The Rest of My Story (So Far)...

After living with multiple official heart disease diagnoses, and encouragement from loved ones, I decided to try running. I had two goals: 1) to lose weight... 2) to see if running would help my heart.

 

But... I was terrified to try.

 

See, I had an enlarged heart, rapid and lethal heart rhythms, a valve disorder, a slow heart rate AND I had a metal box in my chest to shock me back to life if needed. Heart medicine was my life line, NOT running. I had absolutely zero confidence in my abilities to be athletic… or to run more than 30 feet… unless something was chasing me.  

 

I hated the thought, the idea and everything else that had to do with running. To be quite honest, I did not want to get sweaty! 

 

After getting over myself and my fears, I decided it was time to try this running thing out. I set very small goals… like the “I’m-going-to-run-30-feet-to-the-mailbox-and-see-how-I-feel-after-that” kind of goals. I slowly worked my way up to running for one whole minute without stopping and I… felt… victorious!! 

 

I have to tell you that while I wanted to make changes, I was still totally afraid of getting shocked while I ran. I was still on medication, and that helped to keep my heart rate down, but there was always the possibly of getting shocked. I bought a heart rate monitor to keep me on target with my rate cutoff and I decided to go for it… and I started to actually like it. 

 

Next thing I know, I was running my first 5K. That was in January, 2008. It was a MAJOR victory for this non-runner ICD patient. After that successful finish of the Nashville Zoo Run, I knew that if anything would happen to me, my device was there just in case. 

 

Two days after the race, I went for a run with our dogs… because now I’m a “runner” and that’s what I do. Less than a mile away from my home, I started to feel like something wasn't right. All of a sudden, I got shocked. Not once, but three times. In my mind, this was the end of my life. I couldn't do anything to get the shocks to stop, except pray and try and calm myself down. Thankfully, it worked. I managed to pick myself up off the side of the road, and I walked back home. This was the first time I’d received more than one shock during an episode and I realized that my ICD had just saved me from sudden death on the side of the road. 

 

Less than a month later, we found out we were expecting our first baby. Considering all of my heart conditions, he was and is a miracle. Our second miracle baby was born 19.5 months after his big brother. Two months after he was born, my 3rd ICD had to be replaced.

 

A couple of months after my device replacement, I needed to try and run again. It turns out, I actually missed running, but I needed to get past the fear of getting shocked. So just as I did when I first started running, I set small goals for myself to run short distances… one minute at a time. Soon after, I started running more consistently again.

 

In September, 2011, my Cardiologist could no longer detect my Mitral Valve Prolapse… one of my heart conditions reversed itself and my bi-annual exams changed to yearly exams. Something I thought would never happen.

 

Just two months later, through testing and evaluation, I was told no more medication. My meds were slowing my heart rate down too much, causing my heart to work harder.

 

My Heart Restarted.

 

Since getting off medicine completely, I’ve successfully finished more 5K races than I can count, 4 Sprint Triathlons, 4 Twin Cities in Motion 10 Milers, and multiple Half Marathons, with another on the horizon in April. And My New Year’s Resolution is to run intervals 1,000 miles this year.

 

All of this crazy running has been done with my ICD tucked away in my little chest pocket. I’m on my 5th device and expect it will be several more years before it gets replaced. I've been medication free since November, 2011 and my last shock was in July, 2009.

 

With Faith, I run with confidence and freedom and I know that I'm okay. I almost gave up after I got my ICD, but someone had faith in me. That faith in me turned into me believing in myself and my own abilities. 

 

I want to be that hope to you… no matter what your health situation might be. I believe that Hope is what drives us all. Hope is my weapon against Heart Disease.

 

As the Wife of an amazing Husband and Mom of two super awesome boys, an ICD patient and non-runner turned aspiring athlete, I want to inspire others here in Nashville, and around the world, to never give up. Life doesn't have to revolve around our circumstances. 

 

Working with what we've been given and believing in our own abilities can truly change our lives! I run and workout nearly everyday with this little titanium box in my chest. I'm so grateful I have it and that I get to live my life. I refuse to let any of my diagnosis’ stop me. You can do it… and I believe in YOU!

 

Even though Heart Disease is the number one killer of women AND men in America, it’s preventable and survivable.

 

I was given my extra life on October 3, 1997. I’ve been using it to share my Heart Disease Survival story as a Volunteer and Speaker for the American Heart Association. It’s my passion and my  mission to help bring awareness to the survivability of Sudden Cardiac Arrest with use of an AED.  According to statistics published by the American Heart Association, for every  minute AED use is delayed, it means a 10% reduction in patient survival rates. 

 

In the United States, the majority of AEDs are currently owned by first responders. The next largest group of AED owners are schools, followed by faith-based and recreational organizations, and medical centers. That means places where you probably spend most of your daily life (eating, shopping, getting coffee, staying overnight while traveling) DON’T have an AED. 

 

A few years ago, I started paying attention to these little life-savers in glass cases that I found in public places. For fun, I snapped selfies with them, because they’re a visual reminder of the titanium box that lives in my chest. Earlier this year I started posted them on an Instagram account I created called Zapgirl and the AEDs. I wanted to give public recognition to the businesses who had them. Then I asked my friends to look for them, and if they see them, to snap a selfie and send it to me. Pictures are coming in from all over the world! (Add yours here!) Now I volunteer daily, searching for these life saving devices. My family is quite involved in my quest… searching for AEDs and now, my boys are writing comic books about Zapgirl and her Mission. 

 

These devices are quite simply Heart Restarters… like jumper cables for your car… an AED will help restart your heart. AND you don’t have to be trained to use one on someone who’s in Cardiac Arrest. Grab it off the wall, turn it on, and it tells you what to do. You could save someone’s life… or someone could save yours!

Carrie Romero

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© 2019 by Carrie Romero