Ruth Wright went into heart failure on the morning of her daughter's wedding in June of 2015. "I woke up and I couldn't breathe," she remembers. "I had an appointment with my primary care doctor on the morning of the wedding because I just wasn't feeling good. I had cold symptoms. My appointment was at noon, but I woke up at four with shortness of breath that kept getting worse. I called to let everyone know I was going to the hospital and I drove myself to University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center."
Wright, 57, soon learned that one lung was full of fluid and the other was half-full. It was heart failure. The diagnosis was a surprise to Wright, who had been diagnosed just two months earlier with mild regurgitation in the valve. "They weren't really worried about it," she says of the doctors, "and sometimes no treatment is needed. But in my case, it happened in just a couple months: from April to June. The valve went bad that quick." Further testing revealed that she needed a heart valve repair.
"I thought I was going to have to retire from work," says Wright, a mail carrier. But her surgeon, Dr. Alan Markowitz, Co-Director of the Valve & Structural Heart Disease Center at UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute said, "No, with repair of your valve you should be able to resume a normal life," Wright recalls. "I couldn't have asked for a better doctor."
With the surgery behind her, Wright has returned to work. "The job is heavy at times," she says, "so I take the time to do the load the way I want to do it," sometimes in multiple loads. Her eating habits have changed, too. "I changed the way I eat. I don't use table salt. I look at all the labels. I try to eat boiled eggs, no sodas. I drink a lot of water. My whole diet has changed, and it's taken some getting used to." But the changes are working, and Wright says she feels good. "I started off weighing 225, and I'm down to 180," she says. "The key is to take your medicines, and you really have to do what they say. I noticed there's no such thing as a cheat day. You can tell when the fluid is building up. I'm not going to take a chance on my life, and I am going to do what I need to do for me."
Doing what she needs to do for herself, Wright believes, is what led her to seek help in the first place. "I'm just glad that I stayed persistent with how I felt. I think that's what saved my life. With the heart failure, a lot of people go into it and they don't know it and they die from it. I was glad that I was aware of my body."
The American Heart Association recommends those experiencing symptoms of a heart attack or stroke call 911.