If you saw a lot of red Friday there's a good reason. The American Heart Association dedicated February 7th as National Wear Red Day 2014. It's a chance to spread the word and bring awareness to the very real threat of heart disease in women. According to their numbers, heart disease kills more women every year than all cancers combined.
If you ever wondered if the Go Red campaign is making a different, look no further than Julia Allen. She's a married working mother to three very busy boys. She's head teller of Certus Bank at Charlotte's South Park location.
A year ago Julia got to work, but didn't feel well. She thought she'd gotten the flu from a co-worker. She described her symptoms, "I had profuse sweating. I just got hot like you wouldn't believe! I had really bad nausea and I couldn't throw up. I felt like I had really bad heartburn. It felt like somebody was twisting in my chest, like wringing out a rag. I felt this tightening of my jaw. And there was a pain down my arm and that's when I thought this isn't right!"
That's when Julia remembered the color red. "There's something I remembered on a billboard or something somewhere about red so I just typed in red and women's symptoms of having a heart attack," Julia said. After a quick Google search, the Go Red for Women page popped up. "I sat here Maureen I looked at the screen. I had six of the seven symptoms. But I didn't believe it. I said no I am not having a heart attack," Allen thought.
She was like most busy moms, thinking more about the lives of those around her, and taking little time for her own well-being. "I was always on the move, you go to work you go to track, football practice, lacrosse, golf…you name it my kids do it! Saturdays you're at track meet, I was always on the move and I thought I was eating healthy," Allen described.
Putting her sons' needs above hers seemed noble -- until it could have killed her. As she looked at the Go Red web site Julia said, "I can see myself in that picture! That's what helped me to realize I was having a heart attack!"
But even with that knowledge, old habits are hard to break. Julia actually stopped home before the hospital to leave a key and snack for her boys. It was five and a half hours later when she walked into the ER and collapsed. But she might never have gone if she hadn't remembered the Red...and seen the faces of women who'd survived heart attacks, and read these stories.
Julia Allen is a different woman today than she was when she suffered her heart attack. She's lost 30 pounds, exercises regularly and has developed recipes that are heart healthy, she shares inspirational heart healthy lifestyle on her facebook page. When I asked her what she thinks about the National Wear Red Day? "It absolutely undeniably it saved my life," she told me.
But because she took so long getting to the hospital, Julia suffered a second heart attack that night. She didn't need surgery; she's being treated with medication, diet and exercise. When I asked her what she would tell other women who might feel the same symptoms, "You need to call 911 immediately."
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