Leveque: A survivor’s story

Published 6:13 pm Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dianne Leveque was doing everything right, or so she thought. She was eating right and exercising and keeping stress “at bay.”

So, when she began to feel tightness and pressure in her chest, she thought it was no more than a cold or bronchitis.

“I was walking and going to Zumba classes, but I kept feeling the pressure and I would give out of breath so quick,” Leveque said. “Then, I had this pain in my ear and I thought it was just an ear ache or maybe a little infection from an earring.”

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Leveque treated the “earache” but the pain moved from her ear to her neck and was so intense that she went to the doctor and was admitted to the hospital overnight.

The tests that were administered didn’t show anything out of the ordinary but, during the next week, Leveque got worse.

“I couldn’t walk any distance without giving out of breath and there was so much pressure on my chest,” she said. “My husband said that I had to get to a doctor. I knew that I did and, if I had not, this would be a different story.”

A heart catheterization revealed that Leveque’s main artery was 90 percent collapsed and she was scheduled for open-heart surgery the next day.

“At first, I was upset because heart surgery is major surgery and it’s scary,” she said. “But they gave me medication to relax me and, since I don’t take a lot of medicine, it really knocked me out and that was good. I didn’t know a thing.”

Leveque’s heart surgery was successful but she was surprised at what she learned.

“I didn’t have any plaque in my arteries so my heart problem was hereditary,” Leveque said. “That, too, was scary because I had really tried to live a heart-healthy lifestyle.”

At that time, Leveque realized that she had a story to tell and one that might bring greater awareness to others about heart disease.

“I decided that what I could do to help others was to join the Pike County Heart Association and help raise awareness of the dangers of heart disease and stroke. I want people to know the symptoms of heart disease and not take them lightly. Maybe something that I say will ring a bell when others are experiencing symptoms that could be heart related. Maybe they will think about my experience and seek help. I also want to help raise money for research into the disease.”

Now, almost a year after her heart surgery, Leveque serves on the Pike County Heart Association’s board of directors and is tireless in her efforts to bring awareness to heart disease.

“Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States,” she said. “To bring awareness to this fact, each year we, in Pike County, participate in the nationwide “Go Red for Women” campaign which will be Feb. 4,” Leveque said. “Our board has ‘Go Red’ t-shirts for sale and they aren’t just for women. These t-shirts are for anyone who wants to join the fight against heart disease and stroke.”

The “Go Red” long sleeve t-shirts are $15 for sizes small through extra large and $17.50 for larger sizes. The short sleeve tee shirts are $10 for small to extra large and $12 for larger sizes.

The Pike County Heart Association’s logo for the “Go Red” tees was created by the children in Betty Bateman’s class at Mother’s Day Out at First Baptist Church.

T-shirts may be ordered by businesses, group and individuals by calling 670-6008 or via email at dianne.leveque@troyal.gov.