“I didn’t associate [my pain] with heart disease, because I always thought that it would be like radiating down your arm. You hear about people feeling like there’s an elephant on their chest. I never had that.”
Bunny started out as a computer programmer at Manulife 29 years ago, a rare commodity at that time. Now on the cusp of retirement, she is excited to have time to fully embrace her now active lifestyle and volunteer opportunities, like sharing her story of heart disease.
It began in January 2014, with what Bunny says was a little bit of discomfort, rather than pain, in her left shoulder. At the age of only 51, she chalked it up to the stress of her very busy management role. But the pain started to become more frequent and intense.
Bunny had none of the risk factors which would suggest an increased chance of developing heart disease. She hadn’t smoked in over 30 years ago; her blood pressure was good; she was careful with her sodium intake; she was only a bit overweight; and her family didn’t have a significant history of heart disease.
Bunny recalls that it took a very strong reaction to an extreme pain radiating into her spine to make her realize she really had to get this dealt with. She called her doctor’s office and on their recommendation came directly to St. Mary’s.
As Bunny explains it, “I came into the emergency and within 5 minutes I was hooked up to the ECG. I thought, WOW, they really treat you like a VIP.” She was then taken to the diagnostics area for blood work, x-rays and eventually a CT scan. Everything looked normal.
She was back again two days later for a stress test, things changed. Bunny thought it a good sign when the technician stopped the test after just 4 or 5 minutes; in fact, it was because a blockage had been detected.
After three months of drug therapy, a follow-up stress test revealed this course of treatment wasn’t effective enough. Eventually, an angioplasty was performed to place a stent inside Bunny’s blocked artery. She remarked how amazing the impact of the procedure was, even the colour of her skin took on a pink colour.
For Bunny, life was grand again and she was getting out doing a bit of walking each day.
Throughout this journey, Bunny appreciated how very thoughtful and supportive of an employer Manulife was, including the willingness to transition her into a less stressful consultant role prior to retirement.
After taking advantage St. Mary’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program, Bunny joined a gym and found herself enjoying even longer walks. When a friend invited her on a hike of the Machu Picchu Trail she seized the opportunity. This was something she would never have dreamed of doing before. Since then she’s been hiking out in Jasper, Banff and last year in Newfoundland.
“My doctor says I now have the heart of an athlete and I am very proud about that at my age”.
Bunny finds herself reminding friends that “you only have one heart and you can't mess that up, because if you do, it’s game over” She listens to her body and considers daily exercise as important as brushing her teeth.
“It’s funny how getting heart disease turned out to be the best thing that has happened to me. It turned my life around. I am so much healthier now than I was back in 2014.”