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metroWELLNESS: Doing it by the Numbers


(page 3 of 7)


DEBBIE MASSEY and JENNY PETZ are the women every woman wants to be. Thin, beautiful, successful. On top of the world. They also share an unbelievable diagnosis. Debbie and Jenny have made sharing their stories their mission in hopes family, friends and complete strangers will choose to learn about our nation’s number one killer and live to tell a different tale.


It couldn’t possibly happen to me. I was 37 years old. I’d hardly been sick a day in my life. I was in great shape working as a dancer/choreographer. I was performing my dream role in “Gypsy” at the Omaha Community Playhouse. I ate decent and exercised constantly. Life was perfect–until the evening of June 8, 2009, when I was visiting my parents’ home and had a heart attack.

My symptoms came on suddenly. I had an uncomfortable but bearable squeezing sensation in my chest, neck and upper left arm recurring every few minutes. My mother tried to give me an aspirin, which I refused. I often ignore any type of oncoming illness, but this time my gut was telling me I needed help. I felt silly walking into the ER 30 minutes later. I convinced myself I was feeling better even though during the drive my entire left arm became tingly and “hot.”

The ER staff listened carefully and before I knew it, I was admitted to ICU and hooked up to all kinds of machines. Test after test came back perfect and doctors spent hours trying to figure out why someone “like me” was having a heart attack.

I was petrified and refused to let those two words register. People die from heart attacks, but not people my age! A heart cath procedure finally revealed the answer. I had a blockage, concluded to be the result of heredity, which had gone previously undetected.

I choose to believe this happened to me, and I survived so that I can be a voice for other women. Heart disease can happen to you. Know your family history, get regular cholesterol screenings, eat healthy, listen to your body and do not ignore symptoms. Educate yourself and your loved ones. My prognosis today is excellent, and I continue to do everything I did before my attack. The only difference is now I take nothing for granted.

-Debbie Massey


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