivery. Her left arm hurt a bit, but she attributed that to holding the baby and nursing. After taking her son to his two-week doctor visit, she told her mother she was going to lie down in bed because she just felt so wiped out. Her mother knew something was amiss, especially since Takeysha, 37, had been far more energetic following the births of her other children. She called 911. When the paramedics arrived, Takeysha was able to speak with them, but she ended up coding, or going into cardiac arrest, shortly thereafter. “They worked on me 45 minutes at the house before they could get me stable enough to transport to the hospital,” she says. She was in a coma for four days. Upon regaining consciousness, she was told she had suffered Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD), which is an extremely rare condition that occurs when blood vessels in the heart tear or separate. Takeysha was on medication for a time but has recovered and has no restrictions on her activity. “I am very grateful that my mother’s instincts knew something wasn’t right,” she says. For each of these Kentuckiana women, heart disease didn’t fit the typical symptoms, and not all of them had obvious risk factors. Because of this, they want to share their stories so others have a better understanding of the complexity of heart disease and how it can manifest itself in women.




HEART ATTACK By Carrie Vittitoe

Photos: Melissa Donald

Do you enjoy having uncomfortable sensations of pressure in the head, arms, chest, or legs?

What’s wrong with junk food?

Do you want to feel clammy, excessively hot or extremely fatigued?

Debbie Mathis does pay attention to her diet — but she is showing you how to act if you do want to have a heart attack.

Do you like experiencing the overwhelming fear that you are going to die (possibly in the next few minutes)? If so, then follow these simple steps for having a heart attack… Note: The women in this story obviously did not want to have a heart attack and did everything they could to avoid it or seek treatment right away. See if you are doing any of the things that could lead you to a heart attack — the largest killer of women.

If you want to have a heart attack… IGNORE YOUR DOCTOR’S RECOMMENDATIONS Debbie Mathis also listened to her doctor and took a baby aspirin every day. When she began having what she thought was a heart attack, she then listened to her husband and took a regular aspirin. Her heart attack in September 2015 would have been far worse had she not listened to their suggestions.



If you want to have a heart attack… STAY AWAY FROM THE TREADMILL One of the worst things to do if you want to stay unhealthy is exercise regularly. Debbie exercised 30-60 minutes every day saying, “I wanted to get rid of postmenopausal weight.”

If you want to have a heart attack… IGNORE YOUR FAMILY HISTORY If you want to have a heart attack, then learn from Debbie Mathis (age 61), who made the mistake of being completely aware of her family’s history of cardiovascular disease. Her father died at age 42 of a massive heart attack after having suffered smaller ones in his 30s. Her mother was 61 when she had her heart attack. Debbie’s sister, Donna Minter, died at age 35 of a blood clot, and her brother, Larry Smith, had triple and quadruple bypass surgeries. Given this history, Debbie was very much aware of her likelihood of having heart disease.

If you want to have a heart attack… STAY MEEK AND REFUSE TO ADVOCATE FOR YOURSELF If she was wanting a major heart attack, Connie Williams (age 68) really flubbed by seeking second opinions when she began having heart disease symptoms, such as shoulder pain that worsened when she walked. Eventually, she was diagnosed with a “Widowmaker blockage” and had immediate surgery to resolve it. She says, “I don’t take no for an answer if it is not a reasonable response. It is not an easy thing to do, to keep pushing for answers that make sense, especially when you are scared, tired, and sick.”

If you want to have a heart attack… KEEP YOUR EXPERIENCE PRIVATE Connie is ill-advised to talk to other women and share her experience. She participated in Women Heart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease and spoke at the Go Red for Women Style Show in the spring of 2015. She urges women to find a team of people that is on your side. She says, “This is business — the business of your heart.”

Is it just indigestion?

Connie Williams saved herself from a heart attack by insisting that something else was wrong when the doctors thought she had a different issue.

Having a heart attack or dangerous cardiovascular disease is simple, if you do the opposite of what Debbie and Connie did. 18






