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Jill Cawley, Alabama

by Molly S. on Monday, September 10, 2012

Jill Cawley Alabama

Jill Cawley’s story officially started on January 28, 2002, when she suffered the first of two heart attacks.  Unofficially, it probably began long before that, with a history of heart disease that stretched back generations.  Jill ended up in the emergency room that January night, sent there due to a rapid heartbeat.  It felt “like her heart was battling to complete each beat.” 

The emergency room physician told Jill she had experienced a “very slight” heart attack.  Another doctor recommended a catheterization.  After the procedure, when Jill woke up, she was flabbergasted when she heard her husband on the phone talking about bypass surgery.  Catheterization had revealed seven major blockages, and three stents were already in place.  The other four blockages would require surgery. Quadruple bypass surgery was scheduled for the following Monday, but Jill had a second, more severe heart attack on Saturday morning, and was off to the operating room for emergency surgery.

After Jill had been home a few days, she became short of breath, and her husband took her back to the E.R.  She came home with a pacemaker to compensate for congestive heart failure caused by the second heart attack.  She had the pacemaker for almost eight years, and now she has an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, or ICD, to help her maintain a normal heart rhythm.

Like many women, Jill did not have the classic symptoms of a heart attack— no crushing chest pain, no pain radiating down the left arm, no profuse perspiration.  The only red flag was rapid heart rate.  Jill considers herself blessed—she’s recovered well and has no restrictions on her activities, just the inconvenience when she travels, of knowing she has to go through a security “pat down.”  Jill has also made changes in her lifestyle, losing more than fifty pounds and visiting the gym regularly.  She says learning to live with heart disease introduced her to the American Heart Association —and the chance to share her story at “Go Red for Women” rallies.