One morning, about a year ago, I got a text from a client. She told me wasn’t going to be able to make our training session that night. She said she was at the ER and would send me details later. Laura had a newborn and a young son so my initial thought was one of them was ill or injured. Laura was just getting started and I worried that if this issue was serious, it might set her back a few weeks. I could not have imaged that we would not work together again for almost 9 months. When I received this text message later that day I was in shock.
In Laura’s words, here is what happened that night her world turned upside down.
I felt like I was being crushed by a huge amount of weight and no matter how I moved to get away from the crushing pain, I could not…I went back into my bedroom and asked Andrew (my husband) to get up and get (our son) some juice and then come back and call 911 because I was having a heart attack. Andrew jumped out of bed, and started listing all the symptoms of a heart attack. I had all the symptoms that he listed: my chest felt like it was being crushed, my left arm had a pain down it and felt strange/numb, I was having difficulty breathing, I was sweating, I was disoriented etc. Andrew told me to wait right there while he went to get the juice. Instead of just sitting there, I got up and washed my face, brushed my teeth, put on different clothes, picked up some toys etc. I was too embarrassed to have the first responders see me in my nightgown and toys on the floor.
Thankfully someone had shared the Just a Little Heart Attack video with Laura. Without that knowledge she might never have suspected what was happening to her. Being a woman in her early 30s she certainly didn’t fit the profile of someone at risk for a heart attack. She came to me originally to feel better and lose weight post pregnancy. Nothing in her health history indicated anything that would be a red flag for a heart attack. What neither she nor I knew at the time was she had a hole in her heart that she had been born with. It just chose that moment in time to make itself known.
I helped connect Laura with one of the past BetterU participants who had faced a similar situation and with the local American Heart Association office for more information and support on her road to recovery. She and I kept in touch via email. I could tell she wanted to come back to training but was also scared to push her body again.
I also signed up for Cardiac Rehab, which is a program for people who have heart attacks, heart disease, etc. In Cardiac Rehab, nurses supervise your workout program while you are connected to a heart rate monitor. This helped me to feel really confident and comfortable as I learned to increase my exercise level. After going through something so traumatic like a heart attack, I was very nervous about something like that happening again. Even though I knew that my condition was rare and a congenital heart defect, the thought of a heart attack taking place again was ALWAYS on my mind at first. It was very mental and emotional for me. Cardiac Rehab helped to ease some of these concerns.
Her doctor was also very cautious with exercise. He did advise her to lose weight but other than cardiac rehab he provided little help on the specifics of how to achieve that goal. Laura kept in her mind the things we had discussed about nutrition during the short time we had worked together and kept waiting for her body to be ready for exercise again.
I knew, as we began to plan for GoRed and BetterU 2014, that Laura was to be the Survivor Story for the GoRed for Women luncheon. I was, however, a bit surprised when she applied to be on the BetterU team. I was excited to have her back in the gym and help her achieve those goals that had been put on hold.
You couldn’t tell that Laura had worked her way back from heart surgery in the gym. She worked as hard and sweated as much as anyone else! She ENJOYED the Metabolic Circuit workout! She also enjoyed camaraderie of our Saturday morning meetings and workouts.
Being an athlete all my life, I loved the idea of being on a team with like-minded women who are all on a path to good health. I wanted that connection, support and encouragement.
Laura did have a bit of a head start on her journey. She came into the program having lost 30 lbs. since January. Despite a hectic summer she lost another 20 lbs with the BetterU program. Perhaps what is more important, however, is what she gained.
BetterU has changed my life and in turn the lives of my children and husband. Every Sunday, we plan what we are going to eat for dinner throughout the week. I make my grocery list based on this plan. It helps us to stay focused in busy, stressful times. If I’ve had a stressful day at work, my husband knows the plan for dinner so he can help me out if needed. We do not deviate from the plan because the food is in the house, and everything is pretty well laid out for us to follow. This has helped tremendously! In the evenings most days, my family also goes for a walk together. It is a nice time where we can talk and spend quality time together. It is also important for me to show my children patterns of healthy living and to include them in exercise and healthy eating. This way, it will be normal for them and they can hopefully incorporate these things into their lives someday when they are adults.
Laura admits that her journey has just begun. She told me that BetterU was a start, a way to gain consistency and “to feel like myself again – happy and healthy”. Based on her glow today at the GoRed Luncheon I would say Mission ACCOMPLISHED, Laura!