“If I could talk to all the women out there...I'd say don't ignore your body. If you think you're not feeling right, see a doctor. We listen to everybody else first, our children our husbands. It's time to listen to ourselves! ”
An Amazing Story of the Woman at the "Heart" of Her Family
At the age of 68, family matriarch Carolyn King was in congestive heart failure caused by cardiomyopathy. Her heart muscle had nearly given out; it was so weak it couldn't pump an adequate supply of blood through her body. But physicians at MedStar Washington Hospital Center offered a life-saving option to heart transplant: LVAD, or Left Ventricular Assist Device. With an implantable tube that pulls blood from the heart's left ventricle into a portable pump, the LVAD successfully took over for Carolyn's weakened heart.
"When I woke up after surgery, I felt like myself again," King says.
For 18 months, the LVAD kept Carolyn's blood pumping vigorously, and she returned to her Sunday family dinners, cooking for her very large, energetic family of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
But, the blood-thinning medications she needed proved troublesome for the device, and the LVAD had to be removed. Amazingly, because of months of respite while the pump was doing the hard work, King's heart muscle had grown strong enough to function on its own.
King understood that her condition was chronic, but like her physicians and family, she had confidence that the "next new tool" may have been just what she needed to beat her disease. Physicians implanted a medication pump to more precisely deliver drugs to her heart muscle and improve its function. King was no longer concerned about being tethered to a mechanical device for the rest of her life-or anxious about her status on a long waiting list for a heart transplant.
For months before she was admitted to the hospital in critical condition, she had ignored nagging symptoms. "I should have listened to what I was feeling," she says. "I knew something was wrong for nearly two years, but I simply didn't want to complain. Today, I tell women to talk about what they are experiencing and keep talking until they believe someone is listening."
In early 2012, King lost her battle with heart disease. Her family expressed their gratitude to the Hospital Center's LVAD team for turning their "Wonder Woman into a true Bionic Woman" and giving them the chance to spend more time with the woman they loved.
“Listen to Your Heart” Message for Women: “Listen to your body,” says Carolyn. “There were signs and symptoms that I ignored. Go to your doctor regularly. I should have gone much earlier.” For an appointment with a specialist, call MedStar Washington Hospital Center at 202-877-DOCS (3627) or click www.whcenter.org/doctorsline.
Listen to Your Heart: Women at Risk is a public service campaign co-sponsored by NBC4 and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield.