What’s Your Heart Story?
By Artina Dozier-Gage
In recognition of Heart Health Month we are initiating a campaign. We want to hear from you. We’re inviting you to share your stories surrounding the ways in which heart health have impacted you, your loved ones, friends, patients (who are willing to share), or colleagues.
Feel free to share the happy and hopeful stories and/or the ones that are perhaps painful. Your stories can be a long detailed account or a short blurb. Regardless we’re here to listen to them all in hopes that your stories will help in improving the quality of someone’s life or perhaps even save a life. Send your stories to the email below.
The heart represents a symbol of life and of love. Many of our families have been faced with heart health…this is my heart story.
My father lead a very vibrant and active life. He had a sort of youthful exuberance and spirit about him. At seventy-two he was still thin and nimble and had no problems with getting around. He was what some may refer to as, “a young” seventy-two.
After a pretty rough time with mourning the loss of his wife (my mother) to cancer a few years prior, around this time I noticed that his zest for life and desire for companionship had begun to resurface.
He had fallen in love, no less! Talking with him reminded me of the days of being a teenager. I would listen intently as he told me about his 2 – 3 hour phone conversations with his new “lady friend.” Conversations that left his cell phone nearly dead, and often called for him to lay by outlets to avoid an interruption. I would hold back my feeling of slight irritation as I would sometimes think of my mother in context. Never giving him a clue. After all, I was happy for him. He was one of the most loving, and certainly the most generous man I’ve ever known.
My dad was a scholarly man, too. Learned. He was an artist and a consummate writer. He embodied the philosophy of lifelong learning. He had a true love affair with books and regularly studied the works of the great novelist, essayist, and poets. He also took interest in physics and quantum mechanics, studying the works of Einstein and others.
Sometime in February, the year he resumed dating, he experienced a “mild “ pain in his arm. There are many reasons he may not have gotten medical care – generational, cultural, socioeconomic, ideological – but he dismissed it saying, “I probably just sprained it.” He said he lifted too many heavy groceries up a flight of stairs. So, with his plausible explanation and with life being as busy as it is, I didn’t think a whole lot more about it.
Though we talked every single day he didn’t mention the paint. However, I later learned that he had mentioned it to my brother. My brother and I both doted on our dad. The three of us were a very close unit. Anyway, it came up again—the pain in the arm. This time, as any daughter would be, I became a bit alarmed and urged him to see a doctor.
Well, I told you he was a writer. He had a way with words. Very persuasive. He spoke with confidence and authority. “Look, I’m a seventy-two year old man. When you do things like sprain or pull a muscle it takes much longer for it to heal properly. I’m alright. It’s not about anything. Just relax.” He was sure that he had it figured out. While I still felt a little uneasy about it, I must admit that his words put me at ease.
A week later the film “Black Panther” came out. There was so much excitement and buzz surrounding it that my cousin had taken him to the theater to see it.
The following morning, he passed away. It looked as though he had been sleeping. It was early in the morning. When I got to the house, we saw him laying (very peacefully in seemed) in his bed with his books (9 of them), some still open to the page he had left off, others book marked.
My father had been experiencing a heart attack. That pain in his arm was what we would later learn to be a “well known” symptom of having a heart attack.
My father had knowledge of many things. He could tell you about the interactions of matter and energy. However, he didn’t know one of the classic signs of a heart attack. Nor did I. Nor did my brother. Nor did anyone else he mentioned it too. There were no other signs. In fact, he looked so good, and healthy, and physically well that we used a photograph taken of him the day prior to his passing for the cover of his obituary. That was how alive he was!
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for all Americans. Some groups have an even greater risk of developing heart disease. The American Heart Association reported that a lifetime of exposure to the stresses of discrimination may increase the risk of high blood pressure in African Americans, according to new research. The With cases of consistent high blood pressure hypertension often follows. As a result, African-Americans are 30 percent more likely to die from heart disease. Too many families and communities are being robbed of the irreplaceable wisdom and love and strength that our mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers possess.
I’m a private person, but I’m sharing with everyone today in hopes that fewer and fewer people in our community and beyond will have a similar story to tell tomorrow. The more knowledge and education we have surrounding the condition of heart failure and hypertension, the less our community will be negatively impacted.
This is my heart story.
What’s your heart story?