Why me? Why now?
It's been almost three years when my day started out like any other day. I up woke early to get a workout in before work, knowing I had a full busy schedule for the day. I had business visitors coming into town for all-day meetings, so I knew I would be working late into the evening.
About 10 minutes into my workout, I began to experience severe sharp pain across my entire chest. I thought I pulled a muscle. I tried to stretch and tried to walk it off. I started to have difficulty breathing, so I went out on my front porch to get some fresh air. My friend found me slumped over, brought me in, and still I thought, "I pulled a muscle." I thought if I just lay down it would go away. Well, I collapsed, they called 911, and I was taken to the emergency room and soon after was rushed into surgery.
I was diagnosed with having Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection, otherwise known as SCAD, a rare condition that strikes younger women and can result in sudden death. I had torn my LAD (Left Anterior Descending) artery approximately 2.5 inches, which was repaired through heart surgery. As the inner lining of the artery began to tear, it folded in, blocking blood flow and causing the severe pain as it continued to shred.
Late that night, after my family had gone home, my friends stopped calling... stopped texting. I was alone. It felt like I was in a bad dream. Why me? Why now? This can't be me. I have too much to do.
I heard a tap on my door, and I was so surprised to see my cardiologist, my surgeon, walk in. He sat on the edge of my bed, and the look in his eyes... I will never forget.
I said, "Doctor, tonight I only have two questions for you: Why did this happen to me? And am I going to live?"
He said: "Amy, the bad news is that what you have experienced is a very rare and fatal heart condition, so there is not much research done on why this happens, and the research that has been done has been done post-mortem."
He said: "Amy, the good news is that you are alive, you survived, you are going to be OK, and you can do this!"
When he left my room, I really felt alone and now scared. I didn't think I could do this.
I spent about a week in the hospital and completed eight weeks of cardiac rehab. Three months after recovering from my heart surgery, I ran my first 5k. My goal was to run the entire race and finish, and that I did. I was there to support my sister, who was there to run the half marathon, but she said what I did was more inspiring than any race that she has ever completed. She was there for me that day to watch me cross the finish line. I did it to prove to myself that I can do it! That I could go back to living a healthy lifestyle with small changes. I did for all of the women who didn't survive from SCAD and families who have lost their loved one. I did it to inspire others who deal with heart disease everyday that there is hope.
So why do I share my story? Because I can. The fatality rate of SCAD is significantly high, and with little funding and known causes of the condition; 80 percent of cases occur in young women who have similar profiles as mine. I have no known family history of heart disease, I do not smoke, I exercise regularly and, and I had good cholesterol screenings.
So as I continue to be a case study for my cardiology team, I am doing my part in trying to live a healthy lifestyle for me and my kids. Today, I'm back to running and exercising regularly, and it feels good!
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in women, and so I tell my story hoping to raise awareness and help fund medical advances that have had a positive impact on the heart health of millions of people... including me.
There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about my heart day. Heart disease causes one in three women's deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every minute. I need your help so that the women in our lives, your lives, can hear the same thing I did from my doctor... that they can do it, they can survive.
For more stories heart disease, click through the slideshow below:
Last August, the former talk show host <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/entertainment/2012/10/rosie-odonnell-heart-attack-was-wake-up-call/" target="_hplink">felt chest pains</a> and, after some online research, began to suspect that she was having a heart attack. But she didn't dial 911, according to ABC News. The next day a cardiologist informed her that her <a href="http://watchlearnlive.heart.org/CVML_Player.php?moduleSelect=corart" target="_hplink">coronary artery</a> was 99 percent blocked and <a href="http://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@hcm/documents/downloadable/ucm_300452.pdf" target="_hplink">put in a stent</a> to keep the blood flowing. O'Donnell wasted no time making healthy lifestyle changes. "<a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20635664,00.html" target="_hplink">I almost died</a>. It took a heart attack for me to learn to take care of myself," she told People magazine.
The talk show host <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/star-jones/star-jones-heart-disease_b_2566501.html" target="_hplink">underwent heart surgery</a> for a <a href="http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007408.htm" target="_hplink">problem with the aortic valve</a> after experiencing extreme fatigue and heart palpitations while on vacation in 2010. Ultimately the valve was replaced a week before her 48th birthday. "You think it's an old white guy's disease, well, it really isn't," <a href="http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/heart-health-star-jones-advice" target="_hplink">Jones explains on Dr. Oz's website</a>. "Eighty two million Americans suffer from some form of heart disease, and I have to tell you, the scariest thing in the world is hearing you are one of those 82 million." Jones served as the National Volunteer for the American Heart Association (AHA) and continues to support the AHA's <a href="http://www.goredforwomen.org/" target="_hplink">Go Red for Women</a> campaign.
