Scarlette posingScarlette Harper, 46, an active adult, had no history of heart health issues. One morning in 2008, she awoke gasping for breath.  Her doctors discovered she had viral cardiomyopathy, an infection that causes serious swelling and tenderness in the heart muscle.  With the aid of a blood pump, she avoided invasive open heart surgery, and has recovered fully.

What was your reaction when you learned that you had heart disease?

I was very shocked to find out I had a heart virus, especially since my husband had a heart virus two years earlier. I never thought in this lifetime that it would happen to me. I wondered if maybe God was trying to tell me something. However, the treatment that I received at the hospital and the amazing technology that supported me  allowed my heart to recover, and enabled me to avoid further procedures and a potential heart transplant.

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

I don’t take my independence for granted because I know how quickly it can all be taken away. I love life so much more now!

Have you made any changes to your diet or lifestyle since having open heart surgery?

Absolutely. I am  now more conscious about watching my salt intake. I also exercise more and take care of myself. Every day, I let those around me know how much I love them.

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

I refuse to live in fear because that is not living. I live for today because I don’t know what tomorrow brings. I am grateful to the nurses, doctors, and the heart recovery technology that saved me. I also feel the need to educate others about the treatment options they have in the case of heart failure.

You have no history of heart health issues, yet you’ve suffered from cardiovascular disease. What kind of preventive advice would you give to women without a history of heart health issues?

Listen to your body. You know when something is wrong. Take care of yourself as you would your children, family, and friends. You deserve it.