(Crystal A. Proxmire, 2/26/2011)
When Angela Counts went to the emergency room with chest pain last May, she was 35 years old with no medical insurance. Although she said she “knew” something serious wrong, getting doctors to take her seriously was just the first of many uphill battles for the young mother of three.
Counts, who lives in Hazel Park, spoke about her experiences as part of FernCare’s Let’s Talk Health Series on Feb. 19, 2011. The series is presented by the community’s free health clinic, with more information at www.ferncare.org.
She said she had been sick in the weeks leading up to her heart attack. At 340 lbs she had a feeling that she wasn’t healthy. “But I didn’t feel unhealthy either,” she said. “I was active. I got up and moved day to day. I chased after three kids and rode my bike. I didn’t feel sick.” Counts also admitted to smoking and having “anger issues,” and has since learned that she has high blood pressure and diabetes. “Because I didn’t have insurance and couldn’t go to the doctor regularly, I never knew I had high blood sugar or that I was at risk for diabetes,” she said.
On May 21, after an argument with her husband, Counts left her home and went to the post office, where she experienced pain in her chest “going across my shoulders,” she said. “I had a hard time breathing. It actually felt like my lung was collapsing.”
When she checked into the hospital at 11am they assumed she had anxiety and gave her Morphine and Ativan. “They wouldn’t take me seriously,” she said. “I was just a fat girl with anxiety, and that’s how I was treated. Plus I didn’t have insurance, so what were they really going to do?”
At 12:10 they started discharge paperwork, only to withdraw it five minutes later when Counts’ blood work came back, indicating that she’d had a heart attack. She also learned that an EKG, taken on her arrival, had indicated a possible heart attack, which the doctor chose to ignore.
After the blood test results, she was admitted and a stent was put into her heart to help it function properly.
Count’s 13 year old son Jonah was shocked by his mother’s experience. “I was in my sixth hour. Before the bell rang I was taken out of school…I was scared. I didn’t want to loose my mom. Now I see things like if you don’t each right bad things can happen to you,” he said.
Leslie, Count’s mother, also shared her reaction. “I grew up back in the day that when you had a heart attack you died. I am so grateful for the technology that means people can live through that. I did a lot of paying on my way to the hospital. I do believe God has a job for her and he woke her up. The Lord has protected her, and helped her through her weight loss.”
Counts is studying social work. She recently graduated from Oakland Community College and accepted a scholarship to move on to Marygrove.
She learned that because of her condition and the medicines it requires, she and her whole family now qualify for Medicaid. With help from her doctors and The American Heart Association, Counts is getting her life on track. She has lost 75 pounds so far, has quit smoking, and is making healthy eating and lifestyle choices a priority.
“It was a huge wake up call for me,” she said. “I gave up fast food except for Subway, and switched from soda to Diet Coke. I quit smoking. …Now we have things like fruit, granola bars and GoGurt in the house instead of junk food.”
She said the key to making positive changes in life is “find out what motivates you.”
“There are things that I want, but I look at my kids and I know that I can’t, because a moment with them is worth a lot more than the instant gratification of a cigarette or some food.”
Counts credits The American Heart Association with much of her progress. “They’re got their Simple Seven Heart Healthy Factors to help you know what to change in your life.”
- 1. Get Active
- 2. Control Cholesterol
- 3. Eat Better
- 4. Manage Blood Pressure
- 5. Lose Weight
- 6. Reduce Blood Sugar
- 7. Stop Smoking
To find out more about the American Heart Association, and the resources they provide, go to http://www.heart.org.
For more information about the FernCare Free Health Clinic, and multiple resources available for low income health care and education, go to www.ferncare.org.