PARKERSBURG - When Julia Soja had a heart attack in 2011, she knew what was happening, but she didn't want to believe it.
She didn't smoke and had no family history of heart disease.
"I always (used to) brag, 'I'll never have a heart attack,'" the Parkersburg resident and former nurse anesthetist said. "I don't brag anymore."
Photo by Evan Bevins
Washington Bottom resident Ted McPherson, left, takes a picture of his wife, Maxine, with his tablet during the Go Red for Women Lunch and Style Show Friday at the St. Joseph’s Campus of Camden Clark Medical Center. Maxine McPherson was one of the cardiac patients who shared her story and modeled clothing from Talbots in Vienna.
Soja soon learned that in addition to the heart attack she recognized, she'd had a "silent" one earlier. Today, she follows heart health news and keeps up with her cardiac rehabilitation.
"I still come to exercise three times a week," she said.
Soja was one of eight current and former Camden Clark Medical Center cardiac rehab patients who shared their stories Friday at the annual Go Red for Women lunch for CCMC employees at the hospital's St. Joseph's Campus. They also shared a bit of fashion, modeling clothing they picked out at Talbots in Vienna for a style show, a new addition to the annual event.
At A Glance
Symptoms of a heart attack in women
* Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
* Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
* Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort.
* Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
* * *
What to do during a heart attack
If you experience any of these signs or symptoms:
* Do not wait to call for help. Dial 911, make sure to follow the operator's instructions, and get to a hospital right away.
* Do not drive yourself or have someone drive you to the hospital unless you have no other choice.
* Try to stay as calm as possible and take deep, slow breaths while you wait for the emergency responders.
Source: American Heart Association.
"We wanted our heart survivors to show how they've regained their life," said Allison Maher, director of cardiovascular services for Camden Clark.
About 60 people attended the lunch, which Maher said is intended to raise awareness about how heart disease affects women.
"It's not just a man's disease anymore," she said.
In fact, heart disease kills more women each year than all other diseases combined, said Gwen Crum, families and health agent for the West Virginia University Extension's Wood County office and the guest speaker at the luncheon.
"Everybody knows that now. They don't necessarily believe it," Maher said. Having real people share their stories "helps you personalize - 'this could really happen to me and what can I do to prevent it.'"
Crum outlined the "Love Your Heart" program the extension offers to provide education about women's heart health, risk factors for heart disease and signs and symptoms of potential problems.
More information is available by contacting Crum at 304-424-1969 or visiting the extension's website, ext.wvu.edu.
February is American Heart Month.