Sometimes it's the little things that can indicate big problems.
Not being able to catch your breath. Having trouble sleeping. Feeling thirsty all the time.
For Martha Jumpiere, those clues were the initial signs of congestive heart failure, a disease that affects nearly 6 million people in the U.S. alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
At first, she just assumed she was stressed at work or experiencing a brief dip in her otherwise good health. She didn't consider that she might be struggling with a serious cardiovascular disease. Over time, her health worsened.
"My body was out of whack," said Jumpiere, who lives with her family in North Carolina. "I was just crashing in every way but I kept it to myself for quite some time."
She's not alone. Public awareness of heart failure tends to lag behind its prevalence.
According to a recent survey conducted by Abbott, only 20 percent of respondents could identify the symptoms of heart failure experienced by Martha. The majority of respondents didn't think heart failure would affect them or their family, even though it directly or indirectly affects 2 in 5 Americans.
Starting a New Chapter
For many people, it takes experiencing a crisis to make them realize they need help.
One day, Jumpiere was on the phone with her daughter when she suddenly found herself struggling to breathe. Jumpiere initially thought she was having an anxiety attack but ultimately followed her intuition that something was wrong.
"I think there's a moment in time where you kind of stop," said Trina, Jumpiere's daughter. "For me and my sister, it was just that. We said, 'We have an illness here that we have to figure out and we have to learn as much as we can.' "
After visiting the doctor, Martha learned that she had heart failure and would eventually need a new heart. But like many others on the transplant waitlist, she had to wait for one to come available first, which can take a year or more for most patients, according to the American Journal of Transplantation.
An interim solution was needed, so her care team suggested Abbott's HeartMate 3™ left ventricular assist device (LVAD) until a heart potentially becomes available. The tiny pump helps Martha's heart do the job it has become too weak to do on its own.
Surviving and Moving Forward
With the HeartMate 3, Jumpiere has gotten back to life as an active grandma who plays bingo, dances and bowls. There was recovery time after her LVAD procedure but now she's returned to her routines.
"When I first woke up, I said, 'Dern! I'm connected!' " Jumpiere said, referring to the wires that now attach her to her LVAD battery pack in her fanny pack. "But then again, I said, 'I'm living.' My life changed. I woke up refreshed, feeling like a million bucks. I am a survivor."
Jumpiere likes to add in that last part. She'll always be one.
While she knows there's no cure for heart failure, she's also begun to understand that her condition can be managed successfully and she can still live a fulfilling life.
That's exactly what Jumpiere intends to keep doing. Her only regret is that she didn't open up about her symptoms sooner. Given the severity of heart failure (and of other cardiovascular diseases), telling someone could be all the difference.
"Tell your family," Jumpiere said. "They love you. They're your strength. I'm living even stronger now because I'm surviving — and they're there to watch me and to keep me going."
Individual Experience: This testimonial relates an account of an individual's response[CB1] to the treatment. The patient's account is genuine, typical and documented. However, it does not provide any indication, guide, warranty or guarantee as to the response other persons may have to the treatment. Responses to the treatment discussed can and do vary and are specific to the individual patient.