“I had chest pains off and on for a month. I told myself that it was nothing. I was only 42. One day I was at work and I collapsed on the floor. I was having a heart attack. Today, I've quit smoking so that I can be here for my son, I'm exercising and losing weight. It's a slow process, but it's worth it. ”
Re-committed to Finding a Healthy Balance
Kennon Ross is starring in her own reality show and loving it. Her phone is ringing off the hook - friends, family and acquaintances are calling to say, "Wow, Kennon, I just saw you on TV-again." The public service advertisement about women and heart disease she "stars in" is airing once again. For Ross, a social worker, it's a chance to tell her story-a cautionary tale if there ever was one.
Just a year ago, the now 43-year-old Ross never saw it coming. She had been plagued with indigestion for months. But after a trip to the doctor and a chest x-ray, she got "thumbs up"-everything looked fine. So she continued to pop antacids and blame stress for the growing discomfort in her back.
But one day the pain became unbearable. Alone in her office, Ross lay down on the floor, praying for it to stop. She might have died there, she now knows. But a member of her staff came to work an hour early, found her and called 9-1-1. "He knew it wasn't just back pain," Ross said. "He knew what I didn't know. I was having a heart attack."
She was sent by ambulance to Washington Hospital Center, where emergency room physicians confirmed his hunch. Then, a speedy trip to the catheterization lab revealed a blocked artery. Doctors immediately inserted a stent to restore blood flow, and a few days later she was home, "feeling better than I had in nearly a year."
Like a lot of women, Ross had attributed her symptoms to juggling work, home and family life. Still when she did finally did visit her primary care doctor, her cardiovascular disease went undiagnosed. So now, she cautions women, "Don't wait. If you have symptoms that persist, go see a cardiologist."
It was her cardiologist who encouraged Ross to lose weight, stop smoking and start exercising. And she did, losing more than 20 pounds in just two months. "I was afraid I was going to die. So I made drastic changes to my diet, cutting out fast foods, and I entered a cardiac rehab program, exercising at a gym several times a week. And I quit smoking."
But once she started to feel better, she let her guard down. And she gained all the weight back, and then some. Now 40 pounds heavier, Ross is on a new quest for good health. "I want to see my son graduate college and get married. I want to see my grandchildren," she says. Ross made an appointment with a physician specializing in weight control, and is trying hard to "connect the dots about what I understand about diet, exercise and heart disease and the way I live every day. I know that when I commit myself to change, I can do it!"
“Listen to Your Heart” Messages for Women:
Listen to Your Heart: Women at Risk is a public service campaign co-sponsored by NBC4 and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield.