Tuesday, February 23, 2010 2:09 PM

Cardiac scare turns woman into heartfelt advocate

Rosalie Wyckoff, 54, is exhilarated to be able to walk more than a mile every day now. Just a year ago she couldn’t even walk half a block without feeling extremely fatigued.


Rosalie Wyckoff reminds women to take care of their hearts with this red dress pin and by talking about her own cardiac scare.

Wyckoff thought her sedentary lifestyle was making her feel constantly tired and unable to get off the couch some days. Then one night she felt an unusual, yet painless squeeze in her chest.

The squeeze sent her to Dr. Richard Gregory to find out why and to ask about the extra tiredness. The staff at Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital ran blood tests, took an X-ray and angiogram and discovered she had two arteries that were 80% to 90% restricted, and her blood contained an elevated stress enzyme. If she had waited a few days longer to see the doctor, she may have had a severe heart attack.

“It was a blessing I went in before I had a heart attack, I may have died,” Wyckoff said.

Wyckoff was immediately scheduled to have open heart surgery and a double bypass the next day.  “I had no idea – I was like a walking heart attack waiting to happen.”

 Wyckoff and 10 other heart disease survivors from the Valley were recently asked to model at the Go Red for Women Luncheon and Fashion Show on Feb. 26 at the Fresno Convention Center in honor of their advocacy work on heart issues. She will be modeling a red dress provided by Macy’s. Wyckoff has enjoyed going to the modeling seminars and meeting other women who share similar stories as hers.

“There is lots of laughter, I have met a lot of wonderful women with similar stories,” she said.

More than 80% of the money from tickets purchased for the luncheon will go directly to the American Heart Association. The luncheon will include a silent auction, live auction, an educational breakout session, keynote speaker and survivor fashion show.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States. Although heart problems are common in her family, Wyckoff never thought she would be a part of this statistic because she has always maintained healthy eating habits.

Her heart disease symptoms were very mild, so mild that, “I could easily explain them away,” she said. She feels many women can be fooled by the painless and mild side-effects and blame them on other things, so she suggests women should always pay close attention to what they are feeling.

It took one week to recover and a full year to build up her strength again after heart surgery. She made it her goal to start walking every day while she was in the hospital and continued that goal once at home. She is now back at work and walks one and a half miles a day, five days a week with weights in hand every other day. She hopes to start running soon.

Wyckoff has improved her eating habits and lost 20 pounds since her surgery. She has never felt better. “I am the complete opposite now, I have energy, I feel younger and my skin and hair are healthier all because of my heart surgery,“ she said.

Through Wyckoff’s own experiences, she encourages other women to:

  • Always discuss concerns about how you are feeling to your doctor
  • Don’t put off going to the doctor
  • Don’t ignore symptoms
  • Stay active by adding other elements of exercise to increase aerobic benefits

She also suggests staying within the Heart Association guidelines by:

  • Eating a variety of nutritious foods from all food groups
  • Limiting foods high in calories and low in nutrients
  • Reading nutrition facts, labels and ingredients
  • Watching cholesterol and fat intake

Wyckoff also enjoys sharing healthy cooking tips with other women in order to lead a heart-healthy lifestyle. She suggests switching to fat free milk and yogurt, use only egg whites when baking and to substitute apple sauce for oil in baking recipes. 

This story was reported by Malissa Rose. She can be reached at MedWatchToday@communitymedical.org.