Don’t Die of Doubt: a message from Go Red for Women Real Woman, Ashley Lucchese
Ashley Lucchese went into cardiac arrest at her office, telling a coworker that she felt dizzy before passing out. The coworker performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) which saved Ashley’s life. The coworker had learned CPR two days earlier. Ashley had experienced a miscarriage four days before, so her body was weak. Doctors placed her in a coma, and she remained in the hospital for three weeks. Ashley, now 36 and living in Woburn, Massachusetts, struggled emotionally at first but decided to support fellow survivors and help with education about CPR and automated external defibrillators (AEDs).
Fear, anxiety and confusion. We have all experienced these feelings over the past 6 months during the pandemic. We have been thrown into a world where we do not know who or what is safe and how to best protect ourselves and our families, especially as heart disease and stroke survivors.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has resulted in some individuals not taking the best steps to keep their hearts safe. A recent study from the Harris Poll indicated that adults who are at risk for a heart attack or stroke are more worried about contracting COVID-19 than their heart disease risk and are avoiding the emergency room even when they have symptoms. That scares me more than COVID-19.
As a cardiac arrest survivor and a woman living with heart disease, I too am fearful of contracting COVID-19 like many of you. In the beginning of this pandemic, I had a strong fear of entering a hospital during these times, but then I had an appointment for a routine echocardiogram and my fear dissipated the minute I stepped into the hospital. The foot traffic in the hospital was much less than normal, there was signage placed all along walls and floors, and everyone was wearing their masks and distancing themselves.
As I parked my car, my stomach started to do flips. Was this the right choice? Should I have rescheduled until next year? I had to repeatedly remind myself that my cardiologist would not have had me come in if it wasn’t safe for me as he always has my best interest in mind. Upon entry, I was offered a disposable mask, but I had brought my own from home. There was signage throughout the hospital requiring everyone wear masks and stay 6 feet apart. I walked to the radiology department and checked in. The technician completing my echocardiogram was in complete PPE, sanitized the table before I got on it, and took extreme care in keeping everything clean. I immediately felt at ease and knew I was safe. My experience during this fairly simple procedure gave me complete confidence in hospital staff to protect me and anyone else in their care. These medical professionals are seeing the impact of this disease on their patients every day and are ensuring that those who do not currently have it, do not contract it while in their care. The extreme measures being taken at medical facilities make them one of the safer places to be right now.
Please don’t put your fear ahead of your heart health. Listen to your body and if you are having symptoms, take action and call 911. There are people in this world that need YOU. Please don’t die of doubt.
As a Go Red for Women Real Woman, I have learned so much more about the risks of heart disease and stroke in women. It is alarming how many of us are at risk and don’t even realize it. My hope in becoming a Real Woman is to educate women on their risks and encourage them to take steps to improve their overall health to protect their hearts. I could not have prevented my cardiac arrest which almost took my life but being healthy prior played a huge role in my survival and ability to fully recover. If nothing else, I hope I encourage you to make small changes to improve your health and use your voice to help your heart!