We continue our series on women and heart disease since it's Heart Health Awareness Month and heart disease is the leading cause of death in South Dakota and the nation. We met a Registered Nurse with the Avera Heart Hospital who is a walking billboard for the importance of early screening.
As the Director of Nursing at North Central Heart Janice Severson knows a thing or two about the heart. The 45 year old Registered Nurse also knew to take care of hers. She prides herself on eating right and exercising. When her employer started Planet Heart in September, a program of the Avera Heart Hospital that's a cardiovascular risk assessment program, she took advantage of it. Mostly to prove to herself that her heart was as healthy as she felt. She was shocked to learn it wasn't.
Janice says, "Initially they told me my score was zero and everything was fine. A half hour later the doctor called and said we need to talk."
Cardiologists discovered Janice was born with a heart defect. Without warning, without symptoms it had gotten so bad she needed open heart surgery and she needed it soon.
Janice says, "They found my ascending aorta above my aortic valve was very enlarged."
The actual size of the aorta is comparable to the size of a regular garden hose. The bottom of a big mouse can is how big her aorta had swelled and stretched to which is located just above the heart.
Janice nonchalantly says, "They actually put a conduit in to replace the aorta and tightened by aortic valve. While they were doing this they found a whole in my heart and stitched it up as well."
She had surgery September 18th. She spent 5 days in the hospital, recuperated at home for a couple of months and was back to work right before Thanksgiving and everyday since then she counts here blessings.
Janice says, "I just happened to make a choice to get the screening done or I'm not sure I'd be here today. Had it burst, I more than likely would have bled to death. "
Janice Severson is living proof that heart screenings save lives even though you aren't even aware it needed saving.
The recommended age for the Planet Heart Screening is 40 for men and 45 for women.
To schedule an appointment CALL 877-AT-AVERA.
The cost is $50