Stories From the Heart
No two heart survivors’ stories are the same. Some see their lives change in a flash with an unforeseen heart attack. Others have conditions that appear early in life bringing the challenges of continuous monitoring and multiple procedures. But the heart patients whose journeys have led them to UofL Health – Heart Hospital share one thing in common: They all have the comfort of knowing that they have a personal care team devoted to helping them live their longest, fullest, healthiest lives. “It’s not over when you walk out the door,” says LVAD patient Tahwanda Johnson. “I can’t even tell you how far above and beyond my team will go to help me. They are a second family.” On these pages, you’ll hear from three women who thanks to the kind and cutting-edge care at the Heart Hospital, are living beautiful lives after a heart disease diagnosis.
Heart failure can happen to anybody. Melissa Pipes received a heart transplant after doctors found her heart was working at 35%. As part of the AHA Red Couch Tour, Melissa shared her story to encourage and give hope to others on their road to recovery.
Just shy of five months ago, Katie’s life unexpectedly changed due to a stroke. Her message: “No matter your age, make your health your No. 1 priority.” Katie’s courage to keep moving forward is shining example of how a stroke doesn't dictate where your life will go.
A New Heart and a Chance at Motherhood
Ambracia Jewell, 39, owner of a housekeeping business, married, mother of Briar Lewis Chatman, 3.
The first signs of heart problems came out of the blue, when Ambracia was just a little girl. “I was six and I came down with flu-like symptoms,” she says. “They suddenly worsened and I swallowed my tongue and couldn’t breathe, and I started having seizures. My dad had to perform CPR before they raced me to the hospital.”
A Single Mom’s Shocking Diagnosis
Tahwanda Johnson, 59, retired teacher’s assistant and Navy veteran, mother of two, grandmother of three.
When Tahwanda Johnson was just 35, she had a health scare that would stop anybody in her tracks. “I thought I had mono,” she recalls. “I went to the doctor, and he sent me right to the hospital. Looking back now, I think he probably knew what was wrong and didn’t want to scare me. When I got there, they ran tests and found that my heartbeat was irregular and that they would need to put in a defibrillator. It happened so fast.”
Her Heart Attack Never Happened
Anita Mathews, 63, retired mother of three, grandmother of nine.
It was luck that led Anita Mathews to discover that she had heart disease. “I was in my forties and felt like I was in the healthiest years of my life,” she says. “I was walking two and a half miles a day, five days a week; working a job I loved at a pediatric clinic for children with disabilities and enjoying my first grandchild.” A trip to the doctor to discuss neck surgery for a genetic defect resulted in an EKG that produced startling results: “They found a blockage and sent me to a cardiologist immediately,” says Anita.
For more patient stories, visit our Red Couch Tour page.
Special thanks to Today’s Woman
Photographs by Kylene White