Over a year ago, my sister-in-law Kim teamed up with Elizabeth Banks to save my life.
Now, Kim's not an actress; she's more like an email activist "saving the world one forward at a time." And just before Thanksgiving in 2011, she sent me a video that Elizabeth Banks wrote and starred in for the American Heart Association's Go Red For Women movement, Just a Little Heart Attack. It gave me a good laugh -- yes, it's about the symptoms of a heart attack, but it also captures the ridiculous chaos of a typical supermom, getting the kids fed and out the door to school while neglecting herself.
The truth is, though, I deleted the email as soon as I watched the video. Not only are my get-the-kids-to-school days long gone -- in fact, my grown daughter was about to get married -- I also just wasn't the kind of person who worried about a heart attack. I've always taken care of myself, and I had just been to the doctor where a battery of tests gave me a clean bill of health.
It only took a month for me to learn that, unfortunately, I was the kind of person to have a heart attack. I'd just gotten back from some pre-wedding shopping with my daughter when I started to feel not quite right. The first thing I thought of was Elizabeth Banks in that video -- because she'd made me laugh, she made an impression on me, so I actually remembered the symptoms of a heart attack: pressure or pain in the chest; pain in the arms, neck or stomach; nausea or lightheadedness. Even as I found myself thinking I could be having a heart attack and dialing 911, I felt a little embarrassed. When the EMTs arrived, I greeted them at the door, sure they were going to tell me I was overreacting. Instead, they sat me down, put some monitors on me, and confirmed that I was, in fact, having a heart attack.
In that moment, everything in my life came dangerously close to crashing down. I couldn't believe this was happening to me, or to my daughter. This was supposed to be the happiest time of her life. What if I wouldn't be physically able to help her in the days leading up to her wedding? What if I wasn't well enough to attend the wedding?
And then, I had the most terrifying thought: What if I wasn't going to be here at all?
That's when I made my own vow: I was going to get better, and I was going to dance at my daughter's wedding, just three weeks away. I am here today to tell you that I achieved that goal.
I was lucky. I have no family history whatsoever of heart disease, yet I was able to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack because I have a sister-in-law who cares enough to hit "send," and because there's an actress who knows how to make those symptoms memorable. Thanks to them, I got to the hospital quickly enough that I suffered no lasting damage.
To Kim, to Elizabeth Banks, and to Go Red For Women, thank you. You really did save my life. You made it possible that my daughter's wedding day really was the happiest day of her life -- and so far, for mine.
On this 10th Annual National Wear Red Day®, I'd like for every woman who reads this to take three and a half minutes to watch Just a Little Heart Attack. It won't take much time out of your day. But it just might save your life.
Christie is a national volunteer for the AHA's Go Red For Women movement. She learned the signs of a heart attack from watching Just a Little Heart Attack starring Elizabeth Banks. When she was experiencing the symptoms, she remembered the film and called 911. Because she acted immediately when she felt something was wrong, Christie danced at her daughter's wedding three weeks later.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the American Heart Association in recognition of Wear Red Day, the aim of which is to raise awareness that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women. To read all the stories in the series, click here.