Saturday, November 20, 2004

Red Dresses

I was 32 years old when I was diagnosed with heart disease. I had just given birth 7 days before, and my OB/GYN refused to see me, saying that I had "new mom anxiety". What I had, in fact, were several pulmonary embolisms and my lungs more than half filled with fluid. That, and the fact that I was in end stage congestive heart failure. Thank goddess for an astute ER doc who sent me into Boston to get the help I needed. It was four years ago this week that I asked that question, " Am I going to be OK? " The ER nurse said, "we're doing everything we can honey." I asked again after the drama of helicopters, transport to Boston, and goodbyes to my 7 day old girl. The resident explained my situation: I had a 50/50 chance of surviving one year. After that, the chance of my survival decreased as each year passed, and no one with my heart function lived more than 5 years without a transplant. I was so stunned, I didn't even tell my husband. All I could think was that this sort of thing happened in movies. My primary cardiologist, the chief of clinical cardiology at Beth Israel in Boston, was reluctant to discuss how much time I had. He wanted to get me well enough to care for my baby. My heart was working at less than 1/3 of what it should have been. My oxygen saturation level was in the 60's. My physical therapy goal when I arrived home from the hospital was to walk a total of 5 minutes each day. And I was not allowed to climb stairs. The first two weeks of my daughter's life were managed by my husband, and when I had to take over, I was almost too weak to lift her. We had to hire help. I was courted by every cardiologist within 20 miles of Harvard. They loved me, I was a freak case. Classes came to my hospital room, and students called me at home. I took 7 different meds, including injections of blood thinner. Then onto Coumadin, more commonly known as rat poison. So, here I am 4 years later. Normal heart function. When I hit that 5-year mark that they said I wouldn't, we'll have quite a party. Can you all come? I'm a national spokeswoman for women with heart disease. Somehow, most of us don't understand that it is the biggest killer of women (and men) in the U.S. The Pink Ribbons have done a world of good for breast cancer. We've modeled our public education campaign after the pink ribbons. It's called the Red Dress Campaign. Look for the red dresses just after the holidays, and for the new ad campaign which will feature Gaiagal herself, along with the Princess Lily. Who also has heart disease. (another post, for sure) We'll be on billboards, magazines, and newspapers. And subways. I've also done some interviews for Dateline and PBS, I'll let you know when those will air. You didn't know that you were reading the blog of a famous supermodel, did you? Take care of your body, listen to your heart. Go buy a red dress pin, tie, scarf, whatever: Womenheart


  • At 11/22/2004 10:19:00 PM, Blogger Kate said…

    Wow. As soon as I can I'll buy a red dress pin. And a year from now, if we have a bit more money, you tell me where you are and I'll be at your party to celebrate with you.

    Congratulations, a bit early.

  • At 11/23/2004 07:00:00 AM, Blogger Miko said…

    Hey, you guys are famous! Cool!

  • At 11/23/2004 09:57:00 AM, Blogger olivia said…

    That is an incredible story! I am so relieved your heart is fine now. You could write a book on the whole experience. Maybe you should? It will have to be a massive party. We are all so lucky to have you with us.

  • At 11/23/2004 11:17:00 AM, Blogger dawn said…

    Thanks girls! I am sooo glad to be here. I also gained a new perspective and attitude, which I'm grateful for.

    Too bad I had to almost check out before someone recognized my 'modeling' potential - eh? LOL!

  • At 11/23/2004 02:30:00 PM, Blogger Susan said…

    How fun is it to get the modeling chance? What a challenging experience you and your family have gone through. I can't even imagine how the hospital stay and recovery were. I'm also glad you now have a healthy heart. It's a warm, loving heart as well.

    Take good care. =)

  • At 11/23/2004 03:20:00 PM, Blogger chasmyn said…

    This is wonderful.

  • At 11/25/2004 02:22:00 AM, Blogger niqkita said…

    Amazing! I knew you were special, just had no idea how special, that you do so much for others in spite of your own hardships, it's really something! 5 years ago, just as I was planning to take time off from my job to work on this neat new business idea I had involviong socks & the internet, my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer, one doctor couldn't even look her in the eyes and say she had a chance, luckily she was seen by many doctors at OHSU, none could be sure, but they sure said we could try, we did everything we could and tomorrow we'll all be eating Thanksgiving dinner together here in the sock empire.
    Here's to beating the odds, may we all have the strength & courage to go forward when adversity rears it's ugly head and snarls at us.

  • At 11/30/2004 07:22:00 AM, Blogger Cait said…

    There's a reason it's called "practicing" medicine. Dawn, how did you beat the heart disease? Did it just clear up on its own or did you find a doctor that gave you some sort of treatment? You should write a book.


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