Tracy’s Second Chance

Tracy Samuelson experienced a heart attack at age 55. She now uses her experience to educate others.

Tracy Samuelson has one message for the community: “Take care of yourself now so you can live!”

Three years ago, Tracy made a change in her lifestyle.  Through healthy food choices and a commitment to daily walking, she lost 70 pounds.  Recently, Tracy added Kettlebells to her exercise plan.  “I have gained some of the weight back, but have kept up with exercise, which has become a passion of mine,” she says.

But as 2018 rolled to a close, 55-year old Tracy’s heart was silently shutting down.  For months, she had noticed random bouts of tiredness, especially when walking uphill.  “I found myself out of breath doing normal activities like walking.  These spells were infrequent enough that I never figured something was actually wrong,” she says.

During a family vacation to Mexico, things got worse.  A self-proclaimed “fish,” Tracy couldn’t keep up with her snorkeling party.   She had to take frequent breaks walking to and from their destinations. And one evening, she felt so poorly she couldn’t eat dinner.  “My chest hurt, but even with all the symptoms – shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea – I still chalked it up as indigestion or the effects of vacation-eating,” says Tracy.

The family attempted to get an early flight home, but due to weather, flights weren’t operating.  Instead, Tracy called for an in-home doctor to make a call to their condo.  “He gave me some pain and anti-nausea medication, but that was all,” says Tracy.

Finally, after their scheduled airplane landed in Minneapolis, and the Samuelson’s drove home to Decorah, Tracy was convinced it was more than a vacation illness and they went to the Emergency Department at Winneshiek Medical Center.  Though her vitals were normal, blood tests revealed high levels of proteins.  “Dr. Svestka in the Emergency Department said I had experienced a heart attack.  I was pretty scared when I found out, but the WMC emergency staff were professional and so helpful in keeping me calm.” Tracy says.

She was transferred and cardiac specialists placed three stents in two arteries: one artery was 100% blocked, and the other 90% blocked.  Tracy says, “Every doctor I encountered told me my weight and lifestyle changes from a few years ago are what saved me.  Without those changes, I would have died in Mexico.”


A Second Chance

Tracy feels she has been given a second chance, and is using this opportunity to educate others.  She says, “People have to understand they must take care of themselves now.  Drink less pop, reduce your salt intake, start an exercise program, lose the extra weight.   The size of your body does not matter.  It is important for everyone – heavy or slender – to do the work for your heart.  Take care of yourself now so you can live!”

Tracy also attributes her recovery to the Cardiac Rehab program at Winneshiek Medical Center.  She says, “The Cardiac Rehab staff have been instrumental in getting me back to my normal, everyday living, and teaching me how to listen to my body in recovery and in the future.”

Tracy adds, “I am 55 years old and I am here.  It is a good life and this is my journey.  I have been given my second chance.”

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