Local Women Speaking Red to Fight Heart Disease

Updated:Nov 24,2014

Six local women are speaking red and sharing their stories to inspire other women to care for their hearts. BE INSPIRED by their stories:

Carla Orta
Heart Disease Survivor
Hometown:  Waltham, MA
My name is Carla Orta and I am an emergency medical technician and a CPR instructor; I ignored all the warning signs for myself when I developed congestive heart failure while pregnant. After my diagnosis, I continued to ignore my doctors’ advice to live a healthier lifestyle, and my condition gradually worsened until one day my kidneys and liver shut down. My blood pressure was so high that my doctors told me that I was either going to suffer a heart attack or stroke. I was immediately admitted to the hospital and doctors induced labor.
Today, I exercise, eat right and educate others to lead a healthy example for my daughter.
Rhonda Hall
Lifestyle Change
Hometown:  Springfield, MA
Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and soon after that I was diagnosed with diabetes. In just one day, I became a 4 shot-a-day diabetic and had high cholesterol and hypertension as well. It was a tough time, but despite the challenges I started working out every day and joined an organization to help me with my eating habits. I have lost 100 pounds in the past year and because of my lifestyle change, I am no longer an insulin-dependent or medicine-dependent diabetic. I’ve cut my hypertension and high cholesterol medicine in half.
I’m doing everything that I can to let all women know that through simple changes, everybody has an opportunity to get healthy.
Diane Pickles
Family History
Hometown:  Bradford, MA
My son, Jake, was diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome prenatally when I was about sixteen weeks pregnant. The doctor told us that his odds of survival were less than 50 percent and that if he survived; his quality of life would be very poor. Jake is now 19. He had 3 open heart surgeries by the time he was two and has spent more than 100 nights in the hospital and more hours than I could ever count at doctor’s offices and ER’s. Jake hasn’t just survived – he has thrived! He is a miracle, and we have been truly blessed.
It’s important for me to share Jake’s story so that I can help to educate, inspire, and advocate for others.
Annie Jean-Baptiste
Family History
Hometown:  Cambridge, MA
Only a few years out of college, I noticed my health start to decline. I have a family history of heart disease and diabetes and as an African American woman, I knew my risk factors were higher than most. I made it a priority to start taking care of my body through physical activity and eating a healthier diet.
I am speaking up to make sure that young women prioritize their health and listen to their bodies.
Christine Gaffney
Heart Disease Survivor
Hometown:  Worcester, MA
My name is Chrissy and I had open heart surgery at the age of 12 for an atrial septal defect. At the age of 45, I experienced atrial flutter while walking on a track but didn’t want to call 9-1-1 because I didn’t want to worry my family. In September 2011, after having two unsuccessful cardioversions done, I had a catheter ablation, which corrected the atrial flutter.
I share my story for the opportunity to help women of all ages understand the signs and symptoms of heart disease.
Lauriann DeSousa
Heart Disease Survivor
Hometown:  New Bedford, MA
At 317 pounds, I was morbidly obese. I began losing weight by walking and eating healthy. One frigid morning while running, I collapsed on the side of the road and suffered a heart attack. Fortunately my husband found me and brought me to the hospital where doctors discovered that I had a small blockage at the low underside of my heart.
Life doesn’t stop after a heart attack, you have to maintain your heart, you have to get even healthier and you have to keep going. I want to encourage other women that they can make changes and improve their health too.

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