As the administrative nurse manager of the cardiac unit at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, Annette Sciberras, RN, knows the symptoms of heart disease very well.
But even she ignored the warning signs of a heart problem.
Born with a heart defect called pulmonary stenosis, she had life-saving surgery when she was six. The experience inspired her to become a cardiac nurse.
About five years ago, Annette started having chest pains.
“I have four kids, my dad had passed away and my mom was very ill,” she recalls. Her mom urged her to go get checked out. But she didn’t.
“As women, we try to balance everything,” she says. “I focused on being a mom and wife, as well as on my career and taking care of my parents. I wasn’t focusing on me at all.”
Then, in February 2009, Annette’s mom had a heart attack. “My mom was on my unit,” remembers Annette. “I went into her room to encourage her to get up and walk and she did. Later that night, she had a stroke. I blamed myself for that for a long time.”
Annette’s mom was later transferred to a critical care unit. “I was driving into work and the nurse manager of the ICU called and asked if I was on my way in to work and I knew. I had been preparing myself for mom to die.”
But nothing could prepare Annette for what would happen next.
Walking into her mother’s hospital room, “I clearly remember walking over to her and collapsing on the bed,” she says. “The doctor came into the room and I remember telling her that I have burning in my chest but that I just wanted some antacids.”
Annette and her mom
“Mom was my best friend,” she says. “At that point, I was getting weak and the pain was still there. I was crying and holding my mom. The doctor and nurses had all urged me to go to the Emergency Center but the turning point was when my daughter said, ‘I just lost Grandma, I don’t want to lose you, too.’”
In the Emergency Center, she was diagnosed with Takutsubo Syndrome, or Broken Heart Syndrome as it’s commonly called. It strikes during moments of extreme loss or grief and causes stress cardiomyopathy, a weakening of the ventricles.
The next day, she had a cardiac catheterization. “During the procedure, the doctor found a blockage in my right coronary artery,” she says. “He inserted a life-saving stent. I think that through my mom’s death, she saved my life. She’s my angel.”
Now, it’s Annette’s turn to be an angel to others.
Annette was named one of 11 national
spokeswomen for the American Heart
Association’s Go Red for Women Month.
She was named one of 11 national spokeswomen for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Month. Throughout February, she’ll be educating women on the importance of taking care of themselves, exercising and eating a healthy diet.
“This gives me the opportunity to connect with others and tell them how heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women – more than all cancers combined,” she says. “Heart disease can happen to anyone at any time. We need to take action against it. It’s about making all the changes you can to fight it.”
As a spokesperson, she presented her story to the Michigan Legislature. She is also featured in a video of her heart story on www.goredforwomen.org.
And she’ll be sharing her story again as an expert panelist at a Thursday, Feb. 20 “Girlfriends Go Red” event from 6 - 8 p.m. at Beaumont, Royal Oak. The free event features education, dance and fitness demos, screenings and prizes. Visit https://girlfriendsgored.eventbrite.com to register.
“I’d like to inspire women to step back and take care of themselves, stay active and balance what’s important,” says Annette. “We don’t think about ourselves nearly enough, but it’s a great time to start.”