Alicia Roberts was diagnosed with cardio myopathy and congestive heart failure in 2010, when she was just 26 years old.
Since then, she has turned her life around and now has founded a support group for women living with heart disease. WomenHeart of Hinesville will have its first meeting this month while also recognizing National Cardiac Rehabilitation Week Feb. 11-17.
“I wasn’t feeling good one night and I started having shortness of breath and I went to the emergency room,” Roberts recalled. “They ran different types of tests on me.”
Upon hearing her diagnosis, Roberts said her life changed, her future uncertain.
“I was depressed, stressed and I really didn’t know how to feel,” she said.
She said she also felt isolated as most resources and support groups were made for, designed or focused primarily on men.
Roberts said she went through cardio rehab to build up her heart muscles three times.
“I stumbled across WomenHeart Savannah at St. Joseph Candler Hospital and, when I became part of that group, everything started changing,” she said. “I learned how to deal with it and live a more positive life.”
WomenHeart is a national coalition founded in 1999 by Nancy Loving, Jackie Markham and Judy Mingram. All three had suffered heart attacks in their 40s after many misdiagnosis and obstacles, according to the organization’s website. The women, who lived on opposite sides of the United States all mentioned feeling isolated, uninformed and depressed until they met at a magazine company doing an article on women and heart attacks.
WomenHeart is the first and believed to be only national patient centered group that focuses exclusively on women.
In the program, Roberts said she wanted to give back as well.
“I went to training in Minnesota to become and educator for WomenHeart and I started WomenHeart Hinesville at Liberty Regional,” she said.
The first meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 27 at Liberty Regional Medical Center. WomenHeart Hinesville plans to meet every fourth Tuesday of each month.
The group is open to women heart patients who want to empower themselves and other women living with heart disease through support, education and advocacy.
Roberts added her group will help the hospital have its first Heart Health Fair on Valentine’s Day. Sandy Wells, who was Roberts’ cardiac nurse, helped organize the fair set for 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Feb. 14. LRMC is at 462 E.G. Miles Parkway. It is free and open to the public. The focus will be on nutrition, cholesterol, exercise, stress management, controlling high blood pressure, quitting smoking, cardiac rehab and the support group.
According to stats provided by Women Heart, African-American and Hispanic women are more likely to develop heart or cardiovascular diseases than Caucasians. Risks factors attributed to the higher rates were obesity, high blood pressur and less exercise.
Roberts said the support group helps connect patients through a Sister Match program so patients can share their experiences.