Helping the underserved learn about heart disease.
March 22, 2010
Claire learned about her heart condition from the most unusual of circumstances; it all started with a dog bite. "Because my dog bit me on the hand, I ended up with a bacterial infection that put me in the hospital," she recalls. At the time, Claire was 51 and petite at 120 pounds. Though she had suffered and recovered from a mild stroke 4 years earlier, she had never considered herself a candidate for heart disease.
But getting ready to be discharged after her hand operation, she simply didn't feel right. I felt exhausted and had chest pains. A self-described "type-A, very vocal patient," Claire demanded more testing and finally received an ECG. The doctors were shocked to find 8 major arterial blockages.
It was then that she began to piece together the stroke that she suffered may not have been simply a neurological problem, but may have had roots in her cardiovascular system. Up until the recent past, Claire believes, physicians often thought of stroke and heart disease as 2 very separate issues, but her situation clearly indicated otherwise.
Surprised that she was still alive, given her blockages, doctors performed an emergency quadruple bypass the very next day. Recovery was rough for Claire, who suffered a staph infection in her sternum that kept her worn downand unable to participate in much-needed cardiac rehab therapy for 4 months.
That summer, she finally felt well enough to exercise, only to realize that 3 of the 4 grafts had failed, and she simply wasn't getting the oxygen she needed. Six months of fatigue later, her doctors recommended sending her to Boston to receive EECP (enhanced external counterpulsation) therapy, which seemed to work. "I had the energy to go kayaking up in Alaska later that year," Claire says, "I felt like I had my life back."
But 10 months later her symptoms came back, and she repeated the therapy cycle 4 times. Finally, she was able to participate in a clinical trial for a cobalt chromium metal drug treatment in conjunction with a medication regimen that includes an antiplatelet medication. Today, her heart seems to be working with only half the capillaries functioning normally.
Claire's experience proved to be life-changing in more ways than one. It showed her the importance of awareness and inspired her to become an advocate not only for her own heart health but for everyone's.
Through the HeartBright foundation in her hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, she works every day to teach women and men from all walks of life how to live in a heart-healthy way, recognize symptoms, and seek help for heart issues.
Because "no 2 bodies are the same," Claire's organization teaches customized care for each member. Their mantra is "AMES: Awareness, Measurement, Education, and Support." Telling her story every day at HeartBright's wellness center, which supports underserved commmunities, she helps people realize that anyone can be at risk for heart disease, empowering them to become advocates for their hearts.
As for her own heart, she works every day to keep it healthy. In conjunction with her medication, Claire is committed to cardiac fitness, exercising every day, running 3-4 miles at a time. "It's a use-it-or-lose-it situation," she says. "I can't afford to not be proactive."
Claire Blocker is President and Founder of the HeartBright Foundation. For more information about HeartBright, visit heartbright.org.
Source: Her Heart Community
Contact: Claire Blocker
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