Athens Review, Athens, Texas

February 26, 2014

Women with heart

TMF honors county’s fighters

Chad Wilson
The Athens Review

Athens — Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in women, but two Athens ladies have fought back against the disease and were recognized for their efforts Tuesday night at the Cain Center.

Trinity Mother Frances Hospitals and Clinics toured East Texas during the month of February – National Heart Month – to highlight women who have battled heart disease and have lived to tell about it.

“The goal of the Women with Heart event is to increase awareness for women's heart disease because it is the No. 1 killer of women,” said Deb Taylor, hospital Chief Nursing Officer and event emcee. “Our goal is to get that message out there so people will protect themselves and keep their heart healthy. Our goal is to increase awareness of heart disease through women who have been touched by it.”

Taylor said TMF received more than 3,500 votes from across the community. But in Henderson County, two women stood out among those nominated for the honor of sharing their story.

Deanne Cope and Rhonda Glena shared their story Tuesday in front of a large crowd of family, friends and health-concerned members of the community.

“One of the inspirations I had after my heart attack was my doctor,” Cope said. “With God as his pilot and all of his skills, I am here today. What we talked to each other about was living the rest of my life. Then I decided to pay it forward. That is something I have decided to do since that time. It has been almost 21 years.”

Cope was care flighted to Trinity Mother Frances in Tyler over 20 years ago as she suffered from a heart attack. The surgeon told her she needed surgery for a ruptured heart valve and informed her family she had a 50-50 chance to live.

Since the heart attack, she has committed to following doctor's orders and becoming self aware of her disease process by doing everything she can to remain healthy.

“With God's help, I volunteer and do what I can. My family is here tonight, they are my rock,” Cope said. “My church family is here, they prayed for me during that time and they still pray for me. Then there is my adopted family, Trinity Mother Frances Clinic of Athens. They take such good care of me and I appreciate them so much.”

Lifestyle changes are a must after someone suffers a heart attack and Glena is a living testimony on how those changes can be helpful.

“I've completed cardiac rehab and have learned how to live a healthy lifestyle. Now, I've traded in my cigarettes, almost two packs a day, for fishing gear,” Glena said.

At 40 years old, Glena suffered from high blood pressure but never expected to have a heart attack. She started experiencing chest pains, sickness in her stomach and aches all over her body before having her daughter call 911.

“I was sick to my stomach for several weeks and then my family went to Louisiana for a family reunion. I stayed back because I was not feeling well,” Glena said. “I was told not to go into the office, but I did anyway. While I was there it started getting worse and worse. I got in the car and started to have real bad back pains.”

When Glena became alert again, she was told she had five blockages in her heart, known as the 'widow maker,' and that she was lucky to be alive.

The Women with Heart series of events is designed to inform everyone on the real dangers of heart disease.

Taylor said 500,000 women die annually because of heart disease. In fact, 10 times more women die from heart disease than breast cancer. She said 1-of-3 women will die from heart disease.

It was reported that 43 million women have heart disease but only 20 percent realize it.

Uncontrollable risk factors for heart disease include family history, age, sex and race.

Controllable risk factors include smoking, weight, diet, physical activity, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, diabetes and stress.

A style show was presented with red – the official color of heart disease awareness – prominently displayed. Following an informative session on heart disease, several physicians answered various heath related questions for the audience.