Debra Wells, District of Columbia
Don’t ever let yourself wind up like Debra Wells. Doctors confirm her heart stopped for almost 20 seconds. Today she’s alive to tell about it, and it was a rough road.
Before her heart problems, Debra was a successful business woman, working as Vice President of Business Development for a publicly traded company. She worked hard and played hard.
However, her world changed when she collapsed while on a trip with her husband in Maui. What began as a migraine headache became a stroke. “In that moment I was completely—and instantly—DEPENDENT,” said Debra. For two years, she went to physical, speech, and occupational therapy. She was told to “accept her limitations.” She worked to improve her health and gradually returned to work.
Seven years later, her heart stopped on two more occasions, once it was for 19.5 seconds. As Debra describes it, “For me … it was a head on collision with reality. No more denial. In those precious 19 and half seconds that could have taken my life, I realized I could no longer treat my health like a business deal.” Debra has since had two pacemakers implanted. She still has high blood pressure, and does everything she can to control it by exercising regularly, eating healthy, and taking medication.
Now, over 16 years after having a stroke, Debra is making a difference by sharing her story with others as a You’re the Cure advocate. She has shared her story at the Maryland Million Hearts Symposium, on Washington DC’s CBS TV station WUSA9, in addition to other venues.
Debra urges women to take care of themselves and know their risk factors and the important “numbers”—blood pressure, cholesterol, and BMI. She encourages them to accept and respect themselves as working women, mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters.
Debra says, “I am in a way grateful for the 19.5 seconds that almost took my life, because in turn, it taught me to treasure every second I’ve had since, every relationship, [and every] day in my life.”
Visit the American Heart Association’s website to learn more about simple and important changes you can make to improve your heart health.
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