When asked her age, Jackie Evans says she’s lucky to be 54.
For two years, she was treated for acid reflux. Jackie experienced radiating pressure in her chest and remembers being kept awake by pain experienced while lying down for weeks.
One Saturday in the summer of 2014, she felt nauseous and unbearably warm. Her daughter, an emergency room nurse, took her to the hospital straight away. One of the doctors looked at Jackie and told her the news: she was having a massive heart attack. Jackie remembers her doctor saying that an experience like this would involve some big lifestyle changes; then, she said, “Boom, down I went.”
Jackie’s heart stopped beating on its own for 35 minutes; as she said, “I didn’t just have a heart attack. I kinda just had the big one.” CPR kept her heart going. She remembers eventually feeling like a black shadow swimming back into her body, an experience she describes as quite extraordinary.
To look at me, you would never think that I’m a candidate for a heart attack.
Jackie was on life support for a couple of days and in the hospital for three weeks. When she got out of the hospital on July 2nd, 2014, she began going for walks right away, starting with just 5 minutes and taking “baby steps every day.” Today, Jackie is “walking 5 kilometers, my dear, without even losing a breath.” She also participates in the cardio rehabilitation program, which she describes as “life saving in itself.”
Jackie’s cardiologist explained that her genetics were 80% responsible for her heart attack. “To look at me,” she says, “you would never think that I’m a candidate for a heart attack.” At the same time, Jackie says she “would have done several things differently.” She would have never started smoking and has since quit cold turkey. She also wishes “I had made it a point to be more aware before of what I was eating, even though I thought I was eating pretty good.” Jackie also explained that “instead of internalizing everything that went on with me, I would have dealt with it” and recognized the role that stress can play in the development of physical illness.
Jackie says she is motivated to be healthy when she pictures herself surrounded by her family; as she says, “I do it for them, I think, more than anything.” After having a heart attack, Jackie says “Your priorities change! They really do.” Now, she walks more, is back into her artwork (she has a Bachelor of Fine Arts), takes more time to read, and avoids negativity. She says now “I’m more positive and spiritually and physically, I’m better.”
Jackie acknowledges that “women put everybody first.” She encourages them to take time for themselves but says that this is “not about just sitting by yourself. It’s about clearing your mind of all the stress and negativity. You can’t just sit there and say ‘Well, I have to do the wash and I have to do this and I have to do that.’ Mindfulness, that’s the key word. That’s the big one.”
Jackie says that her heart attack was a “horrible” experience but that she “had to turn it into a positive experience in order to get through it.” Now, she is happily living each day to the fullest. Her saying “has become ‘You don’t know you’re dead until you come back to life.’ That’s pretty profound, I know. But that’s what motivates me.”