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Share Your Story: Lori Cooper

by Anne S. on Monday, March 10, 2014

Lori Cooper Hudson, IL

On August 23, 2007 my life changed forever. I may not look like someone who has experienced heart disease, most people think men, overweight, smokers and people who don’t exercise. I just didn’t fit the bill. On that hot August day, I came home from work, lightheaded, sweating profusely, coughing and heart racing. My husband rushed me to the hospital where I was admitted and diagnosed with congestive heart failure. The disease that killed my father.

I couldn’t believe it. but going back several weeks ahead of this date, I was experiencing symptoms which were frantically waving red flags at me, but I ignored and blamed them on other things going on, like the summer temperatures, premenopausal symptoms, etc… I was having shortness of breath from walking up the stairs at work, my heart rate was well over 150 resting and I had gained some weight, which all women do, and I had a cough, not a normal cough but one where there was a white foaming substance. I was too busy at work and at home with 3 daughters to be sick…an excuse that too many women use. After an EKG and chest x-ray and a diagnosis of congestive heart failure, they brought in the man who would save my life, my cardiologist. He ran an Echocardiogram and told me that I did in fact have heart failure and cardio myopathy. My heart was enlarged, the valves were regurgitating blood, there was about 20 pounds of fluid around my heart and lungs and I would most likely need a defibrillator inserted near my heart and a heart transplant in the near future. He explained to me about the Ejection fraction, which is the capacity at which your heart is pumping. Normal was around 50-70, and mine was only 20. I knew it was bad, I could see it from the look on his face and his tone, and the other doctors and nurses in the room. I asked my doctor if my husband needed to go and get my girls, and did I need to say my goodbyes? He told me that I got there in time, but to live with heart failure I would need to go through some lifestyle changes.

The next day I had a cardiac catheterization, which showed no blockage at all. A lot of people talk about the physical illness itself, but there is the other part which is just as important, the psychological/emotional side. I had what I thought received a “death sentence”. I was basically waiting to die. I couldn’t even think about planning anything for the future…vacations, my birthday, Christmas. I knew in my mind I wouldn’t be around. Depression can get ugly, and my doctor noticed it right off the bat and got me on medication to help that side of it. Then there was the fear…fear of dying and not seeing my youngest start kindergarten, not see any of my girls graduate from high school, get married, and drive a car. Missing everything in their lives.

Then one day it dawned on me, I could beat this, the fears that had scared me about dying, were now the ones that were going to make me fight for my life. I was on a low salt diet, aggressive drug regime, and I started walking every day again. I gave up caffeine which was a daily staple. I was actually starting to feel pretty darn good. I was told the first 6 months are the critical ones. My progress during this time is what I would have to live with. An Echocardiogram at the 6 month point would show what my fate would be. Would I need a defibrillator inserted into my chest to restart my heart if it failed? Would I need a transplant? When February 2008 arrived, an increase of 5% on my Ejection Fraction would be good my doctor told me. Improvement? OMG!!!! I called for the results and found out that not only did I improve 5%, I had improved from 20% to 50%. Normal, I actually heard the word normal.

My future is bright, I feel better than I ever have. I have hiked in numerous National Parks and just zip-lined in the Smoky Mountains for the first time. I will always take medication, consume a low salt diet, and exercise. Heart Failure is a chronic disease and there is no cure, but it is treatable, and you can live a long and rewarding life, and I am living proof of that. I survived for a reason, and if by telling my story, someone will learn more about heart disease or I can help one patient or family members through their struggles of dealing with heart disease and the lifestyle changes it brings with it, then I feel like I have really done what I am here to do.

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Comments (1)

  • Wow! What an amazing story. You are so lucky that your EF went normal after 6 months. I'm diagnosed with CHF and cardiomyapathy as well. Keep spreading awareness!

    — Brooke M.

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