I have known Jennifer for years and years now and boy is she an incredible woman. She is an extremely hard worker, super passionate about when she believes in, and a loyal, great friend.
I think most people in Billings know this woman… she has been involved in so many community related things and helped Billings in too many ways to count. Thank you Jennifer for your selfless heart and your passion and drive. I adore you. Thank you for being part of this project!
- Before personally going through something related to heart health, did you know much about it?
I was in Junior High when I started having problems, so it was all new to me.
- Have you ever lost anyone due to a heart related health issue?
- If you answered yes to the previous question and you’re comfortable answering- what happened? And to whom?
As with most families, several of us have dealt with serious cardiac issues. My 18 year old cousin died from sudden cardiac death while practicing on the football field with his younger brother. He was an incredibly talented High School athlete in peak physical condition, but happened to possess a rare gene that brought on hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which when gone undetected, can lead to sudden cardiac death. All of his routine physicals missed the signs of this disease, unfortunately. Another cousin suffered from sudden cardiac death when she was a school bus driver just as she was preparing to pull out from the bus barn, but was kept alive with over 20 minutes of CPR until the volunteer ambulance service could arrive. She was eventually resuscitated, and now lives with a pacemaker and defibrillator and is here to enjoy time with her family. My grandfather also passed away from a heart attack.
- Why do you want to be a part of this project?
Heart disease is still the number one killer in America, but it doesn’t have to be. Many of the deaths of our loved ones could be prevented with a healthier lifestyle and preventative health care. I love supporting the mission of connecting people to each other’s stories and reminding everyone that good preventative care saves lives.
- How have you been affected by Heart Health?
When I was 12 years old I started having issues with a rapid, irregular pulse that would cause me to pass out. The problem was unpredictable and intermittent, and could never be replicated when I was in a doctor’s office so that they could record and diagnose what was going on. For years the doctors were unsure of what was happening, and I was told it was all in my head. They thought I must be doing it to myself to gain attention. I felt humiliated, but the problem continued.
By the time I was in high school the issue is happening more and more frequently, and was becoming more severe in duration. I could not drive because it was not safe for me or anyone else. At 16 I was lucky enough to be referred to an amazing electrophysiologist in Billings who was able to quickly diagnose the problem. I had an extreme electrical malfunction in my heart called “Wolfe Parkinson’s White”, which caused such a rapid heart beats that my heart could not keep up. Hallelujah!
Unfortunately at that point the solution was not so simple. For years and they tried many different medications, all of which had terrible side effects, but still failed to do what they were intended to do. By the time I was in college the problem had continued to worsen and I was being taken to the hospital by ambulance over and over again from my place of work, from school, or even just hanging out with friends. The medications weren’t helping at all.
Eventually when I was 18 years old I was told that I needed to have an experimental procedure called a cardiac catheter ablation. Today thousands of those procedures are done on a daily basis, but back then the science was still new, and was far from perfected. Of course at 18 years old you have no fear of the unknown and you are invincible, so I was thrilled to have this as an option. I could be cured!! The day before my surgery the nurse called to postpone my operation. It turns out that the patient that day had died on the operating table and they needed to figure out what had gone wrong. Eventually I was rescheduled, and thanks to Jesus for my amazing doctors, the procedure was a success. It was life changing for me!
- What do you want people to know?
If we are willing to be more proactive, use preventive medicine, and take better care of our bodies, most cardiac disease could be eliminated from our world!
- How has this all changed your life?
Hopefully I’m more sensitive to others who are going through health problems, especially when they don’t yet know what is happening. Going through all the testing to get answers can be a very scary thing!
- What’s the most important thing in the world to you?
My family and friends. I have twin three year old nieces that are the most precious things in the world to me.
- If this was your last week on earth, how would you live it?
I would throw a week-long party and spend as much time as possible with all of those that I love dearly. In my last hours I would be on my knees thanking God for giving me so many amazing blessings.
- What are you passionate about?
Our city, and making it a better place to live for our current and future generations.
- What do you love about yourself?
I love that I just made this big scary decision to leave a job I love so that I can refocus myself on God and the wonderful people He has placed in my life. It is terrifying to give up something you love so much, but I know I did it for the right reasons, and I am told God rewards scary leaps of faith!
- What is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you?
Believing in me, when no one else did, most especially me.
- Anything else you want to add?
Thank you for this amazing project Tracy!!
Thank you Jennifer for sharing your story, so glad they finally found out what was happening and your procedure was a success!! You are amazing!