At 54-years-old, Army veteran Beverly Buchanan started to experience moments of light-headedness and the feeling she was about to pass out. After one of the more severe episodes, she requested an EKG. It was normal.
Beverly is a nurse who teaches cardiac disease classes for patients and hospital staff at Dorn Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina. Knowing her family history, Beverly knew she was at risk for heart disease. She had high blood pressure and high cholesterol. She managed both through a healthy diet and through exercise.
She pushed doctors for an explanation of what was causing her symptoms. Beverly’s doctor gave her a Holter monitor to identify electrical problems with her heart. A few weeks later, Beverly woke up with extreme chest pain.
“I felt like I was going to die it was so intense,” she told the VA’s Vantage blog.
It turned out that Beverly had a major blockage in her main coronary artery, and would require open-heart bypass surgery. While Beverly was in good physical shape before the surgery, it still took its toll.
“My son was 12 at the time, and I was terrified about how I would support us,” she said. “Doctors and nurses are good about telling patients about the physical part, but we’re not as good about the other stuff, like side effects from medication or the emotional part of recovery.”
Beverly was forced to make changes in her life. She was forced to slow down and ask for help. No, she shares her story with doctors and fellow nurses and heart patients. She stresses the importance of knowing your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers by heart.
“It is important to Know Your Numbers, and have conversations with your healthcare providers,” she said. “I was trying to be in control, but you can’t fix everything yourself. I still advocate for myself, but I’m quicker to follow my doctor’s advice and accept that he knows what he’s talking about.”
February is American Heart Month, a month dedicated to reminding people about the dangers of heart disease. For more information, visit www.GoRedForWomen.org