Go Red for Women

It took a while for Krystal Rogers to get answers about her crummy feeling.

She was 40, ate healthy food and exercised regularly. But in November 2017, she couldn’t shake her sluggishness and headache.

Rogers had no chest pains, no numbness and no other signs of heart problems. She was a second-grade teacher and mother in an active family.

Common advice given to her was to get more sleep, take more vitamins or lower her stress. One night, she had enough and wanted to check with a different doctor.

“I felt silly going to urgent care for a headache,” Rogers said. “But I just had this feeling and wanted someone to get to the bottom of why I didn’t feel well.”

Dr. Earl Callery, now retired, was on shift. When she said her dad died of a brain aneurysm, it caught Dr. Callery’s attention.

“He said he had a gut feeling I needed to have a head and neck scan,” Rogers said. “He really sat down and listened to me. He asked about my family history and that changed everything. I want to thank him because I know he was the starting point.”

The scan found nothing problematic in her head and neck, but the image found something worrisome at the top of her heart. That emergency room image found a heart aneurysm. Days later, more testing discovered a leaky heart valve.

Ten days after diagnosis, Rogers underwent open heart surgery by Dr. Michael Phillips at the Oklahoma Heart Institute. He fixed the aneurysm and put in a mechanical valve to fix the heart leak. At that time, Phillips found a hole in her heart, which he was able to mend.

“I was in shock. I was floored,” Rogers said. “It was truly miraculous. I was told if it had not been caught, I would have been gone in about three months.”

Rogers will be telling her story at the Go Red for Women luncheon Friday at the downtown Hyatt Regency, a fundraiser for the American Heart Association.

This is the day women will be wearing red to symbolize the attention needed to heart health.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the U.S. Among women, it is responsible for one of three deaths.

It’s also a young person’s concern. Annually, about 15,000 women younger than 55 die from heart disease.

For decades, medical information and research centered on symptoms of men, who typically show heart disease earlier than women.

It has since been found that differences exist between genders, and the survival rate for women after a cardiac episode is much lower than men.

About 64% of women who die suddenly from coronary heart disease show no previous systems, according to the American Heart Association. This is because of those varying symptoms for women.

Women are more likely to have shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back and jaw pain. Also, they need to be concerned about dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, extreme fatigue and pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen.

These symptoms — fatigue, indigestion, anxiety, sleep disturbance, heart racing, weak/heavy arms — may appear at least a month before a heart attack.

Heart disease can affect women who are physically fit, but healthier lifestyle choices can reduce the risk for women who have a family history of heart disease.

Unknown to Rogers, heart defects run in her family. After her surgery, a sister underwent tests and also found a heart aneurysm and leaky heart valve.

“This was very silent, and I’ve encouraged my siblings to be proactive,” Rogers said. “We need to listen to our bodies. I don’t want people to be fearful, but if we sense something isn’t right or have a history of heart disease, then dig deeper.”

Rogers made some changes after her surgery, including the way she exercises and having more caution about her diet.

“It’s about finding balance, and I think I’m getting it down,” she said. “For women, we need to listen to our bodies and get regular checkups. It’s OK to put yourself first.

“For many of us, we are about getting kids to games, recitals and other family events. That’s what we do. Now, I spend more time taking care of myself. I love my family, but you have to prioritize your life.

“This is a great life to be living, but we have to be in tune with our bodies and health.”

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Ginnie Graham 918-581-8376


Twitter: @GinnieGraham

Editorial Writer

Born and raised in Oklahoma, Ginnie is an editorial writer for the Tulsa World Opinion section. Phone: 918-581-8376