Christine Rochelle was born an average baby girl, except for a loud heart murmur that her delivery room nurses discovered shortly after her birth. She was diagnosed with pulmonary valve stenosis, a thickened or fused heart valve that does not allow proper blood flow from the heart to the lungs. At 6 months old, Christine had a successful surgery to correct the issue, but was told she may need another surgery before puberty. Up until age 27, Christine’s cardiologists told her she could live a full life with minimal restrictions.
Christine, a resident of Wall, had experienced migraines since the age of 13, but at the age of 27 she woke up to go to a BBQ for Mother’s Day with the worst headache of her life. Not only did she have a terrible migraine, but Christine was also very confused and was having difficulty speaking. She went to the BBQ that day, but decided to leave her early to go home to sleep. When she woke and still didn’t feel any better, her husband insisted she go the ER.
After a CAT scan, the ER team recommended a follow up appointment with a neurologist who did an MRI which showed Christine had had a mild stroke. The neurologist recommended a follow up appointment with Christine’s cardiologist. Christine was not exhibiting any residual effects from the stroke, but her cardiologists still ran tests and found an atrial septal defect, a “hole” in the wall that separates the top two chambers of the heart. A few months later, Christine had surgery which successfully fixed the atrial septal defect. She now has yearly checkups with her cardiologists, but is able to live a full life without restrictions.
“I had no idea I was at risk for a stroke. It was really hard for me to understand why this would happen,” shares Christine. “Now that I have accepted what has happened, I want women everywhere to know the warning signs of stroke and to be aware of their bodies.”
In 2015, Christine learned about the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement. Go Red For Women, nationally sponsored by Macy’s, inspires women to make lifestyle changes, mobilize communities and shape policies to save lives. She is now a survivor ambassador in New Jersey where she participates in Go Red For Women initiatives, such as National Wear Red Day, always the first Friday in February.
“National Wear Red Day is a major awareness campaign to let women know that heart disease and stroke are our biggest health threats,” asserts Christine. “We can make a fashion statement on Friday, February 5 by wearing red to help improve the heart health of all women.”
When you get involved in supporting Go Red For Women by advocating, fundraising and sharing your story, more lives are saved. According to the American Heart Association, in the U.S. about 285 fewer women die from heart disease and stroke each day and cardiovascular disease death in women has decreased by more than 30 percent over the past 10 years. United, we are working to improve the health of all women.
For more information about heart disease and stroke in women, visit www.GoRedForWomen.org. To participate in National Wear Red Day, call the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association New Jersey office at 609.208.0020 or visit www.heart.org/newjersey.