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Grateful for Her Heart Attack

Wednesday, Nov 26, 2014

You might wonder why Edie Weinstein is actually thankful for the health issues – including a heart attack – she's had this year. Until she explains why.

To say Edie Weinstein had a busy schedule would be an understatement. For so many years, days consisted of working a 12-hour shift at her addictions counseling job, followed by several hours of writing at home, and maybe five hours of sleep.

"My friends and family warned me I couldn't keep up with this pace," says Edie, a freelance journalist and former magazine publisher who also hosts a radio show.

Edie thought she was a healthy 55-year-old. She ate a vegetarian diet and worked out at the gym. It turns out that diet of mostly prepared foods was high in cholesterol and sodium. And the workouts were just another facet of a lifestyle marked by constant movement, frenetic drive and overwhelming pressure. She also has a family history of heart disease.

Her body couldn't take it any more.

A day she'll never forget

It was June 12, 2014 and Edie was driving home from the gym when the jaw tightness and pain set in, followed by profuse sweat and a pain that outstripped heartburn. When she got to the Doylestown Hospital Emergency Department, Edie calmly told the nurse behind the desk, "I think I'm having a heart attack."

Within minutes she was taken upstairs to The Heart Institute where interventional cardiologist Joseph McGarvey, MD opened her blocked artery with a stent he had threaded through her wrist, called radial artery stenting. Edie emerged from the heart attack with no damage to her heart muscle, but her life would never be the same.

"I realized I was sleepwalking through a lot of my life. This was a huge wake up call for me," Edie says.

The first order of business was to take a week and a half off – no work, no working out, no attending to worries. "One of the hardest things to do was rest," says Edie, determined to become a "recovering workaholic."

Edie started doing Cardiac Rehabilitation at Doylestown Hospital. The professionally supervised exercise and education program helps patients increase their function and reduce chances of another cardiac event.

The staff at cardiac rehab encouraged and motivated Edie all along the way. "I call them my cheerleaders," says Edie.

She now participates in the Phase Three program at Cornerstone Fitness in Warrington, having learned how to exercise safely and effectively without overdoing it.

"I wasn't going to let this heart attack go to waste."

Edie had asthma as a kid and grew up always having to prove she could do anything. That drive carried into her adult life, which saw this licensed social worker take on speaking commitments and more and more writing assignments. She is also an interfaith minister who officiates weddings. Edie grew accustomed to taking care of others, often at her own expense.

"I was always saying ‘yes' to people when I really wanted to say ‘no'," she points out.

In addition to her heart attack this year, Edie has survived a case of shingles, a breast cancer scare, kidney stones and an exhausted adrenal system.

She took a hard look at her life.

"One of the things I want people to know is that as much as you think you're invincible, you're really not. Your body needs rest."

Edie now takes naps. She has scaled back her work and social schedules. She is determined to enjoy life by reveling in the simple things one day at a time and by having fun. In recent months she has dyed her hair purple and danced on stage at a Chubby Checker concert. The result? Blissful enjoyment.

The power of positivity

"A positive attitude is everything. I don't know how people who don't have one get through this," Edie says.

"I do my best to be grateful for everything." Topping Edie's list is her family and friends. Followed by resilience. "I'm not a victim," she says. "I'd rather be resilient and thrive."

Having a sense of humor helps. Edie is also grateful for creativity, the gift of writing and touching others' lives. She wants to spread the word about her experience and about women and heart disease, and the importance of slowing down.

"Now I look back at my old schedule and wonder how I did that for so many years."

This Thanksgiving and indeed, every day, Edie looks forward to what lies ahead with a sense of positivity and purpose.

"I have so much to be grateful for. I'm grateful for life."

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