[ [

HEART DISEASE IS THE NUMBER s the chief director of your How can you better manage ONE KILLER OF WOMEN family’s universe, you’re your busy lifestyle? the pulse-point of the home. But Moderate exercise. Exercise Heart attack warning signs: if that means you’re struggling in moderation can help relieve • Chest pain or pressure under the mantle of an stress, but overtaxing an already • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, unforgiving schedule, now is the stressed body with too much back, neck, jaw, or stomach time to re-evaluate. Your health strenuous exercise can increase • Shortness of breath • Profuse sweating depends on it. Just ask Nefertari the stress hormone cortisol. • Dizziness, nausea, lightheadedness Williams. “High levels of circulating stress When nine-months pregnant hormones can impair adrenal Call 9-1-1 if you experience any of these with her fifth child, Nefertari function, resulting in brain fog, symptoms. Source: American Heart Association suffered a life-threatening heart lethargy, and the dreaded ‘pregnant attack that forced her to reassess belly’ even if you are not with her chaotic lifestyle. child,” says Elle Griffin, a natural Like many moms, 34-year-old Nefertari’s daily routine fertilty expert. “Some women even start losing their hair.” included getting her children ready for school before Prioritize. Make a list of everything you do. Decide which heading to her full-time job working with cognitively and items can be eliminated, pared down or delegated to others. physically disabled preschoolers. Can you organize a carpool with another parent? Can you After slogging through a 45-minute commute home limit your kids’ activities? Are there volunteer activities from work, she quickly made dinner, helped her children that you no longer find meaningful? Can your kids fold with homework and then taxied them to dance, karate, and put away laundry? swimming, and singing practices. “Dissect one of your most stressful commitments,” “I made sure my children were not only involved in Rosalie says. “Your own thoughts and feelings about what many activities — they had to be the best,” says Nefertari, is expected of you will determine how much stress you will who was also a stage mom to her oldest daughter, a feel. If you have elder care, get your teenage kids or other talented singer. family members to visit your folks and do In addition, she sold cosmetics and errands. It doesn’t have to be you all of FREE MEDICATION APPS her handmade jewelry. Squeezed into the time.” • Mediation Timer Pro her schedule were visits to the nursing Nefertari, who is in congestive heart • Take a Break! home to see her mother, who had failure, says she now mostly manages • Omvana suffered a massive stroke. Her husband, her home and family from her bed. • Relax Melodies who worked nights, managed the “After nearly losing my life, I have family’s laundry. learned what’s important which is my Nefertari blames her exhausting schedule for love of my higher power and my family,” she says. “My contributing to her heart attack, which was caused by a family is happy because I am here with them. They don’t spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD). miss the hyperactive lifestyle at all.” According to the American Heart Association, SCAD Pursue pleasure. Integrate activities into your day that typically affects young women who are otherwise healthy. bring you personal joy. Thirty percent of the time, the condition, which is a “That doesn’t mean you should go to yoga or pilates,” spontaneous tearing in the coronary artery wall, occurs Elle says. “Whether it’s eating cake for dinner or having among women who have recently had a child. SCAD does drinks with girlfriends, doing things just for yourself can not have any warning signs, making it hard to diagnose have a huge effect on your endocrine health and fertility.” prior to a heart attack. Try out a new recipe, engage in a favorite craft, read a Although doctors aren’t sure why SCAD occurs, Nefertari book or take a nap. Or plan to do nothing at all. Schedule says, “after reaching out to other SCAD survivors, we had ‘me time’ in your calendar if necessary. one thing in common — hyperactive lifestyles.” Think you can afford to wait to rein in your hyperactive Overcommitment health risks. “Wanting to please, lifestyle? wanting to be everything to everybody, women just keep “Sit down and look into your loved ones eyes. Then, picture extending themselves, until their minds and bodies cannot them looking at you while laying in the critical care unit of a cope,” says Rosalie Moscoe, RHN, RNCP, and author of hospital,” Nefertari says. “Because you love them, take care of Frazzled Hurried Woman! Your Stress Relief Guide to Thriving. you, so you can be here to watch them grow up.”






hirty-eight people, including those not pictured here, are donating their time to educating women about the importance of heart health through the Circle of Red, Men Go Red, and the Go Red for Women Executive Leadership Team. To get involved, contact Jane Merman at 502.371.6014 or email

*LEIGH ANN BARNEY, Chief Operating Offi er, Trilogy Health Services, 2016 Go Red for Women Luncheon Chair

KAREN McCARTIN FOSTER, Real Estate Broker, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Parks & Weisberg Realtors


KIM THARP*BECKY *MISSY *SHEILA CARTER, BARRIE, BEANBLOSSOM, BONSUTTO, Founder and Vice President Founder & Regional Director Chief Executive Institute for President, Home of Operations, Offi er, Nursing and Instead Senior Almost Family, Heartsong Workforce Care Inc./Caretenders Memory Care Outreach, Norton Healthcare

TERESA METZGER, Genomic Sales Specialist, Cardio DX

*PAMELA MISSI, Vice President and Chief Nursing Norton Audubon Hospital, Norton Healthcare


**TIM GORNET, Manager, Rapid Prototyping Center, University of Louisville, Men Go Red


A  ll women are members of the Circle of Red.


* Also member of Go Red Executive Leadership Team

**Member of Men Go Red

*SHARI HOUSE, Vice President, BB&T Insurance Services

NANCY L. HUBLAR, Senior Manager, Blue & Co., LLC, CoChair of Circle of Red

KIM HUFFMAN, Managing Partner, Neil Huffman uto Group

EMILY ALLEN KIRBY, Director, Consumer Engagement, Humana

DENISE KIRKHAM, Executive Director, Women First of Louisville

GAIL LYTTLE, Vice President, Director of Marketing, Fifth Third Bank

*JUDIE PARKS, *LEIGH PITTMAN, *AMY RYAN, Broker/Owner Director of Director, Clinical Berkshire Information Learning & Hathaway Technology at Development, HomeServices, Brown Forman Humana Parks & Weisberg Corporation Realtors

JANET SMITH, Cardiologist, Norton Healthcare


CONNIE STELLER, Executive Territory Manager, Abbott Vascular

LIVVY TIMMONS, Case Manager, Omnicare, Rx Crossroads

CATHY ZION, Publisher, Zion Publications




Today's Woman Heart Health Supplement 2016  

Find out what these women (and men) know about heart disease that could help save your life.

Today's Woman Heart Health Supplement 2016  

Find out what these women (and men) know about heart disease that could help save your life.