A/N: February is heart awareness month. This article was featured in a supplement in February’s issue of Businesswoman magazine.
By: Rosalba Ugliuzza
Brenda McCann was an active person growing up. She had played softball and bowled. She has never had high blood pressure or high cholesterol. However, when she experienced fatigue and shortness of breath, she thought it was part of the aging process.
Unbeknownst to her, her heart would take center stage in the years to come.
Her cardiac journey began in January 2008 when McCann, 51, was supposed to undergo a hysterectomy. But once she was under anesthesia, her heart jumped to 300 beats per minute. Alarmed, doctors canceled the surgery and performed a heart catheterization instead.
“They claimed normally when the heart races and does an irregular beat, it usually means there’s a blockage,” she said.
By spring 2011, she had a pacemaker put in, and in July 2012, she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, in which the organ wasn’t pumping out enough blood. McCann said her heart was pumping out blood below average, between 20 to 25 percent.
Doctors at PinnacleHealth performed a cardiac ablation to correct her heart rhythm problems. Though heart problems run in her family, McCann is the only member to have this surgery.
“I guess I can say I’m lucky I went in for surgery or I might not have known the condition that I had was serious and it was,” she said.
In addition to her follow-up appointments at PinnacleHealth, McCann takes her heart medications and monitors her sodium and water intake. She and her husband, Howard, have also taken an organic approach to their lifestyle like growing vegetables from their garden and ignoring packaged foods and canned goods from grocery stores.
“We bake our own bread. We can our own produce in the summer. It’s just something that we do,” she said. “Everything on my end contributes to longevity.”