Some 500 women went red on Friday for the American Heart Association’s local
Go Red for Women luncheon at the Westin Hotel in downtown Providence.
The women, and some men too, ate chocolate-covered strawberries, bid on
designer handbags and had a healthy chicken salad lunch. But mostly, they
showed their support for the Go Red campaign to spread awareness among women
that heart disease is their No. 1 killer.“It’s a valuable opportunity to
bring women together from Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts,” said
Anne Ferreira, president of the American Heart Association’s local board and
the spokeswoman for St. Anne’s Hospital in Fall River. “They can have a lot
of fun and learn about a very important topic.”
Heart disease kills some 450,000 women every year, which is about one every
minute, according to the American Heart Association.
When it comes to heart disease risk, the American Heart Association said
about 90 percent of all women in the United States have one or more risk
factor. Those include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes,
family history, age, post menopause, overweight or obesity, smoking, lack of
exercise and stress.
Because heart disease was mainly thought of as a men’s disease in the past,
the Go Red for Women and Red Dress campaigns work to shed light on the facts
about heart disease in women.
“I don’t think women think of it as an issue,” said Joan Medeiros, a
longtime Go Red supporter and the vice president of BankFive in Fall River.
“I think the American Heart Association has done a great job of making a
very serious issue much more apparent to everyone.”
The luncheon keynote speaker, Ginger Zimmerman, almost lost her life to
heart disease when she was 32 years old.
The artist and mother living in Baton Rouge, La., at the time, suffered a
severe virus that, unbeknownst to her doctors, slowly destroyed her heart.
For three years, Zimmerman was fatigued, had shortness of breath, chest pain
and even had trouble lifting her arm to brush her hair.
Her symptoms were downplayed, overlooked and misdiagnosed by her doctors
time and time again, she explained to a riveted audience.
“I was so frustrated,” Zimmerman said. “They just wouldn’t listen to me. I
felt it was my heart. I was desperate for an answer.”
In 1997, during a bout of bronchitis and several courses of antibiotics,
Zimmerman began to cough up a pink foam. A physician she hadn’t seen before
in the emergency room finally gave her the answer: full blown congestive
heart failure. Her heart was functioning at only 15 percent capacity.
For more than a year, Zimmerman had been at risk for sudden cardiac death.
Her only chance was a heart transplant, if she could survive the wait and
then the surgery. She waited for three and a half months, getting weaker and
“Finally, a donor heart had been found,” Zimmerman said.
Her husband David, working in Mexico as an offshore oil surveyor, had made
arrangements with his company to fly him by helicopter to his wife’s side in
New Orleans when a heart was found.
On the way there, the helicopter crash-landed in a body of water. David and
the pilot nearly lost their lives but for the pontoons that kept the
helicopter afloat. David arrived at the hospital late, but before his wife
went in for surgery. He had suffered a blow to the head, but was more
concerned with his wife’s health and declined treatment.
Zimmerman made it through the surgery, a new heart beating in her chest. Her
husband, she noticed, was ashen and needed to see a doctor.
He had suffered an injury to a small artery in his brain. It was bleeding.
It couldn’t be fixed.“He had been slowly dying,” Zimmerman said, choking
back tears. “They couldn’t save his life.
“David died nine days after my heart transplant,” she said.
Doctors worried that Zimmerman’s new heart would not be able to take the
pain and grief. But Zimmerman struggled on for her three children. Her
husband’s organs were donated and saved a life in the same hospital where
she’d had her transplant.
Source : www.heraldnews.com