The legendary TV personality underwent a procedure called <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Health/HeartDisease/barbara-walters-prepares-aortic-valve-replacement-heart-surgery/story?id=10609251#.TzA6z-PLyK4" target="_hplink">aortic valve replacement</a> to correct a faulty heart valve in 2010. Generally <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/02/barbara-walters-heart-special-drugs_n_817330.html" target="_hplink">a private person</a>, Walters opened up about her experience -- and interviewed other famous heart surgery survivors like Bill Clinton and Robin Williams -- in a 2011 ABC special called "A Matter Of Life And Death." "I want to take you on a journey, my own," Walters wrote in a <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Health/barbara-walters-heart-special-matter-life-death/story?id=12810130#.TzA8m-PLzwe" target="_hplink">promotion for the special</a>, "and share with you how being wheeled into operating room No. 22 at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in May to replace my faulty heart valve saved my life."
The former president was treated for chest pain in February of 2011, when doctors placed two stents in a coronary artery. Experts say the procedure is <a href="http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1963893,00.html" target="_hplink">common in people who have had bypass surgeries</a>, according to <em>TIME</em>. Clinton had a quadruple bypass in 2004, and a second operation in 2005 in response to complications from the bypass. Today, Clinton has become <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/08/18/bill.clinton.diet.vegan/index.html" target="_hplink">almost-vegan</a> (he reportedly snuck a bite of <a href="http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/18/bill-clintons-vegan-journey/" target="_hplink">turkey at Thanksgiving</a>) foregoing meat, eggs and dairy in favor of fruits, veggies and beans, according to CNN. "I was lucky I did not die of a heart attack," he told CNN's Sanjay Gupta.
The talk-show host had a heart attack in February 1987, and later underwent <a href="http://www.everydayhealth.com/heart-health/larry-king-dances-his-way-to-heart-health.aspx" target="_hplink">quintuple bypass surgery</a> at just 53 years old. The heart attack and consequent procedure were a wake-up call, King said on a PBS panel called <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/takeonestep/heart/video-larry_king_01.html" target="_hplink">"Take One Step for a Healthy Heart."</a> "When you go into a hospital and they tell you they're going to cut your chest open, you really think about all the dumb things you've done in your life and you have to change," he said. In 1988, the <a href="http://www.larrykingcardiacfoundation.org/index.php/about-us" target="_hplink">Larry King Cardiac Foundation</a> (LKCF) was established to help fund heart treatment for patients without the means or insurance to cover such medical care themselves.
After <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jan/18/news/la-pn-cheney-20110119" target="_hplink">five heart attacks</a>, former Vice President Dick Cheney received a life-saving <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/05/us/politics/05cheney.html" target="_hplink">mechanical heart pump</a> in January of 2011. "It's brought me back from <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/story/2011-08-31/Taciturn-Cheney-cant-stop-talking-about-heart-device/50196688/1" target="_hplink">end-stage heart failure</a>," Cheney told "USA Today". "I was in bad shape 14 months ago. Now I'm back to leading a relatively normal life. I fish, hunt a little bit, write books, [am] able to travel."
The late-night host's father died of a heart attack at 57, and in January 2000, at just 52, Letterman underwent emergency quintuple bypass surgery, performed by the <a href="http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0001/14/lkl.00.html" target="_hplink">same surgeon who operated on Larry King</a>, 13 years earlier. He invited <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20336885,00.html" target="_hplink">his medical team</a> to appear upon his return to TV in February, and said, emotionally: "If you ever have to have this surgery, by God, I hope you're blessed enough to go through it with people like these," according to People.com.
While starring in the Broadway show "Aida," the Grammy winner passed out after feeling tired and lightheaded, with tightness in her chest. In the emergency room she learned she had <a href="http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/features/unbreak-her-heart-toni-braxton" target="_hplink">pericarditis</a>, inflammation of tissue surrounding the heart often caused by a virus, according to WebMD. Today, the R&B singer takes medication for her <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2008/01/21/toni-braxton-heart-disease.html" target="_hplink">high blood pressure</a>, walks on a treadmill and eats salads and soups instead of her favorite salty foods, like burgers with bacon, she told The Daily Beast.
The comedian was forced to postpone his stand-up tour after experiencing shortness of breath. Doctors found he needed an aortic valve replacement, a procedure that was performed <a href="http://articles.cnn.com/2009-03-23/entertainment/robin.williams.health_1_normal-heart-function-cardiothoracic-surgeon-cleveland-clinic?_s=PM:SHOWBIZ" target="_hplink">successfully at the Cleveland Clinic</a> in Ohio in March 2009. Never one to miss an opportunity for a joke, Williams appeared on Barbara Walters' 2011 special, calling himself and her other guests the <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Health/barbara-walters-heart-special-matter-life-death/story?id=12810130#.TzA_pOPLzwc" target="_hplink">"Brotherhood of the Cracked Chest Club."</a> "You literally are opened up, and you really do <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20295149,00.html" target="_hplink">appreciate the simplest things</a> like breath, and friends," he said at the Television Critics' Association panel in Pasadena, California in July 2009, according to People.com. "I've been calling up all of my friends and saying, 'Thanks for being there.'"
