Go Red Day: Local woman shows heart disease can hit the young and fit

7:37 AM, Feb 3, 2012   |    comments
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GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- Friday is the day to wear your heart on your sleeve.

It's National Wear Red Day, a day designed to bring awareness to heart disease, the number one killer of women.

One local woman shows why it's so important to pay attention to the smallest of symptoms.

43-year-old Jodi Boyce-Thelen of Grand Rapids looks like the last person who would have a heart attack.

"I'm healthy, I exercise, I eat well," she said.

They're all recipes for a healthy heart. Boyce-Thelen even works at the Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center, a place she helped open up. She never would have imagined she'd have her heart opened up there.

"Sometimes I like to think I'm superwoman, I've got four teenage daughters," she said.

An avid runner, she experienced a slight chest tightness on the treadmill last January.

She didn't think much of it, but mentioned it to her doctor when he stopped in her office to say hi a week later. He made an appointment right away.

"I thought everything was going to be fine, I told everyone at work, I'm fine."

"When he came in to see me, he didn't smile, and he paused, and I knew right away something was wrong," said her husband, Dave Thelen.

A test showed Jodi's chest tightness actually turned out to be a sudden tear in her coronary artery, called a Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection.

It sent blood flowing through the layers of her heart. In the end, it left 90 percent of the left main artery blocked.

Two days later, she was in emergency double bypass open heart surgery.

"I said, 'How severe was that?" said Thelen of his conversation with the doctor. "He said she would have had a heart attack within the next week."

This type of tear happens mostly to women and doesn't discriminate.

It's hit the young and fit, even those without a family history of heart disease.

Jodi does have a family history, so now she's helping her daughters make lifestyle changes to prevent the same from happening to them.

"When we first started changing our diet, we spent a lot of time at the grocery store," said Dave.

"They'll say, hey did you look at this package? Maybe we should try the low-fat dressing," said Jodi.

"My daughter went through the drive-through at McDonald's and texted me saying, "I got a shake, but I got it without the whipped cream."'

Her family has served as her rock.

"My daughter found this rock and drew a heart on it with a marker. She wrote, "Love You, Survivor, 1-13-11,"
said Boyce-Thelen. "She gave it to me on the one-year anniversary of my surgery."

The surgery photos serve as a motivator to stay on course.

"At some point we'll grab those out as a reminder what we've gone through," said her husband.

And staff at the heart center continue, one year later, to show heart.

"I'm getting oatmeal in the morning, and people I don't even know stop in and say, 'Hey, good to see you're eating that, you're eating healthy. We need you,' and I get teary-eyed."

She knows she's lucky. Two-thirds of women who have a heart attack fail to make a full recovery.

Boyce-Thelen's main symptom was chest tightness. Other symptoms to pay attention to are sweating, shortness of breath, nausea, and pain in your neck, jaw, or teeth.

 

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