“At any given time, you could be gone.”
Don and Hedy Hebert are proactive when it comes to promoting heart health.
In early 2005, the Benton couple was attending church when Don broke into a sweat. They left church and called a doctor, who was also a personal friend.
They said for Don to come by his office the following day for an EKG.
“I went in the office the next day and he said I needed a cardiologist. I left his office and was still in the parking lot when the doctor called me and said I needed a pacemaker.”
A few days later, Don had one put in. Months passed when he began feeling dizzy. He went back to the doctor and discovered he had 99-percent blockage and something known as the Widow Maker, when the main artery down the front of the heart (LAD) is totally blocked or has a critical blockage, right at the beginning of the vessel.
He had a stent put in, but began experiencing atrial fibrillation (also called AFib or AF), or a quivering or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. Doctors placed him on Tikosyn, a medication for highly symptomatic atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter (irregular heartbeats).
Don says he still experiences irregular heartbeats on occasion, but not as much since being on the medicine. Despite everything he had been through, Don never actually had a heart attack.
“It makes you appreciate life,” he said. “At any given time, you could be gone.”
Don said heart-related issues run in his family. Both his mother and father died from heart related causes.
Hedy said seeing Don go through health challenges gives their life together new meaning.
“The first thing it does is make you value life more because you see what could happen,” she said. “Another thing is it makes you think outside the box on how you can live life better.”
Both Don and Hedy eat better, exercise more and have changed their outlook on life in general.
“It does, in a sense, change your whole life,” Hedy said. “Me, listening to the doctors, I know the things he should be and shouldn’t be doing. Being aware of what the symptoms are and knowing what to look for is key.”
According to the American Heart Association, most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach and shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort. Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light headedness. Not all these signs occur in every heart attack or stroke.
If these signs are present, call 9-1-1 immediately. Heart attack and stroke are life-and-death emergencies — every second counts.
Don and Hedy will be attending the American Heart Association’s Northwest Louisiana Go Red Luncheon Thursday, Feb. 18, at the Shreveport Convention Center. Hedy, who is Chairperson for the event, said it’s important for them to be part of the AHA’s mission to raising heart health awareness.
“We want to give back to our community. We want people to be aware and to know the symptoms. We want them to know how they can be involved too.”