Brown spreads knowledge about heart disease

Published 7:44 pm Friday, January 7, 2011

Only a few months after open-heart surgery, Jennifer Brown was on a mission trip to Alaska.

Now, as she continues to battle heart disease, Brown is on a mission of her own.

“When I had open heart surgery, I kept saying to myself that, if I made it through, I was going to do all that I could to help people to realize that heart disease and diabetes can be a deadly combination and they should take these conditions seriously,” Brown said.

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Brown was diagnosed with diabetes in 2000. She had the classic symptoms – thirst, frequent urination, weight loss and lack of energy. But it was not until she had a bout with pink eye that she was diagnosed.

She began to deal with that disease and then had another with which to contend.

“I had a tightness in my chest that was diagnosed as angina but I continued to have chest pains. However, every stress test that I had was negative,” Brown said. “After each test, I was told that everything was fine. But it wasn’t. The stress test was not reliable for me.”

Further tests revealed a blockage and heart surgery was recommended and Brown consented without reservations.

“My dad had two heart surgeries and I had seen how much he had benefited,” Brown said. “If it had not been for that personal experience, I might have been afraid. I will admit, though, that when they wheeled me into that operating room, I was a little scared.”

Brown came through the surgery fine but her dad died two weeks later from heart problems. Then, she began to have complications as fluid began to collect around her heart.”

“Fluid can be a side effect of heart surgery but it is not all that common,” Brown said.

With treatment, Brown began to feel better and started to reconsider the mission trip to Alaska.

“I had planned the trip for a long time and my doctor said he saw no reason why I should not go,” she said. “The trip was something that I really wanted to.”

Brown was anxious for her life to be as normal as possible so she went about life as usual.

Then, out of the blue, a regular checkup in October revealed more heart problems.

“I had four new blockages,” Brown said. “I didn’t expect that. I was stunned. But, thankfully, the doctors were able to put in stints and they seem to be working fine.”

However, Brown said that she knows that she has to treat both her heart condition and the diabetes.

“I’m watching my diet and exercising more. Even if I only walk a little each day, that’s good for my heart and it helps keep my blood pressure down,” she said. “And, I want to do what I can to help others who are in the same situation.”

Brown is a member of the Pike County Heart Board and is working toward the establishment of a support group for those with heart disease and diabetes.