Three Mohawk Valley residents will share their stories at America’s greatest Heart Run & Walk on Saturday, June 17 at Accelerate Sports.
Lisa Provost, Mary Beth Roser and Joseph Lisi are the 2023 Red Cap Ambassadors who will serve as the faces of heart disease in the Mohawk Valley at Saturday’s Walk.
Lisa Provost’s father had had an abdominal aneurysm that was being monitored; two open-heart surgeries, and congestive heart failure, and passed away in 2019. A cousin with whom she shared a birthday, and was seven years older than she, died of a massive heart attack at the age of 57. Her grandfather had had aortic and leg aneurysms.
“I said, that’s it, that’s not going to be me,” Provost said, who has stayed healthy and had no risk factors for heart disease. She participated in the American Heart Association’s BetterU program in 2020, and went to a cardiologist just to monitor her situation. She began having PVCs, premature ventricular contractions, extra heartbeats in one of the heart’s lower ventricles. Those were treated with medication.
In the fall of 2021, during a routine breast MRI, an ascending aortic aneurysm was discovered. It was small enough to only warrant monitoring, but Provost did some research, and combined with her familial risk factors, convinced the surgeon to operate. Surgery was scheduled for January of this year.
“The date of that MRI was my father’s third birthday in heaven,” Provost said.
Four days after Christmas 2022, during a cardiac catheterization to prepare for the surgery, the medical staff discovered that one of Provost’s arteries was 80 % blocked.
“That blew the staff away,” Provost, 55 at the time, said, “because I was young and healthy.”
On January 11, 2023, Provost had bypass surgery and repair of the aortic aneurysm.
Provost said that in addition to healing physically, there were emotional aspects she confronted. The staff at the hospital had told her it’s not uncommon.
“I cried a lot after the surgery,” she said. “I felt I’d been broken in two. I had to heal physically, then mentally. I made a lot of lifestyle changes, even though I had already led a pretty healthy lifestyle.”
Sharing her story is part of the healing.
“The next day, the surgeon told me I’d saved my own life, by pushing for the surgery,” Provost said. “If I hadn’t advocated for the surgery and for myself, the significant blockage wouldn’t have been found. That ultimately saved my life. If I can save my own life, I can share my story and save other lives.”
Provost is a probation officer in Oneida County.
Mary Beth Roser
Mary Beth Roser also stressed the importance of advocating for yourself.
“You know how you feel,” Roser, who was 37 when she had a pericardial effusion with cardiac tamponade, said. Too much fluid had collected around her heart, rendering her almost motionless, and in pain. “To advocate for your own self is the only way you’ll achieve success for yourself and your body.”
Three years ago, Roser had high temperatures and woke up in a pool of sweat every morning. She couldn’t lie down, and had pain in her chest.
“COVID had just come about, and my symptoms were like COVID,” she said. “And I had had similar symptoms four years ago and gone to the ER – I had pain, shortness of breath and a tightness in my chest. Vacuuming hurt. But now, I couldn’t even walk to the fridge and couldn’t take care of my kids.”
Roser’s legs and stomach were bloated, too.
“I had no energy, but I was afraid to go to sleep,” she said. “I knew I wouldn’t wake up, and that’s terrifying when you have two children.”
Roser has lupus, and a friend familiar with it called Roser’s parents and told them she had to go to the hospital. She drove herself, with her children in the car, and her mother was going to meet her there. Because of COVID restrictions, she faced some difficulties meeting up with her mother.
“I almost had to battle a trooper, who said I couldn’t park where I was waiting for my mother,” Roser said. “I told him – I need to see my kids leave with my mother. I may never, ever see them again.”
A CT scan with an MRI showed that she was having a pericardial effusion with cardiac tamponade. At Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, medical staff drained two liters of fluid from Roser.
Today, she has resumed her normal life.
“I feel like a walking miracle,” she said. “There’s so much I want to do. I want to help people and am happy to share my story and be part of America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk.”
Roser is the vice president of Beaton Industrial.
Undersheriff Joseph Lisi
A regular checkup showed more than Joseph Lisi, undersheriff in Oneida County, expected.
“We have a cardiologist who does routine checks on all law enforcement,” Lisi explained. “Last June, my blood pressure was a little high. Because of my age and the work I do, they sent me for a cardiac plaque test. It was 500, which is high. I had a blockage somewhere, but they didn’t know where.”
Lisi was a little panicked, because he felt fine.
“I work in my yard, I walk, I eat well,” he said.
The next step was a stress test for him – which he failed.
At Crouse, medical staff discovered that his left anterior descending artery was 100 % blocked. When that happens in this artery, it can lead to a widowmaker heart attack. As the name suggests, few survive that kind of heart attack. In addition, Lisa’s right artery was 80% blocked. Lisi’s heart had created collateral arteries to keep the blood flowing.
On Tuesday in September 2022, at 1 p.m., Lisi went in for robotic surgery at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse. . Dr. Lutz and his team robotically replaced the LAD artery with the Mamery artery. The operation lasted around 2 ½ hors. The next day he was sitting up and standing. The day after that, the chest tube was removed, and he was walking. On Friday, he went home.
In the beginning of November Dr. Ulanhannan at Crouse Hospital performed a heart catheterization an placed a Stint in the RCL.
“I’ve been fine since,” Lisi, now 65, said. “I work out, I walk, I lift weights, I go to the gym.”
Lisi will compete in the Treadmill Challenge during the WIBX Heart Radiothon sponsored by Slocum Dickson Medical Group on Friday, June 16. The Treadmill Challenge is part of America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk.
Lisi, who always ate well, now follows a Mediterranean diet, and has lost 25 pounds.
“I’m blessed,” Lisi says. “Every doctor I go to says I’m lucky to be alive.”
The three Red Cap Ambassadors will share their stories during Opening Ceremonies of America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk on Saturday, June 17, at 9 a.m. at Accelerate Sports, 5241 Judd Road, Whitesboro. They will also be featured in the WIBX Heart Radiothon on Friday, June 16 and the WKTV Heart Telethon on Friday and Saturday, June 16 and 17.