Marie comes from a family with 16 children; eight of which have heart conditions - not all have survived.
Marie’s first connection to heart disease was the loss of her mother at the young age of 59.
Fast forward to adulthood, Marie lost a brother who was just 36, a sister at 54, and a nephew age 40. Another sister has angina and many of her brothers have been in St. Mary’s for heart surgery. Being a member of a family with a significant history of heart disease had always been a concern, particularly given there appeared to be no commonality in the type of heart disease or symptoms.
Marie worked in the operating room at Grand River Hospital for 30 years as an operating room attendant. She admits a tendency to worry a lot and the stress of working in the OR got to her. After retiring she continued to work in hospitals for a while before taking on a role providing caregiving support. “I can’t sit at home all day, I have to keep busy.”
One day at the dentist Marie felt a throbbing in her left lower chest and was surprised to actually see what looked like a small pulsating bulge. Her wristband activity tracker showed her heart was going 120 beats per minute and she was concerned. A friend told her she should go to St. Mary’s emergency.
Marie was experiencing an atrial fibrillation – an irregular heartbeat - and was given medication to bring her heart back into rhythm, which seemed to do the trick.
Over the next few months however the symptoms began to change “I just kept getting funny feelings in my chest when I was out walking and such a pain across my back.” She was scared, knowing that for women this is one of the signs of heart issues and came into St. Mary’s right away.
Though her stress test revealed little, a subsequent angiogram revealed that Marie had two arteries which were 70% blocked. Marie was booked for an angioplasty to place in stents to keep the arteries open. She was terrified, but being accompanied by her daughter greatly helped. The procedure went very well.
Marie says, “One of the biggest changes has been my diet. Take-out is out. I always thought I ate healthy. For lunch I would eat big salads with lots of fruit and cottage cheese, but then there were those other days I would go out for French fries and hamburger. I don't want to have a heart attack so now I’m very particular about what I eat and I don’t fry things anymore. There was a wonderful nutritionist at the cardiac rehab who reassured me I am now doing things right”.
“I feel great now, really good. I’m back being active and getting in my 10,000 steps a day. But I do wonder if this is going to happen to me again. Also, I have two daughters and one of them has high cholesterol. I am trying not to worry about everything, because I know anxiety gets me going.”
“To other women I would say; if there is anything strange, anything that’s not normal, get it looked at, don’t wait. And take someone with you for support.”