Pam posingPam Anderson, 58, a mother and wife, went into cardiac arrest during recovery from a routine colon surgery. With the aid of circulatory support, Pam is once again healthy and active while enjoying the company of her growing family.

What hardships has your family faced in dealing with your disease?

The period of time during which I first found out that I had heart disease, and the trauma involved with open-heart surgery was hard on my family. As you could imagine, the weeks I spent in the hospital were especially hard on my immediate and extended. Since the early stages of my disease, I’d like to think that my family has suffered from minimal hardships. More than anything, this experience has brought us closer. We have a greater appreciation for our blessings.

How has your diagnosis affected your outlook on parenting?

As a parent, I have become more patient. I have learned to be more appreciative of my children and grandchildren. I am very proud of the way my children presented themselves during these trying times. I realize how important my children and grandchildren are, and I have tried to become even more involved in their lives.

How has your diagnosis affected your outlook on your overall health and your future?

I know that I need to take better care of myself and I know that every day is so important. It can all end, literally, in a heartbeat. I worry that I’m not doing the right things. I haven't changed my diet as much as I should. I know I need to be more physical. These are all things I’ve learned, but I just need to become better at implementing the changes I know I have to make.

Do you ever fear that you’ll face another episode of cardiac arrest and if so, how do you deal with that?

The possibility of another occurrence cardiac arrest is something that is on my mind quite a lot. I try to keep that fear from getting too strong, but it is there. The only way I know how to deal with that fear is to do all I can to prevent it from happening. I also know that my heart is doing as well now as before my heart attack – my doctor told me that my heart muscle had sustained zero permanent damage, thanks to the Impella heart pump.

A lot of women don’t realize they’re at risk for cardiovascular disease. What advice would you give to these women about their heart health?

I would tell them to educate themselves. Know that cardiovascular disease symptoms for women are different than they are for men. Get active. Don't ever think this can't happen to you—I'm here to tell you it can! You have to be sure to take care of yourself first and foremost, so that you can be there to care for your family.