Just in the Nick of Time
by Jane Kendall
Photo provided by American Heart Asspciation
Mary Kate Boyle had no idea that she was on the brink of disaster. With a lengthy career as an emergency room and intensive care unit nurse, she was very familiar with symptoms of heart disease. However, hers were atypical. She and her husband had been living a fairly healthy lifestyle: eating a healthy diet; maintaining healthy weights; both very busy and physically active. An extensive cardiac workup two years before had revealed nothing alarming. Mary Kate had been experiencing tightness in her neck and back for a few months, along with a funny feeling in her chest. She did not have chest pain, nausea, or pain radiating down her arm. She chalked it up to stress. Her mother-in-law had recently died. Her daughter had endured a complicated pregnancy and almost died and then required emergency surgery right after her delivery. Her daughter- in- law was pregnant, due to deliver anytime. Life’s tensions seemed a legitimate explanation for the physical tightness.
In September of this year, Mary Kate spent an entire day working on an online nursing refresher course. The usual pain in her back and shoulders intensified. Finding no relief from a shoulder massage, hot shower, analgesics, and unable to sleep, she finally realized that something serious might be wrong, and decided it was time to take action. It was none too soon. Her husband drove her to the nearby hospital where she was rushed immediately to the cardiac cath lab for a stent. Mary Kate had suffered a heart attack. Luckily, she is still alive to tell her story! She is now participating in cardiac rehabilitation three days a week and is making steady progress. She reports that she now feels better than she has in a long time.
No stranger to heart disease and the American Heart Association (AHA), Mary Kate’s husband, John, has a rare heart condition, which causes coronary artery spasms. He has been involved in AHA research studies at the Mayo Clinic since 1988. In 2010 Mary Kate and John’s daughter was married at the Westin Resort on Hilton Head Island. The Boyle’s were invited to be guests of the Westin at the annual AHA Heart Ball the following January.Since that time they have been actively involved as volunteers. They were co-chairs of the 2014 AHA Heart Ball on Hilton Head Island.
Mary Kate credits her involvement with the American Heart Association for her ability to finally link her atypical symptoms to a heart attack. She advises all women to pay attention to their bodies. Most women function under a great deal of stress in their lives. It is important to notice symptoms that may be significant. If in doubt, see your doctor, or go to the hospital. Mary Kate wishes that she’d had her symptoms evaluated sooner: perhaps she would have experienced less damage to her heart muscle.
Countless Americans, like John and Mary Kate, owe their lives to AHA-funded research breakthroughs and the AHA’s guidelines, training, advocacy and programs. Heart diseases and stroke are the number one cause of death in South Carolina. The American Heart Association educates lawmakers, policy makers and the public, and advocates for changes to protect and improve the health of our communities.
Last year, the Heart Ball campaign raised $51 million nation-wide for research and programs across the country and in our own community.
Corazon, the Spanish word for heart, is the theme for the 2016 Heart Ball. This will be a grand celebration of the work and mission of the American Heart Association, the donors and volunteers, and the lives saved and improved because of everyone’s effort. The Heart Ball promises to be an engaging evening of fun and passion, bringing community and philanthropic leaders together. It will be held at the Westin Resort and Spa on Hilton Head Island on Saturday, January 30, 2016 and will feature a delicious, heart healthy dinner and entertainment by Deas Guyz. You are cordially invited to share your time and talents to make this event an outstanding success and to contribute to the health of our beloved community.
What Mary Kate wants everyone to know: Pay attention to your health. Don’t ignore symptoms. If in doubt, get yourself checked by a medical professional. Don’t wait. It could save your life!
The AHA is sponsoring an “Open Your Heart” campaign. To honor survivors or remember those whose lives were taken too soon, make a donation of $25 or more before January 8, 2016. A personalized heart will be placed on the first Healing Hearts Tree to be displayed at the Heart Ball.
Tickets for the Heart Ball can be purchased and donations for the “Open Your Heart” campaign can be made on line at: www.hiltonheadscheartball.heart.org