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MedWatch: Heart Month

As we age, we tend to experience more general aches and pains. But are those just run of the mill, or a sign of something serious?

It’s easy to shrug things off as no big deal.

In honor of Heart Month, one woman shares her story and her message about why we all need to listen to our bodies, particularly women, in this month’s MedWatch report.

“My new motto is if not now, when?” said Susan Kotila. “I’m jumping at every opportunity to take a big bite out of life and as long as I can do it, I’m doing it. And I will tell you what, I’m going like mad right now and I love it!”

Susan’s enthusiasm for life is infectious, and these days so is her message. 

“I’ve become a bit of an annoying advocate, even with the ladies at Tom’s the checkout. And it’s the truth, I will really tell women you are your body’s best friend,” explained Susan.

She’s so adamant because just last year she wasn’t looking out for herself, despite the warning signs.

“I woke up in the middle of the night and I assumed it was my normal trip to the bathroom. I didn’t think this pressure had caused me to wake up. I just woke up and noticed a pressure, simply a pressure, and by the time I got up and out and back in bed it was gone,” said Susan.

A few weeks later, she had another incident, and then another.

“I was up at our local Tom’s Market doing our grocery shopping, ironically in front of the fresh produce. I’m sure about to reach for some kale and all of a sudden I got the pressure back again, which I recognized as the previous pressure and I thought ‘I’ve never had heartburn, it couldn’t be heartburn, I haven’t eaten anything today,’” explained Susan. “Then I thought ‘What is this? Why does my jaw hurt? I couldn’t possibly have a toothache. Oh well, it will go away.’”

After several weeks, Susan finally said something to her husband.

“He said, ‘Why don’t you give your doctor a call?’ And I did, and from that moment on I don’t know what happened. I went from the kale at the grocery store to waking up and you’ve had a triple bypass open heart surgery,” said Susan.

Jodi Radtke, R.N., B.S.N., with Munson Medical Center cardiac rehab, said “Women tend to be caregivers and tend to take care of their families. They may deny their symptoms, or they might be embarrassed to talk about it. So bringing up that heart disease can affect women just as much as men and that 1 out of 4 people, women die of heart disease and it is the No. 1 cause of death in women.”

Thankfully, Susan was not one of them. She acted before having a heart attack, but doctors said it was just a matter of time.

Today, about 10 months later, she’s doing what she can to take care of herself in cardiac rehab.

“Three days a week, 45 minutes, and then you have cool down. The support system here is wonderful, not only physically helping you and starting at the level you’re at and working with you, making you feel so confident because when you come in they give you this gizmo and it’s like a little transmitter that has wires and you connect them all over you and you do your exercises, and they are constantly monitoring how you’re doing,” explained Susan.

Between workouts and living her best life, Susan is sure to spread her new message.

“Take care of yourself! It’s not being sissy, it’s not being selfish, you’re doing it for your family,” explained Susan. “At the hospital, I remember one nurse telling me we would rather have women come in 10 times on a false alarm and on the 11th time we get it right, because she says, too often, we get it when it’s too late, and I tell women: listen to your body when it’s unusual; it’s unusual.”