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Share your Story: Georgia D. Leventis-Molina

by Jason H. on Sunday, October 5, 2014

Georgia D. Leventis-Molina Michigan

I am a survivor.

On April 1, 2008 I had a stroke. I woke up from a nap and told my husband Jody I couldn’t see straight. He told me to get up and he was taking me to the ER. I had already been there and to the doctor 3 times the past 2 weeks because of a back injury. I am so glad he made me go because he saved my life.

I don’t remember much of that day besides parts of the drive there. I guess when the doctors first saw me they assumed I was there for pain medication. Thankfully my mom was in town visiting and met us there at the hospital. Jody and my mom insisted something else was going on, that my behavior was not “me”, and begged them to find the cause. I was in and out of consciousness, not responding to light in my eyes, and after having my blood tested they realized I was extremely sick from an infection in my body. I had Bacterial Endocarditis, caused from a staph infection, and I was septic. Pieces of septic emboli had broken off from my heart, traveled through my blood stream, and caused a blockage in my brain which caused the stroke. I was put into an induced coma and woke up a week later.

The doctors ran countless tests trying to find the cause of my sickness (the cause was never determined.) What they did discover is that the infection had eaten at two of my valves in my heart and also caused a hole and I would need open-heart surgery. After speaking with my doctors, family (I could not have done it without their love and support), and the cardiologist that conducted my transesophageal echo (or TEE, also he is my awesome cardiologist, Dr. Sreenivas Kamath, of the Heart Center For Excellence that I follow up with now), we decided my best option was to be transferred to the University of Michigan hospital for my surgery.

On April 23, 2008 I had my open heart surgery. My surgeon Dr. Jonathan Haft and his team placed an annuloplasty ring on my tricuspid valve, an annuloplasty band on my mitral valve, and repaired the hole in my heart. After being in the hospital for a month I was sent home with a pic line still in my arm, only able to walk with a cane, and needed home nurses to visit for another 6 weeks. After one of my checkups with Dr. Kamath, he told me I should go on the American Heart Association’s website and print off a card that had information and reminders for such things like I would need to pre-medicate for dentist appointments, be more careful when sick, etc. While on the AHA’s website I found that they were doing a casting call for survivor stories at a Macy’s near where I lived. I was depressed and trying to make sense of everything that happened to me. Something inside me just told me to go. I sat in front of the camera and started to share my story and just cried. The representatives from the AHA talked to me after and invited me to meet some other survivors and invited me to volunteer at one of their events. The rest is history.

I have met so many amazing, strong, and courageous individuals through my volunteer work with the AHA. My heart sisters Carrie Hamilton, Amy Swager, Erica Chapman, and Chanel McPherson have been my rocks and my heart brother Spencer Powell reminds me how strong kids really can be.  The people that work for this organization are my heroes (you all know who you are) and I have found my passion and mission in life. I have spoken to many organizations about the signs and symptoms of heart disease and stroke and hope to continue to speak to as many people as possible. I was a speaker at the Go Red For Women Luncheon in Kalamazoo in 2011 and the 2010 Kalamazoo HeartWalk, featured in Kalamazoo Gazette, WKZO, Women’s Lifestyle Magazine February 2011 & November 2011, on billboards across Southwest Michigan for Go Red and HeartWalk 2010-present, and on American Heart Association of SW Michigan’s 2011 and 2012 calendar. I have been involved as a chair of the Battle Creek HeartChase since 2011, and will continue to dedicate my life to the mission of the AHA. I now know that the reason I went through all of this is to help save lives. I will do everything I can to let anyone I can know that heart disease and stroke can affect anyone at any age and I am the proof. Life is not always easy, and creating a positive impact, a reason and purpose for it all, gives me reason to live as a survivor, and save lives.

Becoming involved with the AHA has in a way saved my life. The band and ring in my heart wouldn’t probably be here if it wasn’t for this organization. I may have not even had gone to the ER if my husband had not known that loss of vision was a sign of stroke. Now, when I stand at my nation’s capital to watch a proclamation being signed by Congress making the month of February National Heart Month and declaring National Wear Red Day I know I am part of something big, part of history. I am an activist and will be for the rest of my life. I hope to inspire you to get involved in You’re the Cure and events with your local AHA. Never forget it is people such as you who support the cause and do what you do that mean the world to me and give us hope.

As a wise friend recently told me – I’m a survivor, and that’s my story.

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Comments (3)

  • Heart warming story, best of health, thank you for your advocacy.

    — Nathan T.

  • Love this!  Thank you for sharing your story with us, Georgia.  I hope you move more of us to take action!

    — Cynthia B.

  • Georgia, you are an amazing woman. You have been just as important to me. Love you Sista!

    — Carrie H.

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