A self-identified black nerd, or “Blerd” for short, Jasonee Foster loves all things sci-fi, comic books and Disney. And her story — from unusual health scares, to traumatic episodes, to finally finding the answers she searched for — is a true hero’s journey.
For Foster, who lives with her husband and son in St. Louis, it began with small signs that something wasn’t right. Like during an internship at Disney World, when she would pass out any time she was in the sun. Then years later in 2011, when her brother, a naval corpsman in peak physical condition, died suddenly while stationed in San Diego. In the days before his passing, his heart wouldn’t stop racing, even when he was sitting still.
Another event that puzzled Foster was when she ran a half marathon several months later and found she couldn’t complete the race. The reason, she found out later, was that she was pregnant. Or so it seemed.
On the first day she returned to work after the birth of her son, she stepped onto the elevator. “I can’t be that out of shape,” she thought, as she tried to catch her breath. “It felt like when you run down the street full force. But my body wasn’t moving and that feeling wasn’t stopping.” Foster’s assistant called her husband and they rushed to the ER, where she flatlined.
She woke up in the ICU, where doctors initially attributed the cause of her heart stopping to Lupus. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be the last time she would suffer such a traumatic experience. Later that year, when her son was two years old, an external defibrillator failed to prevent her heart from stopping again. This time when she woke up in the ICU, doctors gave her a fatal prognosis.
Foster decided to take matters into her own hands. She researched until she found an academic journal from Johns Hopkins, about a rare genetic disease called AVRD/C, or arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia/cardiomyopathy. Johns Hopkins invited Foster to campus, where she was officially diagnosed with AVRD/C and given an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) that would shock her heart out of tachycardia if it were ever to start beating dangerously fast again in the future.
Foster’s experience of advocating for herself is why she feels she must advocate for others in similar situations. It’s why, she says, “We wear red in this house. And we’re proud to do that.”
“People around you won’t always know what you’re going through, and you can’t expect them to,” she adds. “You have to find those groups and environments [like the American Heart Association] that are safe places, who understand. And that starts to empower you.”
As for Foster’s superpower? “Being human. I’m a woman, but women are also smart and beautiful and can build things. You don’t have to check only one box.”
Even though the COVID-19 pandemic means Foster will be staying home on Wear Red Day, she will still be celebrating. “I’m sending out five ruby red pins for women who are recognizing Wear Red Day for the first time, to let them know I’m thinking about them.”