By Ashley Mohoric

I’m an active person. I grew up playing soccer, fastpitch, volleyball and everything in between. Friends jokingly call me a farm girl. We’ve all heard the statistic that 1 in 3 women will die of heart disease or stroke, but I never thought that could apply to me. I’ve always been a strong woman.

May 30th – Today’s volleyball game didn’t seem any different. In the final points of the game, a perfect set floated my way. I made my approach, pushed off – SNAP – I crumpled to the ground like a sack of potatoes. I felt no pain, but instantly grabbed for my ankle. I ruptured my Achilles. It would require surgery and months of recovery to repair my damaged tendon, but nothing I couldn’t handle.

June 20th –Two weeks after the procedure I struggled to get around our two-story home.  Hands propped on the railing—I stubbornly hopped one step at a time to get up the stairs. After every ascent I felt the need to catch my breath. I’d never been this sedentary in my life so surely this was just was my asthma flaring up.  But later that week while exiting the theater after a night at the movies, that feeling washed over me again. My heart started pounding, I couldn’t catch my breath, my chest ached, and my face felt flushed with heat. I rested a moment and the feeling passed. I should’ve taken this as a sign but pushed through without alerting my doctor or my family. I experienced three more episodes like this, once with my arm feeling drained of blood, and the last causing me to sweat, taking much longer to recover than I’d like to admit.

July 3 – I went to work feeling a shell of myself, exhausted and unable to concentrate. I pushed through the day, knowing I could rest once I made it home. Mom picked me up to drive me home for the day and my boyfriend, Gus, was home already, much to my surprise. I told my mom I loved her, snuggled my furbaby Charlie, and went to my room.

July 7 – I opened my eyes and looked down to see myself clothed in a gown, attached to an IV, fitted with tubes… a hospital room. Mom was sitting by my bed. “Where am I?” She told me I was in the hospital and that I’d had an accident. Gus explained that once I got home, I went to the bedroom. He followed me a few minutes after and found me lying on my back on the corner of the bed, seemingly asleep. But Gus had an odd feeling that he should check “Ashley!! Ashley!!!” He shook me but I was unresponsive. Gus called 9-1-1 and the responder guided him to perform Hands-Only CPR. After 50 compressions I gasped but was still not responding to his voice. I was transported to the hospital where they found I was suffering from a bilateral pulmonary embolism (blood clots blocking both my lungs) and pneumonia in my right lung. Further scans showed I had three additional clots in my right leg where I had the surgery, which would need further monitoring.

That day involved plenty of questions from doctors to determine if there had been brain damage during the time I was unconscious, not to mention the questions I was asking myself.

How could this happen to ME? I am only 32 years old. What if Gus hadn’t been home yet, like so many other days? What if he’d brushed off my “nap” and went about his day? What would’ve happened if I hadn’t received immediate CPR? What if that day had been my last?

Four days after being discharged, I interviewed for a job with the American Heart Association. The original position I was looking at had been filled, but that day I was recommended to be seen for a position as the Director of Go Red for Women.

Things happen for a reason. I’ve always been a strong advocate for women, but now this fight is personal.  I am my biggest advocate, and I will not stop until other women step up to join the movement. Go Red for Women is a movement raising awareness that cardiovascular diseases, including heart disease and stroke, are the number 1 threat to women’s health. More importantly, it empowers women to take action by making healthy lifestyle choices, learning the warning signs, sharing their stories and raising money to support research.

One woman dies every 80 seconds due to heart disease.

More deaths each year than every form of cancer combined.

1 in 3.

I never knew how much strength it would take to recover from a heart event. Today I have a new kind of fuel to push through the tougher moments. I live my days dedicated to inspiring other women to be BOLD and take charge of their heart health. I fight to make sure that all mothers, sisters, and friends have more time with the ones they love.

 

I am a relentless force against heart disease and stroke. I refuse to be that 1 in 3.

 

Visit www.GoRedforWomen.org for resources.

 

 

 

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