Lille, France

Katia, 55 years old

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September 2019: I left my home after domestic violence. I filed a complaint with police and started divorce proceedings. My first shock.
March 2020: COVID-19 arrived and I was locked down alone in my apartment and new town, Le Havre. Being furloughed for three months threw me into a state of complete distress between my personal and professional life. My second shock.
August 2020: my third shock came with the news that my Mom had a malignant brain tumor. I was overflowing with negative emotions and anxiety for my parents, my sister and my kids.
These three periods brought me enormous stress.
I ignored the signals my body was sending me—two times I felt exhausted, and nauseated with pressure in the chest and periods of tachycardia. I wanted to stay strong and handle it like I’d always done around my family, friends and colleagues. I didn’t want to worry anyone and I especially wanted to help and support my Dad as much as possible while my Mom was hospitalized. I have three grown kids and I’m a grandmother and an active woman (too active at times). I’ve always put a lot into all of the projects I take on without listening to my body or my heart. But I was also big into sports when I was younger (12 years of figure skating). I had and still have a (nearly) healthy and balanced lifestyle with sport once a week. But, I’ve been a smoker for over 30 years.
On Sunday, September 20, 2020 at 11:15 p.m., my body decided to let go. I was upset: this wasn’t the time. It’s never the right time to collapse especially when you’re living alone. I had just gotten into bed because I felt exhausted. I had the following symptoms: pressure in the chest, nausea, a weight on my stomach, the onset of dizziness and tingling in my upper limbs down to my fingertips. I never felt any acute pain. I got up to get a drink of water and some fresh air at my kitchen window. But I didn’t get far. My head started spinning and I lay back down. The symptoms progressed and tingling spread to my lower limbs. I completely panicked. I called 911. I can never thank the 911 teams enough for saving my life. The ambulance arrived 10 to 15 minutes after I called and took me to the St. Hilibert de Lomme emergency department. The medical team barely had time to get me settled when the first cardiac arrest occurred (heart stopped for 10 seconds). I was resuscitated. Ten minutes passed and I had a second cardiac arrest (15 seconds this time). I was transferred to the intensive care unit. The care in the cardiology department was exceptional as well.
A few hours later, on September 21, my 55th birthday, a stint was placed in my largest artery. By my nightmare didn’t end there. I found out that I was an active carrier of Brugada syndrome, a rare rhythmological disease with a very low probability of having a defibrillator implanted. After two weeks of tests and research on the causes of these two cardiac arrests and a major dizzy spell during my stay in the cardiology department, Dr. V decided to do a final examination of my heart before potentially implanting a defibrillator. It turned out that my risk of serious heart rhythm disruption is lower than 1% risk/year. Now I’m trying to get back to a normal life.
I’m well aware that my life won’t be like it had been because there’s always a reminder at follow-up cardiology appointments. It’s taken some time to accept being in the category of those with illnesses.
I’ll do a stress test in February 2021.
I have an appointment in May 2021 at University Hospital of Lille’s cardiogenetic department. I was told that after this appointment and the results of the genetic testing, my three kids will need to an ECG screening.
I’m happy to be alive thanks to all of you.
I wanted to share my story on the Women’s Cardiovascular Healthcare Foundation website so that it can help save other women’s lives like a positive preventive butterfly effect.




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