Too Young – and Too Busy – for a Heart Attack

By Julie Vargo, Editorial Contributor

Like many working mothers, Nadia Wiltshire-Bernard is a juggler. Her jam-packed daily schedule combines caring for her family, building her real estate business and volunteering in her community. Rarely does she drop a ball.

So, when she awoke one morning with chest pain, the bustling multitasker chalked it up to work-related stress. After all, she was only 38 years old – too young and far too busy to worry about a little chest pain and annoying pressure.

But as the day progressed, the pain continued at work and worsened throughout the evening. After making dinner and tucking her two children into bed, Wiltshire-Bernard made a life-changing decision: She told her husband she was going to the emergency room, then called her brother to meet her there.

Heart of the Matter

Fortunately, the Central Florida resident made it to Orlando Health South Lake Hospital before suffering a heart attack caused by 100 percent blockage in one of her arteries. She remembers checking in at the emergency room and seeing her brother. The rest of the night is a blur.

Dr. Vijay Kasi, interventional cardiologist with the Orlando Health Heart & Vascular Institute, inserted a stent into the clogged artery to regulate Wiltshire-Bernard’s blood flow. The procedure went smoothly. She regained consciousness in the hospital catheterization lab, greeted by Dr. Kasi and the news she had suffered a heart attack.  

Three days later, Wiltshire-Bernard was back home with a prescription for cardiac rehab at the Orlando Health South Lake Hospital Cardiac Rehabilitation Center. Her physician for follow-up care, Dr. Lushantha Gunasekera with the Orlando Health Heart & Vascular Institute, worked with a cardiac nurse and exercise physiologist to prescribe an individualized program designed to improve the young mother’s exercise tolerance, strength and flexibility. That program included monitored exercise, education and counseling on lifestyle changes for heart health, along with psychological support.

A New Way of Living

Throughout her rehab sessions, Wiltshire-Bernard’s care team provided the support and guidance necessary to successfully recuperate and create a new way of living. “The cardiac rehab,” she says. “If there was a day when I just felt like I couldn’t do it, they would listen, motivate and encourage me. I still go back and see them because they are now going to forever be a part of my life. During one of my most difficult times, they were there unconditionally. That is something I will never forget.”

Wiltshire-Bernard attended cardiac rehab twice a week for 18 weeks. She learned how to set goals, increase her activity and create an exercise regimen she could maintain on her own. She also was taught how to monitor her heart rate to ensure she was staying in a healthy range. In addition to encouraging her physical fitness, the team at Orlando Health considered her mental well-being. They recognized the fear and uneasiness that accompany the scare of suffering and surviving a heart attack. Their continued assurances, support and encouragement eased her worry, allowing her to become more confident and comfortable she could live a full life post-heart attack.

Family Affair

Today, her whole family is committed to a healthier lifestyle. Each member focuses on eating well and exercising to keep fit and strong. Wiltshire-Bernard’s children advocate for heart health and share tips they’ve learned with their peers. When they hit the grocery store, everyone reads food labels and pays more attention to what items end up in the grocery cart and on the pantry shelves.

In the mornings before work, the real estate entrepreneur and her husband now regularly exercise together, walking around the lake near their neighborhood or using their home gym. She continues to work out with the regimen she created during her time in cardiac rehab. Thanks to being more active, Wiltshire-Bernard now enjoys improved endurance, increased energy and a clearer mind.

Determined to live by her new motto of “Health Is Wealth,” she credits her cardiac team at Orlando Health with saving her life. “The care I received was top-notch,” says Wiltshire-Bernard. “Their expert care and commitment helped me turn what could have been a devastating result into a whole new lifestyle for my entire household.”

If heredity or lifestyle put your heart health at risk, contact a nearby specialist with the Orlando Health Heart & Vascular Institute for guidance.

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