Karen Englert – I had no idea
Karen Englert was born and raised in Memphis, TN and relocated to the St. Louis area in the late ‘90s. Her career began in education, working in the special education field before moving to the nonprofit sector. She works to create a healthier Missouri by engaging with our legislature, local governments, relevant agencies and volunteer advocates. Karen strives to influence and motivate decision makers in Missouri to improve public health. She believes her history of heart disease and her Irish descent give her a more powerful voice, thicker skin, and plenty of determination.
Outside of the office, you will most likely find her enjoying a nice dinner she did not have to prepare, an amazing cocktail with family and friends, or cuddled up on the couch with a good book or enjoying a political drama. Karen is married with four children and resides in St Charles County, Missouri.
Heart disease entered my life at age 23. Young, active, and living a healthy lifestyle, I didn’t fit what I then believed to be image of heart disease. I worked full-time as special education teacher and was busy raising a two-year old.
I had no idea someone my age could get heart disease. I didn’t even go to the doctor for symptoms of heart disease, even though I had many of them. I ended up at the doctor’s office because of a sinus infection. A cold brought me in – not the chest pains, the dizziness, fatigue, or the radiating arm pain. Like so many women, I ignored my symptoms because I didn’t understand what was happening with my body and did not want to inconvenience my family.
From age 23 to 26 I battled Supraventricular Tachycardia unsuccessfully, trying every beta blocker imaginable before undergoing three failed cardiac ablations. My heart rate would inadvertently climb from 60 to over 200 beats per minute as I struggled with a rare form of SVT known as junctional tachycardia. My final ablation resulted in the destruction of the Sinus Node and the complete occlusion of my Superior Vena Cava.
My occlusion has been deemed irreparable based on the severity, extent, and location of the damage. I am broken, dependent on collateral vessels to manage a workload they were not created for, medications to prevent stroke, and now completely reliant on a pacemaker to keep my heart more in rhythm.
Almost 15 years later and two open heart surgeries later, I refuse to give up. I understand my prognosis, have read every report I can get my hands on, and been evaluated by specialists overseas and around the country. But as I write this, I am confident I have a long life to live, despite my uphill climb.
Heart disease is hard, there is no way for it. But over time, it has also shown me what I am capable of, the support I have around me, and how much I have to live and fight for.
What was your diagnosis experience like? Join the Support Network to comment below and share your experience.