For 10 years, teacher Theresa Townsend Scott would walk with her students around the school to enjoy the first days of spring or fall. During those times, she would experience occasional shortness of breath.
Being proactive, Theresa would mention it to her primary doctor. “It only happened once or twice a year and the feeling disappeared within a minute,” shared Theresa. “My doctors checked me out and there was no sign of heart disease.”
Over the next few years, she continued to experience random periods of breathlessness. She shared this with her doctor, and he decided to use a heart monitor to attempt to track the event. “And of course, guess what! Nothing occurred,” said Theresa. “After that test was over, the shortness of breath still continued, and my doctor referred me to a cardiologist.”
The cardiologist had her do a stress test and took all kinds of pictures of her heart. “He found that I had some valve leakage, but it was not severe enough to require surgery or treatment. They told me that they would keep an eye on any changes,” recalls Theresa.
However, her shortness of breath continued. For her one-year check-in, her cardiologist ordered an echocardiogram test for Theresa. But before her appointment, Theresa had two encounters that changed her plans. First, she invited a friend to speak to her sorority, NSPDK, Beta Lambda, to discuss her experience with heart bypass surgery and the importance of getting a routine exam. Then another friend shared that it was important to ask for a heart catherization instead of an echocardiogram, if you really felt something was wrong.
At her next cardiologist appointment, her cardiologist said the echocardiogram report is normally sufficient, and that she should come back next year for her regular exam. “I said no, no. Something is wrong,” remembers Theresa. “I didn’t realize that I needed to tell him that my shortness of breath was coming more frequently. I didn’t have any other symptoms.”
Her cardiologist heard her. He turned around, sat down and said he’d order the heart catheterization. He shared with Theresa that there didn’t look as though there was a problem, but this way, they could observe everything and know for sure.
“I ate right, exercised and kept my weight down,” shared Theresa. “I made an appointment to finally identify my medical problem.”
During the heart catherization, her physician found several small blockages. Stents were not an option. So before Theresa knew it, she was undergoing heart bypass surgery.
“It sounds funny to say that I was happy, but I was. I was happy that they knew what the problem was, and that they could fix it,” said Theresa. “I’ve got at least 25 more years of good living to do. With God’s love and care and the love of my family and friends, I’m doing great.”
Listening to her body and putting her heart health as a priority allowed Theresa to finally get back to life without restrictions. She was able to travel to Australia last year and walk the tours without being breathless or tired. “My sister even said that I outwalked her in Amsterdam in June of last year. I’m able to continue a good life thanks to the surgeons, doctors, staff at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center and cardiac rehab staff.”
As a baby boomer, she said, “I’m thankful for the technological advancements and expert medical professionals who use their knowledge to extend my life with a few more years, so that I can have an opportunity to give back to my community. I am most thankful for my family and friends who support, encourage, and love me and who assist and advise me, especially, during critical health events.
Theresa Townsend Scott is a 2020 Forsyth County Go Red Woman. She is sharing her story to help prevent heart disease in women. Novant Health is proud to be the American Heart Association’s “Life is Why” and “Go Red for Women” sponsor in Forsyth County, celebrating, supporting and encouraging women to put their health first wherever they may be in their journey.