The TV host said there was <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/03/17/people-regis-dc-idUSN1547028620070317" target="_hplink">plaque in some of his arteries</a> that needed to be cleared out on "Live with Regis and Kelly" in March of 2007. He underwent successful <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20015027,00.html" target="_hplink">triple bypass surgery</a> later that month at 75. Philbin had a <a href="http://articles.cnn.com/2011-01-18/entertainment/regis.philbin.retiring_1_regis-kathie-lee-daytime-emmys-outstanding-talk-show-host?_s=PM:SHOWBIZ" target="_hplink">hip replacement</a> in 2009 before retiring in 2011 at age 79.
In her 2009 autobiography <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Miles-Go-Miley-Cyrus/dp/1423119924" target="_hplink">"Miles To Go,"</a> the starlet disclosed that she has <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2009/03/10/miley-cyrus-discloses-heart-condition-new-book/" target="_hplink">tachycardia</a>, a heart condition that causes her heart to beat faster than normal. "The type of tachycardia I have <a href="http://articles.nydailynews.com/2009-03-10/gossip/17917786_1_miley-cyrus-hannah-montana-heart-rate" target="_hplink">isn't dangerous</a>. It won't hurt me, but it does bother me. There is never a time onstage when I'm not thinking about my heart," she wrote.
The snowboarder was born with <a href="http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/tof/" target="_hplink">tetralogy of Fallot</a>, a congenital heart defect that affects the way blood flows through the heart, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. White had <a href="http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/features/siadventure/29/boarding/" target="_hplink">two open-heart surgeries</a> before he was a year old, according to <em>Sports Illustrated</em>, and regularly checks in with a heart doc. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/anhonorablegerman/6023295703/" target="_hplink">Charles McCain</a></em>
The actor recovered from a planned <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/03/burt-reynolds-heart-surge_n_484025.html" target="_hplink">quintuple bypass surgery</a> in 2010 at home, with <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20348233,00.html" target="_hplink">round-the-clock nursing care</a>, according to People.com. "He wants to thank everyone for their good wishes and states that he has a great motor with brand new pipes and he is feeling great," a rep said in a statement.
After Michaels suffered a mini-stroke in 2010, doctors found <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20460416,00.html" target="_hplink">a hole in his heart</a>, which was successfully repaired in 2011. "I am pumped to get <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20466958,00.html" target="_hplink">back on the road</a> and start rocking out on stage for all my awesome fans," Michaels told People.com a month later.
The actress, who lost her father to heart disease, has what's commonly called a leaky valve, which gives her the feeling that her<a href="http://www.everydayhealth.com/heart-health/jennie-garth.aspx" target="_hplink"> heart is fluttering</a>, she told Everyday Health. While the fluttering doesn't impact her greatly now, <a href="http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/30950377/ns/today-entertainment/t/jennie-garth-reveals-heart-condition/#.TzBHtePLzwd" target="_hplink">complications may arise</a> as she gets older, she told Access Hollywood.
After paddle boarding near his Hawaiian home in 2008, the actor was taken to a local hospital, where doctors concluded he had had a <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/HeartDiseaseNews/story?id=4982043&page=1#.TzBLVOPLyK4" target="_hplink">minor heart attack</a>, according to ABC News.
In 2002, the talk-show host opted for <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/08/22/earlyshow/health/main519528.shtml" target="_hplink">open-heart surgery</a> to correct a life-long valve problem, according to CBS, performed by the same surgeon who operated on David Letterman and Larry King. A few years later, after experiencing shortness of breath in Syria, Rose had emergency <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/life/people/2006-03-29-charlie-rose-heart-surgery_x.htm" target="_hplink">mitral valve surgery</a> to correct narrowing of the valve in Paris in 2006, according to the AP.
The famed actress was diagnosed with <a href="http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/heart-failure/news/20110323/actress-elizabeth-taylor-dies-at-79" target="_hplink">congestive heart failure</a> in 2004. She died of the condition, which limits the heart's ability to pump blood around the body, in 2011. While five million Americans are <a href="http://healthland.time.com/2011/03/23/are-you-at-risk-for-congestive-heart-failure/" target="_hplink">living with congestive heart failure</a>, as many as 20 percent die within one year of diagnosis and 50 percent die within five years, according to <em>TIME</em>'s Healthland.
The longtime "Jeopardy" host suffered a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20071211/alex-trebek/" target="_hplink">minor heart attack</a> in 2007 at age 67, according to the AP.