American Heart Association - You’re the Cure
WELCOME! PLEASE LOGIN OR SIGN UP

LoginLogin with Facebook

Remember me Forgot Password

Be the Cure, Join Today!

  • Learn about heart-health issues
  • Meet other likeminded advocates
  • Take action and be heard
SIGN UP

Advocates Like You View All

My adventure with cardiac disease is not one that everyone reading this will experience. It's 2016 and looking back I truly feel like a survivor. I have had seven stents, one robotic bypass and suffered a Transient ischemic attack (TIA). 

I have had eleven angioplasties’ to either place stents or look at the status of my cardiovascular disease. In 2011, after suffering yet another event I was approached by UC Davis Medical Center to have a new robotic surgery procedure that is a less invasive bypass surgery. After the ten hour surgery was completed I was told that it took so long because there was a lot of scar tissue that made it difficult. Within six weeks I was ready to return to work as Operations Manager for an armored transport company in the Bay Area. My hours were long and the responsibilities and dangers were stressful. In July of 2011 I collapsed at work and they discovered the bypass had failed.  I was told that doctors placed a stent in the artery however it was just a matter of time before it would also be rejected by my body. I was told not to return to work and that I needed to avoid stress and over exertion all together.

Depression set in after being unable to work. I was given social security disability that barely covered the basic necessities. My family filed for bankruptcy and I knew our life needed to change.  My daughter and her family lived in Meridian, Idaho and my wife Sally and I decided that Meridian is where we wanted to go. We sold everything we could to new start and in December of 2011 we moved.          

Our move meant I needed to find a new cardiologist. After experiencing several cardiologists I was getting pretty good at knowing who fit me well. I found Dr. Bass at St. Luke’s and the first thing he suggested was to do an angioplasty to see what was going on so he could properly help me.  The angioplasty confirmed what the previous cardiologist had diagnosed, I had congestive heart failure. 

Dr. Bass felt that cardiac rehabilitation may help me and he was right.  The program of personalized exercise along with diet and heart education was making a difference, however my depression was not improving. Counseling was suggested and with the support from all of the wonderful health professionals I started feeling more positive. I realized that I had a choice; I could continue down my path of feeling sorry for myself or pick myself up and start over. I joined Mended Hearts Chapter 380 and found that by helping others I also helped me. 

In 2013, I was going to cardiac rehabilitation three days a week.  One morning as I got ready to go I felt out of sorts and by the time I got to “rehab” I was a little disoriented and very weak. As I walked into “rehab” I was approached by Amber an educator and RN. Amber saw that something was wrong and after evaluating me called for an ambulance because she recognized I was having a stroke. Amber saved my life because of her quick and knowledgeable reaction!

So here I am in 2016, the President of Mended Hearts. I have without a doubt the best people to work with, and can never thank my doctors, nurses, health professionals, family and friends enough.

On May 5th, 2016 Stroke Ambassador Paula Symanski was joined by her New York Assemblymember Carrie Woerner as she rode her bicycle through the streets of Albany, NY -  arriving in front of the State Capitol to cheers of her friends and supporters!     May and June marks the height of the state legislative session and AHA is pushing for passage of legislation to improve stroke care in New York State.  More to come....

Carmen Thompson Kentucky

 Frankfort, Kentucky resident, Carmen Thompson, is 66 years young. So when she suffered a stroke December of last year, she didn’t believe it was happening to her. “I woke up and was numb on my left side,” Carmen, who teaches 6th grade at Franklin County Schools, said. “I didn’t think my face was drooping so I went to school like normal.” But Carmen’s students immediately noticed something was wrong. “The kids kept looking at me funny,” she said.

Carmen’s superintendent finally came into her room and sent her home, telling her she believed she was having a stroke. “I should have gone right to the hospital,” Carmen said.  But instead she went home and asked her husband drive her to the emergency room. Still in denial, though she admits she knew all the stroke symptoms and was having several, Carmen said she didn’t want to face the fact that she may be having a stroke.

With an extensive family history of stroke, Carmen also struggles with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and is a type 2 diabetic. After spending five days in the stroke unit at the hospital, Carmen knew her stroke had been major. “The nurses called me a medical train wreck,” Carmen said. “I was sent for rehab,” she said. “I initially thought I’d stay there for just a few days, but I ended up in rehab for a month.”

During her rehab, Carmen received both occupational and physical therapy, both of which she desperately needed, especially for her extremely weak left side. She worked hard during that first month, just to recover her ability to walk and move properly. “I still needed help getting around,” she said. “Anything that needed zipping or buttoning or getting out of the shower I struggled with.”

After her first two weeks were complete, Carmen set goals, one of the most important being that she wanted to be back in her classroom teaching by January of 2016. “They teach you to set goals but remind you to know that you may have to change them,” she said.

Indeed Carmen eventually admitted that she would not be able to return to teaching for the duration of the school year. “I hope to be back in time for school to begin again in August,” she said. “I had another minor stroke the end of February that set me back quite a bit,” Carmen said. “I’m still in a wheelchair but I’m doing a lot better with my memory and processing things.”

Her advice for those who think they may be suffering from a stroke? “If you have symptoms, don’t stay in denial,” Carmen said. “Go immediately and get checked out. If I had gone to the hospital a little bit quicker, I know I wouldn’t have such a long recovery period.”