Heart and Soul

Finding purpose from heart disease

To say the past 18 months of Lori Oliver’s life have been a challenge would be an understatement. She has faced death twice but believes she emerged stronger, smarter and empowered to help other women on similar journeys.

In December 2014, Oliver, 57, just wasn’t feeling herself. She was experiencing a constant cough, which she blamed on her asthma, was taking medicine for acid reflux and was dealing with gout in her foot. Through several rounds of medication and X-rays, her cardiologist discovered fluid around her heart. More tests and lab work quickly led to an admission to Norton Audubon Hospital’s intensive care unit to treat a serious infection in her heart valve.

She spent 11 days on IV antibiotics before undergoing two heart procedures within days of one another. After participating in cardiac rehabilitation to get her strength back and finishing up antibiotics, she thought she was in the clear.

“I was on the road to recovery … or so I thought,” she said.

Fast-forward to October when Oliver experienced a second life threatening situation. A major leak in the heart was causing her heart to drown in fluid. She was rushed from Norton Brownsboro Hospital back to Norton Audubon Hospital and taken straight to the operating room, where a multidisciplinary team performed emergency open-heart surgery.

Along her medical journey she also found a spiritual path to peace.

“I knew I was sick but I wasn’t afraid,” Oliver said. “I just knew I had to survive, for myself, for my family and so I could move forward and help others.”

Oliver discovered an avenue to help others. She joined forces with WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. This organization empowers women to work together to educate and support other women who are living with heart disease. Educational outreach is important because heart disease in women is often misdiagnosed or undertreated, leading to fewer opportunities for care.

Oliver sees this as an exciting opportunity to share her personal experiences and educate women on the dangers of heart disease.

“In a forest you know there are trees and you know you are going to bump into them,” she said. “When you go through open-heart surgery or other heart issues, you have no idea how many trees you’ll bump into before you see the sun. I now feel empowered to grab a woman’s hand and help her along the journey. WomenHeart has given me the tools to do that.”

WomenHeart is a coalition of 36 hospitals, and Norton Healthcare is the only representative from Kentucky. WomenHeart meets on the first Wednesday of every month from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Marshall Women’s Health & Education Center on the Norton Healthcare – St. Matthews campus. Guest speakers discuss medication, nutrition, exercise, establishing good communication with health care providers, stress management, mental health issues and seasonal topics. For more information, contact Theresa Byrd, R.N., clinical coordinator, Norton Women’s Heart & Vascular Center, at theresa.byrd@nortonhealthcare.org.


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