Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

February 7, 2014

Wake-up Call: Hall knows now heart disease nothing to ignore

February is American Heart Month

By Raymond Linex II
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — Deep, deep in the back of her mind, it resided. Rebecca Hall knew the possibility existed. She just knew it.

“I thought maybe I’d be the one that skirts it,” she said.

Heart disease ran in her family. In 1958, when she was just shy of 2 years old, a heart attack took her father’s life. The youngest of 13 brothers and sisters, seven had dealt with heart issues.

Last summer, Rebecca became No. 8.

“I just didn’t worry about it,” she said.

After all, she was a wife working in the family business. She was a mother, and a grandmother.

“(Women) are so busy taking care of family, making sure the home is running along,” Rebecca said. “We put ourselves on the back burner. You tell yourself, ‘I’ll get to it.’”

It, for Rebecca, was her health.

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The Rebecca Hall File

Age: 57

Family: Husband Danny, daughter Ashley and granddaughter Arhianna, and daughter Chelsea and husband Teddy and granddaughter Kayden

Business: She and Danny own Interior Decorative

•••

There had been times of fatigue in the past. She chalked it up to just being out of shape. On May 26 last year, she woke up and started to get ready for church. She just wasn’t feeling it, didn’t feel up to it. So she went back to bed.

She started sweating, even vomited, and just thought it was something she had eaten.

“It all makes sense now,” she said.

All day she slept, off and on, restless at best. The next morning, Memorial Day, she woke up, and her husband Danny said, “Are you ready to go to the doctor now?” Again she brushed it off, thought it was just a bug.

“I guess about 10 o’clock, I thought, ‘I’m not getting any better,’” she said. So she turned to Danny: “You need to carry me to the ER.”

She told the nurses and doctors and Navarro Regional she may be having a heart attack. They never told her anything as they ran tests.

“They didn’t want me to panic,” she said.

Then the ER doctor informed her she had eight minutes. Eight minutes until the air ambulance landed. She asked what was happening.

“He said, ‘You’re having a heart attack,’” Rebecca recalled.

•••

Did you know?

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States, claiming more lives than all forms of cancer combined, according to the American Heart Association (heart.org, goredforwomen.org). February is Heart Month, and Friday is Go Red for Women Day.

•••

She was stabilized, flown to Baylor Hospital in Dallas, and after tests learned one of her arteries was 100 percent blocked. She had another 90 percent, and yet another 80 percent. But she didn’t feel bad, she insisted. She didn’t have the elephant-on-the-chest symptoms at any time, just some difficulty breathing. In the ICU at Baylor, nurses were amazed she was “cutting up” with family members.

Daughter Chelsea Nowell said the family knew “it” could happen.

“We had been expecting it,” Chelsea said. “When her chest had hurt a little bit the day before, my dad kind of knew. We just had to get her to quit being so stubborn. We weren’t surprised, but we were scared.”

A stent was placed in the fully blocked artery, and her surgeon said they would let her recover from that, then do open heart surgery in a few weeks. Rebecca, a rambunctious soul, could appreciate his humor.

“He said they had three (arteries) they wanted to do surgery on, but since I was in really good health, and he was already in there, ‘Let’s fix all five,’” she said. “He was a jokester. It wasn’t funny, but it was. He said, ‘For the money ... let’s go ahead an roto-root them all.’”

She agreed. On June 26, she underwent a quintuple bypass.

With a month to think about, she had plenty of time to reconsider. “Had it been one, or two ...,” she said. “But I knew it had to be done.”

Today, Rebecca says she feels fine. The three months of cardiac rehabilitation were critical to her recovery, she said. And she was able to do it in town, at Navarro Regional.

“I don’t think I’d be where I am today without it,” she said.

Post-open heart surgery, so much gets thrown your way. Diet. Exercise. Dos. Don’ts. It’s a lot to take in, she said.

Rebecca took on a little at a time, and still does almost a year later. She tries to live a healthier life. So do her daughters.

After Rebecca’s surgery, another sister became sibling No. 9 to have heart issues.

“I worry about (heart disease) all the time,” said Chelsea, who is 25 with a daughter almost 4. “I try to watch what I eat. I’m not the healthiest person, but I’m trying to get on that path,”

One thing Rebecca will not do is look at what happened early last summer as a bad thing.

“People have said, ‘That’s so terrible, so horrible,’” she said. “... I see the other side of it. This was a positive. I’m here. I’m not going to waste time looking at it as a negative.”

Rebecca hopes her experience helps other women out there.

“The one big thing is I hope women are taking care of themselves,” she said. “Make yourself a priority, especially if you have a family history.”

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On the Net:

www.heart.org

www.goredforwomen.org

www.navarrohospital.com

www.baylorhealth.com

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Raymond Linex II is the publisher of the Corsicana Daily Sun. He may be reached by email at rlinex@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “Soundoff” on this story? Email: soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com