It was a typical summer day in 2013 for the Turner family of Derry. Greg and Sue spent the day outside enjoying the heat of early July, playing in the pool with their 8-year-old daughter Emma.
“It was a great day, just the three of us spending the entire day together having fun and just relaxing,” said Sue.
That day ended with Sue in the throes of a massive heart attack, and being rushed to Catholic Medical Center in Manchester where she would undergo a successful quadruple bypass.
It was the last thing anyone would have expected. Yet the signs had been there, and Sue had no idea.
Late that afternoon, she had gone in the house to take a shower before making dinner.
“When I got out of the shower, I was very tired and not feeling quite myself; too much sun I thought, and decided that I would take a nap. But I just could not get comfortable,” Sue said.
She was sweating profusely and Greg and Emma were concerned. “I just brushed it off as too much sun. What else could it be?” said Sue. “My husband, thankfully, had the good sense to call 911, essentially saving my life.”
In hindsight, she realized she had missed some early warnings. “I was gaining weight for no apparent reason. I was always tired but thought it was all the hours I had been putting in at work.” And she hadn’t taken the time in years to make an appointment for a physical.
While the family awaited the paramedics, Greg instinctively involved their daughter telling her what he planned to do to ensure the easy entrance and access for the EMTs. Emma jumped into action to help.
“I felt helpless because there was nothing I could do to take the pain and fear from Sue,” said Greg. “That feeling subsided somewhat when the Derry paramedics arrived and tended to Sue in the most professional and concerning way.”
While Sue is heart-healthy today, and the family has made tremendous lifestyle changes to ensure they all stay this way, this wasn’t the first time the family had dealt with a serious illness. Unfortunately, the first experience did not have a positive ending.
When Emma was 5, her cousin Aine passed away in 2010 at 8 years old from a rare illness called Pulmonary Veno Occlusive Disease (PVOID), which is a cause of Pulmonary Hypertension (PH).
Greg recalled breaking the tragic news to his daughter, with the assistance of her kindergarten teacher. Emma’s reaction was poignant and ever so innocent. “Aine’s in heaven now,” she said, looking a bit incredulous. “I didn’t know she could fly.”
As Emma has grown older, she understands more the grief she experienced and how it made her feel and still does – she doesn’t want others to go through that. Her mother’s experience only magnified her desire to find ways to help others.
When students at Barka Elementary School in Derry were offered an opportunity to participate in the American Heart Association’s Jump Rope for Heart fundraiser, Emma brought the paperwork home and said to her father, “Daddy, I want to do this. We can this for Mommy.” His response was, “Absolutely. We’ll get you signed up.”
She raised $2,250 in the fundraiser event, all of which benefited the American Heart Association. The school held an assembly in Emma’s honor, and she was awarded several prizes for her efforts, which had earned her the distinction of raising the most money. However, there was one more special award to be presented. Emma was the recipient of the American Heart Association’s National Young Heart Leadership Award, which is presented each year in recognition of one young person in the U.S., who demonstrates leadership in action. She was chosen from a field of 500,000.
And while Emma was awarded some wonderful prizes, she selflessly donated each to charity. First, she turned to the Friends of Aine, a nonprofit established by her late cousin’s family, to raise funds to build centers of support, safety and compassion for children who feel alone because of the death of a family member. Emma also won three tickets to a Boston Celtics game and she donated those to Make-a-Wish.
Emma’s mom, Sue, like so many women, hadn’t realized that she was a candidate for heart disease. According to Audra Burns, director of communications for the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association in N.H. and Vt., “Women are strong. We are smart. We solve problems. Women can do anything men can do. And, there are some things we’re even better at – dying of heart disease and stroke.”
Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from stroke and heart disease. The symptoms of heart attack are different for women than men, and can include sudden onset of a migraine, nausea, and jaw or neck pain. “It’s important that women know if heart disease runs in their family, and it’s also important for women to know their numbers (blood pressure, cholesterol),” said Burns.
And while more women than men have died from stroke and heart disease, the statistics for men are fairly daunting as well. More than one in three men have some form of cardiovascular disease.
American Heart Health Month is a time for everyone to focus on creating better heart health habits. On the first Friday in February each year, this year falling on Feb. 5, it’s National Wear Red Day, a day that calls attention to this silent killer of women.
“Everyone is encouraged to wear red, raise their voices, know their cardiovascular risk and take action to live longer, healthier lives,” said Burns. The goal for the entire month, however, is to raise awareness about heart disease signs and symptoms and to empower women and men to charge of their heart health.
Eighty percent of heart disease and stroke is preventable, Burns said, and the American Heart Association has created seven easy ways to prevent heart disease and they call it “Life’s Simple 7.”
Get active. Aim for 2 ½ hours of moderate physical exercise each week.
Manage blood pressure. One in three Americans has high blood pressure – yet one out of every five doesn’t even know they have it. That’s why it’s called the silent killer; it often has no symptoms.
Lose weight. Extra weight can do serious damage to your heart. Too much fat, especially around the belly, increases your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
Reduce blood sugar. Diabetes can quadruple your risk of heart disease or stroke; so keeping blood sugar levels under control is crucial to preventing medical problems involving the heart and kidneys.
Stop smoking. With one in five deaths caused by smoking, going smoke-free can help prevent not only heart disease and stroke, but also cancer and chronic lung disease.
The American Heart Association also offers My Life Check ®, available at mylifecheck.org, a free resource to receive a personalized heart assessment and customized life plan to kick-start a heart-healthy life.
For families, it can be a simple matter of making a few, small lifestyle changes, which can lead to heart-healthy habits. “Enjoy some family outdoor time, walking, hiking, skiing,” said Burns. “Take the time to include your kids in your weekly menu planning, maybe even take them to the store to pick out foods they will enjoy eating. Most importantly, parents need to live by example. If we want our kids to eat healthy and exercise, we’ve got to model that behavior.”
For the Turners, Greg says his wife’s heart attack had a huge effect on their family’s health and lifestyle.
“Having one parent with a weakened heart and concerns about future issues, I knew that I needed to get healthier,” he said. “Since the heart attack, we have eaten much better, a heart-healthy organic diet. Soon after Sue’s cardio rehab, we walked every night as a family. We joined a health club a while back and I have lost 30 pounds.”
As for Sue, “I wake up every morning thankful to God and grateful that I am alive, grateful that my husband still has his wife and grateful that my daughter has her mother.”
She appreciates how delicate life really is and is so thankful to the paramedics, her doctors and nurses and especially, Greg and Emma. “My family, who never left my side and my neighbors and friends, who to this day listen when I need to talk about this, because it is life changing,” said Sue. She tells everyone to take the time to get their yearly physical and to be aware of the warning signs of a heart attack – and to call 911 even if you’re not sure, because every minute counts.
Written By: PAMME BOUTSELIS For full article, visit the website: