At 25, Brandy Wilson thought she knew what her future held. She had a wonderful husband and had just given birth to her third child. Standing in her kitchen, watching her toddlers play in the backyard while her newborn slept nearby, it seemed like life was almost perfect. It was at that moment, however, that Brandy’s life changed forever.
While opening a can of peaches to bake her family a pie, Brandy broke into a cold sweat and started having trouble breathing. Soon, pain started radiating through her chest and back, and she couldn’t feel her left arm. Even though she was close to losing consciousness and having trouble standing, Brandy managed to get her children inside and call for help. An EKG soon revealed what was causing her symptoms: Brandy was having a widow-maker heart attack.
Brandy was immediately air-lifted to a hospital with a cardiac cath lab. There, a cardiologist discovered that Brandy’s coronary artery had dissected, most likely when she was giving birth to her son just days before. Four stents were placed in Brandy’s heart. Shortly after Brandy had her stents placed, she began having episodes of ventricular tachycardia, or an irregular heartbeat. The bottom of her heart was not beating in sync with the top of her heart. Brandy had a pacemaker placed to help regulate her heartbeat. Unfortunately, that was not the end of Brandy’s heart journey.
After her pacemaker was placed, Brandy settled in to what she thought was her new normal. She did cardiac rehab but still found herself constantly exhausted, short of breath and with crushing chest pain. Brandy’s cardiologist ordered a cardiac catheterization that revealed that her left coronary artery was so dissected that it could not hold the stents. The stents in Brandy’s heart had traveled down into another artery, essentially closing it off. But Brandy’s body found a way to circumvent the issue: it created collateral vessels to help maintain blood flow. Though these vessels prevented her from having another heart attack, Brandy’s condition would eventually require her to have a heart transplant.
Instead of sitting and waiting for the next step in her heart journey, Brandy chose to take another life-changing step. Inspired by the very people that helped her navigate the waters of her illness, Brandy enrolled in school to become a nurse. She is now an ER nurse who uses her experience to help her patients. Of why she became a nurse, Brandy said, “My passion for nursing comes from having wonderful nurses who took care of me when I was sick. As an ER nurse, I tell people before I discharge them that if they ever have a feeling of impending doom [a common feeling during a heart attack] or something just doesn’t feel right, to seek help immediately.”
Brandy is currently on medications to prevent heart failure and help with her shortness of breath and chest pain. They have helped improve her quality of life drastically. Of why she chose to be part of the #NoMOHeartDisease, Brandy said, “The American Heart Association has given me a platform to inspire others. It makes me so proud to work with such a great group and know that my story could possibly help someone else.”