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Earlier this month my incredibly supportive friend Laurie used her air miles to fly me to SFO.  I’ve tried to make the move to the North Bay area for over a year.  It’s been a dream and quite the challenge to make this happen.  The longer I’ve been in Nashville, the harder it’s become to make ends meet, find a permanent job, and obviously, save money.

Shortly after the heart attack in September I started researching for a cardiologist in the Sonoma area.  When I read a search return connecting a doctor to a vineyard, being the wine lover I am, clicked the link to Ramzi Deeik’s information.  He and his wife own a vineyard called GrapeHeart Wines.

While reading content on the site I discovered the passion that Isabel Deeik has for women’s heart health.  My heart attack woke up my own sleeping activist passions and I had to reach out to them.  Not expecting a personal response, I received an email from Isabel herself.

Dammit, I needed to get out there and meet her, see the vineyard and stake my claim in the North Bay.  It was a fast moving short turn around plan, but I met Laurie out there and we drove to Sonoma.

On my 2nd and last day in the North Bay, Laurie and I met Isabel at the local Starbucks.  She is a stunning natural beauty with exotic looks and a friendly set of piercing eyes.  I learned that she is Turkish, and her accent is a delightful representation of that country.

We sat for coffee (I had green tea) to chat about the plan for the day.  It can be awkward to meet someone for the first time after just an email exchange.  I suspect that Isabel warms up a little slowly as she begins to feel comfortable getting to know someone.  I was my typical chatty self, hoping that I didn’t overwhelm her.  After 3 years in the Southeast where I seem to overwhelm people so easily, I may be worried about it, but I find it hard to pull in the personality reins.

When we hit the road, Laurie in her SUV and me riding shotgun with Isabel, I was grateful for the time to learn more about her.  We shared our stories as women do, skipping through subjects and circling back to pick up threads.

After discussing my life after 9/11, losing everything during the economic explosion, and the painful challenges of my Nashville life, then the heart attack–Isabel asks me with sincerity in her voice–Do you think you had a broken heart?  That the heart attack was really caused by a broken heart?

So much insight.  Yes, in some ways it was a broken heart.  Long term fear, sadness, anxiety, lack of safety, feeling misunderstood, no longer understanding myself…created the perfect storm of a broken heart.  It showed up in cholesterol filled arteries, one that decided to blow.

broken heart

When I asked the attending cardiologist (who was such an ass!) how this happened, all he could say was genetics.  That is SUCH BS.  We don’t die from potential to a completely preventable disease.

What is “stress cardiomyopathy?”

Stress cardiomyopathy, also referred to as the “broken heart syndrome,” is a condition in which intense emotional or physical stress can cause rapid and severe heart muscle weakness (cardiomyopathy). This condition can occur following a variety of emotional stressors such as grief (e.g. death of a loved one), fear, extreme anger, and surprise. It can also occur following numerous physical stressors to the body such as stroke, seizure, difficulty breathing (such as a flare of asthma or emphysema), or significant bleeding.

In spite of over 10 years of emotional stress which could have caused a broken heart, my arteries were full of cholesterol.  The next post will discuss what fills your arteries and can cause a broken heart and heart attack.