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The Lesson a Local Teacher Shares after her Heart Attack

“I thought I was in perfect shape,” says Bixby first grade teacher, wife and mother of three, Becky Even, 60. “I’m still in shock.”

 Tuesday, January 26, 2016 was Grandparents’ Day at school. “I was dressed to a tee!” Becky remembers. She was ready for the activities planned and for anxious first graders to welcome their guests into the classroom, despite being more tired than usual the day before. A 24-year teaching veteran, Becky knew days like this come with added excitement and details to consider, which is why she had spent part of her Sunday afternoon at school preparing for the special day.

“I had dropped a Diet Coke on the floor and when I went to sweep it up, I felt a whooshing in my chest,” she says of a sensation that caused her to pause. “I’ve never felt that before. It kind of alarmed me. I thought if I feel that again, I’m going to get it checked.” It was a cold winter day and Becky thought, if anything, she was developing a respiratory infection in her lungs.

After festivities for Grandparents’ Day wrapped up successfully, Becky put on her coat for bus duty and escorted her students out to go home. That’s when the feeling came back stronger. “I felt pain and started walking to my room. I sat down, but it was getting so intense I had to lie down. There was no question of ‘What is this?’”

The pain radiated down both of her arms and across her chest. “I knew something was bad,” she says. “It was a weird, heavy, burning pain.”

A fellow teacher and close friend, witnessing Becky in distress, ran to get the school nurse. She called 9-1-1.

“I remember trying to take a children’s aspirin, but the date had expired,” Becky adds.

Emergency responders from a nearby fire station arrived within minutes.

“My friend wanted me to go to Saint Francis,” Becky says. “The EMT said, ‘We’re taking her to Hillcrest South now!’ That probably saved my life.”

When Becky arrived at Hillcrest South, Oklahoma Heart Institute nurse Robin Williams, RN, greeted her as they headed to the cath lab. “I remember Robin saying, ‘Mrs. Even, you’re having a heart attack.’ She grabbed my hand and said, ‘It’s going to be OK.’”

In that moment, Becky says she was filled with a sense of calmness. “I told them, ‘I have perfect peace,’” she says. “’God granted me this peace.’ I needed them to know that.”

Oklahoma Heart Institute cardiologist Dr. Robert Smith prepared for Becky’s heart catheterization. “He calmly said, ‘We are going to go in through your leg and find the blockage in your heart,’” Becky remembers.

Meanwhile, the pain continued to worsen. Becky noticed one of the nurses in the cath lab lean down by her side. “She whispered a prayer in my ear,” Becky says of the comforting gesture amid the fast-paced activity in the cath lab.

As Dr. Smith located the 100 percent blockage and placed the stent, Becky says the pain relief was instant. “It went from a 10 to nearly zero,” she adds. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh I’ve made it through this!’”

Word spread quickly of Becky’s heart attack and emergency stent procedure. Family, friends and the community sent messages of encouragement and prayers through Facebook. “More than 540 people contacted me through Facebook,” she shares. “More than a thousand people were praying for me.”

Hillcrest South Director of Echocardiography, Dr. Robert Sonnenschein, assessed the damage to Becky’s heart through an echocardiogram after her procedure. “He said I had the widow maker heart attack and had suffered moderate to severe heart damage,” Becky says. “When he did my second echocardiogram the next day he said, ‘It’s improved. It’s amazing.’”

Throughout this experience Becky says the right people were around her to help save her life - from the EMT to Robin meeting her when she arrived at the hospital to the doctors and nurses who cared for her. “I can’t say enough,” she says.

Today, Becky is starting a new phase of her life with gratitude for that Tuesday in January. Although, she admits that anxiety and depression have been among the “mixture of emotions” she has experienced since returning home from the hospital. “I was afraid to close my eyes those first three nights at home,” she explains. “You worry about every little pain or feeling in your heart.”

Becky is committed to making the changes she needs to make for her heart health. “I’m a rule-follower,” she adds. “My attitude is ‘I can do this!’ My goal is to do all that I can to reverse this or at least keep it under control. My heart attack has been for the good for me. I don’t want it to be a wasted event in my life.”

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