World Heart Day

September 28, 2018

What’s your heart story?

For World Heart Day, MicroMass wanted to show what makes us different by sharing how much heart we have and what makes us different. We have a connection with our hearts and the hearts of others. Here are our stories.

Hattie | Account Executive
I take care of my heart by loving my mom extra hard every November 26, also known as her “Happy Heart Day.” In 2001 my mom navigated a grueling journey to a diagnosis with a rare heart tumor. It all started one summer night when she woke up to what she described as a pain that felt like an elephant was sitting on her chest. My dad called the ambulance, she was rushed to the hospital to treat what was thought to be a heart attack, only to come to find there was nothing wrong with her! After a few more episodes of the same scenarios, many tests, and no diagnosis, my mom made the decision to advocate for herself. She knew something was wrong and no one was listening. She needed to tell her care team what tests she needed. Her request was for an MRI and Ultrasound.

The tests results were clear. My mom had a 2 inch tumor in the left chamber of her heart. It resembled a flag that would wave in the wind as her heart pumped. During her episodes of excruciating pain, small fragments of the tumor would break off and make their way through her heart. The doctors said my mom most likely had the tumor since she was born but if a large enough piece broke off, it would be fatal.

The tumor needed to be removed and the cardiologist gave my mom two options. Option 1 was open heart surgery to remove the tumor the old fashioned way. Option 2 was to partake in a new surgery that he and his team had developed using robots. She would be their guinea pig. We had a guinea pig at the time named peanut, so that (amongst maybe some others) was a good enough reason to go for it. She would be the guinea pig of this new surgery to remove her tumor.

November 26, 2001, 4 days after Thanksgiving, my mom underwent her surgery. The strongest superhero I knew was going into surgery. Being 10 years old at the time, I was scared that my mom was going into the hospital, but was naive to the fact that she was taking part in an extremely serious and extraordinarily complicated surgery. As I grew older, I learned the details of her story and learned what a superhero my mom was and still continues to be. It took courage, trust, and most importantly, heart, to take the risk that she took.

I commend her every day, but come every November 26, we celebrate my mom and her very special, very strong, and very loved heart.

Jessica | EVP, Health Behavior Group
I’m taking better care of my heart by focusing on the inside out – practicing mindfulness and letting go of things I have no control over – so that stress doesn’t take away the energy and focus

I need to take care of my heart and my whole body.

Johnny | Senior Behavioral Copywriter
Heart disease has me in its sights. Almost every significant statistic points to my developing heart disease sooner or later. Two of my grandparents died of heart attacks before age 60. My cholesterol is through the roof, and that’s mostly genetic too. I don’t eat meat, yet my cholesterol has crested over 350 several times as an adult.

Also not helping: my lifelong tendency to snack on sugar and fried crispy treats. (I’m not blaming genetics for that. That one’s on me.)

Fortunately, I know one thing that may save me: aerobic exercise. I get my heart pounding for at least 15 minutes at a stretch, usually longer, at least 5 times a week. I regularly ride my bike to work on the hilly greenways of Raleigh and Cary. When I don’t have time for that, I go to the park and shoot hoops – and chase down my rebounds at full speed, even when I’m the only one on the court.

When I give my heart regular workouts, it thanks me.

My cholesterol (particularly LDL) drops to levels that are only borderline high. And I FEEL better. I don’t get blood sugar lulls. I can get by with less sleep. I have the energy to be a better dad and a better writer. Everyone in my orbit benefits.

My dad has the same genetically high cholesterol. He’s 75, and he still rides his bike or does yoga every day. He has outlived both of his parents by 20 years, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down. I don’t know if I’ll be as healthy as he is in 30 years, but I’m going to try. In my family, exercise works.

Your results may vary. 🙂

Andi | Lead Behaviorist, Partnerships and Advocacy
I take care of my heart by exercising regularly and making an effort to keep my stress levels down as much as possible. Nothing in life is bad enough that it warrants damaging my body.

I need to be here for as long as I can for my husband and children.

Kim | Behavioral Copywriter
I take care of my heart by eating lasagna – at least, that’s what I should be doing according to the very Italian cardiologist I saw twice a year for most of my childhood. I was born with a ventricular septal defect (VSD), a tiny hole in the wall separating the ventricles of my heart that could potentially put me at higher risk for infections. At the end of every appointment, my cardiologist would tell my mother, “It’s getting smaller. She just needs to eat more lasagna.”

The VSD didn’t impact my life very much; I wasn’t allowed to have piercings, I would never be a star athlete, and I had to take a massive dose of antibiotics before any invasive procedure. But I didn’t really think about the VSD except for when I checked the “Heart Disease – Other” box on my medical forms.

In my 20’s, a new cardiologist finally declared the VSD closed and told me I had virtually no risk.

I smiled and said, “I guess I finally ate enough lasagna.” And then I went to get my nose pierced.

Chad | Manager of Marketing and Promotional Content

My heart story started long before I ever ventured into the real world.

I was around 10 years old when my grandfather suffered a quadruple bypass. I remember thinking, well, that doesn’t sound very good. It definitely wasn’t. It’s basically an open heart surgery to repair the blood vessels that lead into the heart. “Pappy” would thankfully recover, but his heart would never be the same.

The next chapter was when I was playing football in high school. After practice, I felt a deep pressure and pain on the top of my chest, like someone was jumping on top of me. I eventually put my (fragile) high school ego aside and got tested. I wore a heart monitor for the better part of a week, pressing a button every time I felt something that wasn’t quite right. And thankfully, everything checked out. They never discovered exactly why I felt that pain, but it never came back. And I’m very thankful for that.

Then, about 10 years ago, my mom (yes, Pappy’s daughter) was diagnosed with high blood pressure. By now, I was much more educated and understood that cardiovascular conditions were hereditary. This was a difficult conversation to have with my mom and for me to hear myself. Ten years later, at the age of 65, she had heart surgery to repair the vessels around her heart.

Fast forward to now. My mom is as healthy as she can be. Cautious. Guided. Concerned. But healthy. And for me, well, I understand that there’s a lot for me to do. There’s so much more for me to accomplish and witness my beautiful wife and 2 wonderful sons accomplish.

And I won’t take that for granted, because our story isn’t near complete.