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Heart disease survivor aspires to become paramedic

February is National Heart Month
Posted at 11:38 PM, Feb 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-04 23:38:21-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Friday was National Go Red Day, a day where people wear red to raise awareness on heart disease and stroke which kills more than 650,000 people every year in the United States.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S., but there are also many survivors.

For women like Yanela Vickers, she has cardiomyopathy, which caused her to lose her first pregnancy and almost cost her her life.

"I delivered the baby. Unfortunately, did not survive," said Vickers. "Right after I delivered the baby, I went into complete cardiac failure and got transferred into the ICU. With pregnancy, your heart works extensively harder to provide for the fetus and then for yourself."

According to Go Red for Women, cardiovascular disease accounts for more than one-third of maternal deaths, making it the No. 1 killer of new moms.

That's why Vickers decided to pay it forward and start a career as a paramedic.

"Just being hands-on with patients and even going through the lectures of cardiology just gives me a better understanding of what happened to me and know how I can support people from a health-care perspective and the human aspect of it, based on personal experience," said Vickers.

'I think it's inspiring," said Ashley Vertuno, the chief executive officer at JFK North Medical Center. "I think it's exciting when you have someone that's going to be part of the cause."

Vertuno said in the last two years they've seen a 41% decline in people calling 911 about heart attacks.

"You know, I think COVID has really shied people away," said Vertuno. "Our hospital teams have gone out to educate that we still are treating the strokes and semi's and everyone that's coming through the door."

Days like Wear Red Day raise awareness on signs of a heart attack including chest pain, feeling weak, shortness of breath and more, so if you do experience those symptoms, you need to call 911.

"I hope that our community continues to get involved. Get involved with American Heart Association, as well as learn how to continue to prevent heart disease, and then give back," said Vertuno.

As for Vickers, she now has two healthy children who walk alongside her on heart awareness walks.

"Looking at them just gives me a new sense of what life really means," said Vickers.

February is National Heart Month, so health experts hope people learn how a healthy diet and exercise can reduce the risk for heart disease.