On December 19, 2004 my life changed. At the age of 51, I was admitted to a critical care bed in the cardiac care unit of our local hospital and the next day transferred to the university hospital for an angiogram and angioplasty.
I had a 90% blockage of the left anterior descending artery.
The location of the blockage, left untreated, would result in a massive heart attack.
also learned I had a problem with my aortic valve (aortic stenosis)
although I didn’t learn until some time later that my valve was bicuspid
(two flaps) instead of the normal tricuspid (three flaps).
Based on my age and fitness level I should have bounced back from the angioplasty quickly – requiring approximately a month to recover. Instead, I experienced a rocky recovery - five stays in hospital, four angiograms, two angioplasties (I re-blocked), and six months off work.
I had to come to grips with the realization that I had heart disease.
Before this I considered myself very healthy. I was rarely sick. I golfed, walked, ran, hiked, danced, cycled, snowboarded, and more. I took the stairs instead of the elevator; I ordered the salad instead of the fries; I had oodles of energy and led a fast paced life with a demanding career. I didn’t fit the profile!
This unexpected shift in my life shook me to the core.
With the help of my medical team, a great rehab program, the support of family and dear friends, and a drive to get back to my life, I’m happy to say I was once again leading an active and fulfilling life.
But this experience changed my life forever.
I recognize the need to manage my health to get the most out of life and, because coronary heart disease is the number one killer in North America, I know there are many people out there in the same situation. I understand what it's like to have to change your thinking and your lifestyle - because I've been there.
While recuperating I found many good resources for medical information, and I was lucky enough to participate in an excellent cardiac rehab program (not everyone has the opportunity), but once the rehab program was over, I was on my own.
I searched for a comprehensive source of information and resources that would help me make and maintain the necessary changes in my life.
Not finding it, I created this website for all of us to fill that gap and to provide and share information, motivation, and resources for smart heart living.
In addition, others can share their smart heart living stories and tips on this site. I'm always touched by the struggles and triumphs others have endured with heart disease.
An update: In October 2011 I mentioned to my cardiologist that I had noticed several disturbing symptoms since the spring. I was becoming increasingly winded by simple activity, especially anything going uphill or up stairs. I had some dizziness, and I had a couple of unexplained falls. One moment I was up, then next I was down - and I had no recollection of tripping or stumbling. These were possible momentary blackouts caused by lack of oxygen. And I was exhausted all the time - everything seemed overwhelming, which is not my nature!
To make a long story short, I had open heart surgery on November 21, 2011 and now have a new tissue (bovine) aortic valve. I have joined the ranks of those who have "the scar" - my badge of honour - and I'm proud of it.
I hope you find the site helpful!
Smart Heart Living
Check out my blog - Sandra Thornton's Heart Beats On
Who is Sandra Thornton?
Sandra is a professional communicator who has worked in communications, marketing, and management for over 25 years. Educated at the Ontario College of Art, with a degree from Athabasca University, and accredited by the Canadian Public Relations Society, Sandra has won numerous awards for her work.
Sandra served on the national board of the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada from 2000 until 2002. She was on the board of the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Alberta, NWT, and Nunavut from 1995 through 2005, including serving as the first female president of the foundation from 2000 to 2002.
Sandra sat on the Strategy Council of the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute and has been involved with The Heart Truth, a national awareness campaign to educate Canadian women about their risk of heart disease and stroke. In 2008 Sandra created Smart Heart Living, a website with information, resources, and survivor's stories for those living with heart disease.
Read about Sandra in this article in Edmonton Women magazine,reproduced with permission of the publisher.