Just two weeks after participating in a triathlon, Catherine, 39, was at work when she felt dizzy. The next thing she knew, she was on the floor and the world was spinning.
At first her symptoms were dismissed as an inner ear infection or food poisoning. But Catherine insisted that something was seriously wrong. A week later she learned she’d had a stroke.
Catherine, a lawyer and mother of two, was told that a large hole between two chambers in her heart — one that she was born with but never knew was there — caused the stroke. She also learned that her heart had enlarged to about one-and-a-half times its normal size because of the strain put on the heart due to the hole between the two heart chambers. She needed surgery but it would be two months before doctors could operate.
Catherine had gone from a strong, healthy athlete to a woman with severe disabilities.
While Catherine waited for her heart operation, a friend suggested that they participate in the American Heart Association Heart Walk. Doctors had told Catherine not to overexert herself, so she hesitated but eventually agreed.
The 5K was arduous; Catherine could barely walk. In fact, walking the route took longer than completing a triathlon in Seattle just five weeks earlier. But the Heart Walk marked the beginning of a new journey: the start of her recovery.
Today, almost six years after collapsing on her office floor, Catherine has resumed running. In fact, last year she completed a triathlon. She shows that anyone can have a stroke and is an inspiration to those working to recover. She volunteers for the American Heart Association by participating in Go Red For Women — which teaches women how to live a heart-healthy life — and the Heart Walk.