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Kimberly Binkley is CardioSmart

Kimberly Binkley was diagnosed with heart failure at 39. Her heart was functioning at less than 5 percent. Today, she's an 11-year survivor committed to maintaining her heart health through exercise and diet.

Kimberly Binkley
After being diagnosed with congestive heart failure and cardiomyopathy in 2001, Kimberly Binkley ate healthier and restricted sodium from her diet.
Kimberly Binkley
Kimberly's commitment to exercise and diet improved her heart function from less than 5 percent to 48 percent.
Kimberly Binkley

Regular walks with her husband Steve helped Kimberly gain strength after her heart failure diagnosis.

I looked at my beautiful daughter’s face and was determined to make sure she had her mother growing up.

Kimberly Binkley: Heart Failure Patient

What is your CardioSmart story?

At age 39, I was diagnosed with heart failure and cardiomyopathy. At the time of my diagnosis, I was near death with a heart function of less than 5 percent. I had been extremely fatigued and short of breath for many months and had been going to see my family physician regularly with these complaints. Since I was so young, I was diagnosed with asthma and unfortunately my heart was never checked. The day of my diagnosis, I was scheduled for a pulmonary function test. I decided to skip that test and go straight to the emergency room instead. I was told I would need a transplant to survive. I was in shock! I ate right and exercised. I was in the best shape of my life physically. I had done everything right. I did manage to go home without a transplant and I am doing extremely well today with a heart function of 48 percent, which is just 2 percent below normal. I have had my ups and downs over the years , though, and there have been a couple times doctors were preparing me for the heart transplant list. I am happy to say I am an 11-year survivor and have not had a transplant!

What does it mean to you to be CardioSmart?

For me, this means learning all you can about heart disease and how to prevent it and then acting upon that knowledge. When I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure (CHF) and cardiomyopathy at age 39, I was near death with a heart function of less than 5 percent. I was actually told by my first cardiologist not to go home and look at the Internet because it would just scare me. So, what do you think I did when I got home from the hospital? I went on the Internet to get much information about CHF as I could find. I learned the signs and symptoms of heart disease and also was shocked to find that heart disease was the number one killer of women! We’ve all heard the saying, “Knowledge is Power.” I don’t agree with that statement. There’s no power in the knowledge, but there is power in acting upon that knowledge. Being CardioSmart is arming yourself with the knowledge and acting upon that knowledge by making necessary changes in your life. It’s also educating others of the dangers of heart disease and teaching them how to prevent it. I always tell anyone, you have to be your own advocate. Don’t just brush off symptoms as nothing. Get answers! I love volunteering my time in hopes of helping enrich the lives of others.

As a heart failure survivor, what motivated you to keep going day in and day out when things were tough?

My daughter, who was only 6 years old at the time of my diagnosis, and my boyfriend Steve (who is now my husband) encouraged me. I looked at my beautiful daughter’s face and was determined to make sure she had her mother growing up. She needed me, and I needed to be there for her. I was told by my doctor to not be a couch potato when I went home. Although I was extremely weak after my release, Steve would make sure I walked every day. At first I couldn’t go very far at all and was exhausted, but each day he would have me walk just a little bit further until I was doing three miles at a time! Steve and I had just started dating seven months prior to my diagnosis. I saw a man of amazing strength and love when I was going through the worst days of my life. Having his support and knowing I needed to be there for my daughter were the greatest motivators. I had to change my diet and start a sodium restricted diet. To me, those were simple changes in order to live! I never complained about what I needed to do in order to survive. I was just grateful there was something I could do to make my chances of survival even better. I was diagnosed with CHF and cardiomyopathy on June 21, 2001. Steve and I were married one year later on June 21, 2002. We chose to celebrate life! 

What are your favorite CardioSmart tools you recommend to patients?

For me, it’s probably the healthy eating tools and anything to do with exercise. I am always stressing how important it is to take care of ourselves through diet and exercise. These are the things we do have control over. For CHF patients, these are extremely important changes to make in order to increase chances of survival. I enjoy helping anyone who needs to make changes in their diet, especially with the sodium intake, because I remember how hard it was for me when I was first diagnosed. It was extremely hard to find anything that actually fit into my new diet restrictions, and it was an education. Once I learned what I needed to do and changed my entire way of cooking, I wanted to be sure to pass this information on to anyone else going through the same thing so they didn’t have to struggle with knowing what to do. I love educating others on how to read food labels and how to cut back on sodium, making better choices when you eat out and just eating a heart healthy diet in general. Anyone who knows me will also say I’m a strong advocate of being active and getting your family involved in activities that will benefit their heart health. We need to teach our kids these things at an early age so they continue it their entire lives. 

Have you maintained a relationship with your cardiologists, and if so, how has that relationship helped you?

I have been very fortunate to have been treated by some of the BEST cardiologists in this country! Having a great patient/doctor relationship has made a huge difference in my recovery. I see Monica Hunter,  MD, FACC, Eugene Chung, MD, FACC, and Madhukar Gupta, MD, with Ohio Heart and Vascular/Christ Hospital. This team of doctors has worked so well together in coordinating my care. When I was being considered for a heart transplant, I also worked with William Abraham, MD, FACC, at the Heart Failure Clinic at Atrium Medical Center and Ohio State University Hospital. I have a great relationship with them all and none of them ever gave up on me! I am so thankful they were willing to try different things to see what worked best for me and am very grateful they encouraged me to exercise until I sweat! When I was afraid to exercise, I was referred to a cardiac rehab program at Atrium Medical Center so I could be watched while exercising. This helped me get my confidence back to exercise on my own, and it has made such a difference in how I feel and also helped in improving my heart function. I am so glad they never gave up on me and it’s so nice when I get a hug from my doctor! I can tell each and every one of them genuinely cares about me. They have always encouraged my questions and always take the time to answer any I might have. I’m not just a number. That is an amazing thing to know!

Your health is your greatest wealth. Treasure it. Do something good for your heart every day and soon it will become a habit. I am happy to say I am an 11-year survivor and have not had a transplant!

Kimberly's Favorite CardioSmart Resources

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