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Diana's Story

Diana and her husband Ron; Go Red Patient Stories
Diana Shaw is a very thankful lady. Her husband Ron saved her life by performing CPR when she suffered a heart attack in December 2004.
 
After the couple went to bed, Ron noticed unusual breathing coming from Diana. When he turned on the light, he saw that she was grey. He called 911 and the operator told him to start CPR right away.

Paramedics arrived roughly four minutes after the call and used an automated external defibrillator (AED) to send shocks to Diana's heart. After four or five shocks, they transported her to UW Hospital, where a stint was placed in her coronary artery. Diana experienced no heart damage from the attack, which she attributes to her husband's use of CPR and the quick response by paramedics.

"I'm so lucky." Diana says. "My mother died at the age of 58 in her sleep (of a heart attack) and that's exactly my age when it happened."

Diana recalls subtle warning signs prior to her heart attack. Immediately before she went to bed, she remembers experiencing upper back pain between her shoulder blades and below her neck. However, Diana attributed the pain to soreness from exercise.

"When you're working out and being active, you just assume it's from that. If there was an immediate warning,that was the only thing."

About six months before her heart attack, Diana visited her doctor complaining of being winded. The doctor attributed her loss of breath to mild asthma, which was very common that summer because of poor air quality. Diana's husband, a physician himself, wishes he would have paid more attention to her symptoms as a sign of something worse.

"That (shortness of breath) was a sign I think that it was the heart - we just didn't pick up on it," Diana says. "It's not the physician's fault. I think there's a lot we don't know yet about warning signs."

Tests prior to her heart attack showed that her cholesterol was within a healthy range and that her blood pressure was low. Diana advises women to seek more testing and regular check-ups, especially if they have a family history of heart problems like her. Women should ask their physician to check their risk for heart disease and, if necessary, create a plan to manage those risks.

After her heart attack, Diana sought to reduce stress in her life. She decided to retire early from her job as a pastor at the First Congregational Church in Madison. Although she misses her job as pastor, she does not regret the decision to leave.

"(Women) are the caregivers for so many people," Diana says. "Pastors are so focused on being caregivers, that even when they have heart disease, it's really hard to stop doing that. You have to realize that one of the people you have to care for is yourself."

Today, Diana spends time with her seven grandchildren and works out in the fitness center at the UW Health Research Park Clinic. She receives yearly check-ups from a UW Health cardiologist and continues to monitor her blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

"All of my children and grandchildren have been checked for cholesterol and blood pressure levels," Diana says. She hopes her family can be proactive about heart health, and that close monitoring will help prevent future heart problems in her family.
 
Pictured: (top) Diana and her husband Ron