UNION — After suffering two heart attacks in her early 40s, a local woman is looking to “paint the town red” during the month of February.
Melissa Youngblood is known by many around town as the face of The Union Connection Cable Channel 192, as she is the Media Information Technology Director there. Some may not be aware, however, that on Sept. 14, 2015, she suffered her first heart attack.
“I experienced jaw and neck pain and the pain in my chest just felt like heartburn or indigestion,” Youngblood said. “Later that day, I became dizzy and light-headed and very hot, clammy and sweaty. My left shoulder and upper back began to ache and then came the severe chest pain. The chest pain became so intense and unbearable that it felt as if my heart was going to explode out of my chest.”
Youngblood was first taken from her office at the City of Union to the Union Medical Center ER, and when an EKG indicated a heart attack, she was airlifted by Regional One to Spartanburg Regional Medical Center’s cath lab. It was discovered that her main artery — the LAD — was 100 percent blocked, and a stent was inserted.
Youngblood’s ejection fraction — the way the heart contracts to pump blood through the body — was at 35 percent. She said she was told by her cardiologist that a heart that is going to heal after a heart attack normally heals within the first three months. Three month’s after Youngblood’s heart attack, an echocardiogram showed that her heart was moderately scarred and not healing, with her ejection fraction still at only 35 percent.
“This could in later years put me at risk for a dangerous life threatening fast heart rhythm or ventricular fibrillation,” she said. “For this reason, he recommended that I have an ICD (implanted cardiac defibrillator).”
Youngblood’s defibrillator was implanted in March 2016, and should she go into cardiac arrest, the defibrillator is supposed to shock the heart to get a heartbeat. If the heart beats too fast, the ICD is designed to shock it back into its normal rhythm.
On Oct. 18, 2016, Youngblood was filming the sea lion show at the Union County Fair when she began to experience pain in her jaw, neck and chest, just as had happened during her first heart attack.
“This time, I knew the warning signs and did not wait to get help,” she said. “I was taken by ambulance to Spartanburg Regional where bloodwork later showed that my cardiac enzymes and troponin levels had significantly increased to indicate a second heart attack. A heart cath was done, but luckily did not detect any new blockages.”
Youngblood said at this point, she is grateful to God that she is still alive to tell her story. Youngblood mentioned that her maternal grandmother recently passed away as a result of what was believed to be a stroke from possible heart failure. Her grandmother’s passing, along with her personal experiences, have made Youngblood extremely passionate about bringing awareness to people about getting cholesterol and blood pressure checked, exercising and eating healthier.
“I think it is very important that people are educated on the warning signs of a heart attack or heart problem,” Youngblood said. “This could happen to anyone no matter what age, race, etc. I was 42 years old when I experienced my first one. Heart attack symptoms are not always just chest pain. Women’s symptoms are sometimes a lot different than men.”
February is Heart Awareness Month, and Feb. 3 is National Wear Red Day. Youngblood — who has become a volunteer with the Go Red for Women Passion Committee — said her committee, along with the American Heart Association, wants to “Paint the Town Red” for Heart Awareness Month. The project consists of painting the windows of participating businesses with red dresses and hearts for the month of February. Painting materials and stencils will be provided, and there is no cost for businesses to participate. Committee volunteers will paint the windows, or the business can paint it themselves. Their only responsibility is removing their paint at the end of the month.
Businesses that wish to participate may pick up and complete a participation form by Jan. 19. Participation may include painting a store window, wearing red on Feb. 3, placing American Heart Association-provided information about women and heart disease in a business, and — if the business is a restaurant — creating a heart-healthy dish to serve on Feb. 3.
Those who would like to participate may contact Melissa Youngblood by phone at (864) 429-1702 or by email at email@example.com.
Mayor Harold Thompson signed a proclamation that Feb. 3, 2017, will be National Wear Red Day in the City of Union in recognition of the importance of the ongoing fight against heart disease and strokes. The proclamation urges all citizens to show their support for women and the fight against heart disease by commemorating this day by wearing the color red.
“By increasing awareness, speaking up about heart disease, and empowering women to reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease, we can save thousands of lives each year,” Thompson said.
Youngblood is certainly on board and on a mission for this cause that is so personal to her and her family.
“Life is a gift, and I intend to live mine to its fullest potential,” she said.
The American Heart Association provides the following facts about women and heart heart disease:
• Heart disease and stroke kill one in three women in the U.S., yet 80 percent of cardievents may be prevented.
• Cardiovascular diseases and stroke kill around 16 women every day in South Carolina.
• An estimated 44 million women in the U.S. are affected by cardiovascular diseases.
• 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease, yet only one in five American women believe that heart disease is her greatest health threat.
• Women comprise only 24 percent of participants in all heart-related studies.
• Women are less likely to call 911 for themselves when experiencing symptoms of a heart attack than they are if someone else were having a heart attack.
• Only 36 percent of African American women and 34 percent of Hispanic women know that heart disease is their greatest health risk, compared with 65 percent of Caucasian women.
• Women involved with the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement live healthier lives, and nearly 90 percent have made at least one healthy behavior change.
• Go Red for Women encourages women to take charge of their health and schedule a wellness visit to learn about health status and risk for diseases:
- Get your numbers — ask your doctor to check your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose.
- Own your lifestyle — stop smoking, lose weight, be physically active and eat healthy.
- Raise your voice — advocate for more women-related research and education.
- Educate your family — make healthy food choices for you and your family, and teach your kids the importance of staying active.
- Donate — show your support with a donation of time or money.
Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-762-4128.