Myra Robin is CardioSmart
Myra's life was forever changed after a "widow maker" heart attack left her with multiple cardiac conditions, including heart failure. She hasn’t let that stop her from embracing heart-healthy habits and inspiring others with her experiences.
Myra credits her great relationship with her cardiologist and heart failure specialist in playing a key role in managing her heart failure.
I have a great support system including my wonderful, loving husband and family.
Do not let heart disease define who you are, nor who you can become.
Myra Robin: Heart Failure Patient
On a late October evening, I began feeling unusual chest pressure that was preventing me from falling asleep. Hoping it was due to indigestion, I chewed two antacid tablets. Minutes went by but the pain seemed to worsen. It was at this moment that thoughts of my father and brother having heart attacks at fairly young ages came into mind. I decided to take two full-strength aspirin; little did I realize that those two aspirin likely prevented me from dying from a “widow maker” heart attack at age 43.
Soon after taking the aspirin, I began pacing the floor, praying that the pain would go away. My entire body began to sweat. I was sweating so much that my hair was actually beginning to feel wet. I attempted to keep my body cool by lying on the cold ceramic tile floor in my kitchen, but it provided little relief. It was at this point that I accepted that whatever was happening to me was not going away. I alerted my husband and we drove to our local hospital, where I stumbled into the emergency room and was barely able to murmur the words, “I think I’m having a heart attack.” I was immediately hooked up to an EKG and it was evident that I was not only having a heart attack, but it was a big one and that I should try and remain calm.
I was given morphine and was rushed to a larger hospital better equipped to treat me. Three stents were placed in my main artery. Unfortunately, my heart remained without oxygen for too long and I sustained permanent and irreversible heart damage. Today, I live with heart failure, left ventricular dysfunction, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, and atrial fibrillation.
Before my heart attack, I enjoyed and embraced the challenge of working at a major sheet metal manufacturing facility in south central Louisiana. For over 11 years, I strived for personal career development and advancement. I began my career there as a CAD (computer aided drafting) operator, and quickly advanced to team leader of that department. After a few of years, I was approached, and accepted the opportunity to be the facility Quality Control Manager. At the end of my career with the company, I was working as head of their customer satisfaction department, leader of inside and outside sales, as well as part of the senior management team.
About three months after the heart attack, I was implanted with an ICD (implantable cardioverter defibrillator) and my doctor and I assessed all of the risk factors that remained in my life. I successfully eliminated the obvious ones such as poor eating habits and smoking. I started an exercise routine and was taking my medicine exactly as prescribed. It hit me like a ton of bricks when my doctor advised that I reconsider my career path. I realized my doctor was right and I left a career that I enjoyed and loved so much.
Soon after giving my two-week notice, an ad appeared in my church's weekly bulletin for a part-time secretary position with the local Catholic priest. I was hired and started a brand, new chapter of my life at 43 years old. My job today is quite different from what I had always known. I work only 20 hours per week compared to over 40, and my goal is to create a welcoming and inviting atmosphere for incoming parishioners and potential parishioners. I went from working with a team of 70, to working with a staff of 7. We are treated to staff retreat days, we pray together, and I am able to work on growing my spiritual self and my faith.
The career change was a major setback after my heart attack. I feel fortunate that I was able to recognize and embrace the signs that were sent into my life.
How do you work with your doctors and care team to stay on top of your heart condition?
I have been able to develop great relationships with my cardiologist and my heart failure specialist. I visit my cardiologist every 6 months and my heart failure specialist once a year. I take my medicine exactly as prescribed and weigh myself daily to help monitor my heart failure.
What lifestyle changes did you make to improve your heart health?
Through my career change and learning to say “no” I have been able to reduce much of the stress in my life. I have drastically reduced my sodium intake and incorporated heart-healthy food substitutes into my diet. I quit smoking and walk or ride a bicycle outdoors 3-5 times a week.
What challenges do you face? How are you able to overcome them?
One of my biggest challenges is my weight. My mother was an excellent cook and taught me how to cook, as well. She cooked all of the tasty Cajun dishes Louisiana is recognized for, which unfortunately are not so healthy and filled with butter and fats. I have learned to modify those dishes by using simple substitutions and cutting out the extra and unnecessary fats and adhering to the philosophy of “all things in moderation.”
Who is your support system?
I have a great support system including my wonderful, loving husband and family. My husband and son have learned to eat all of the modified recipes I now prepare. I have also discovered an organization called WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. I am a trained volunteer advocate and work as a WomenHeart Community Educator in my area to help to spread the word about the #1 killer of women.
Do you have a personal motto? What inspires you?
I do have a personal motto and it is “Do not let heart disease define who you are, nor who you can become.” While working with WomenHeart, I have been able to meet so many women who share a similar story; a story of survival. I call these ladies my heart sisters. My heart sisters inspire me. They teach me that life is short and that we should live each day as if it were our last!
Myra's Favorite CardioSmart Resources