Donna Ruboyianes - a woman's heart storyWith her fresh face, winning smile and youthful disposition, most would never guess that Donna Ruboyianes is mom to seven children and grandmother to seven more. And to see her working out in the gym you’d never guess that just over a year ago she had a heart attack (myocardial infarction) while undergoing angioplasty.

It was Donna’s involvement in the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign that alerted her that something was wrong with her own heart when odd symptoms started to show. Unlike the vast majority of women who list cancer as their main health concern, Donna knew from her work with the local chapter of the American Heart Association that heart disease was the number one killer of women.

Myth: Heart disease is for men, and cancer is the real threat for women

Fact: Heart disease is a killer that strikes more women than men

Heart disease kills more women than men and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. While one in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, heart disease claims the lives of one in three. That’s roughly one death each minute. Do you know myth from fact? Check out more from the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women.

Out shopping on Black Friday 2012, Donna started to experience some atypical symptoms – swelling in one leg and wheezing. She knew something was wrong and made an appointment to see a doctor immediately. Within the week Donna was scheduled for angioplasty.

What is angioplasty? Angioplasty is a procedure in which a narrowed section of the coronary artery is widened. Angioplasty is less invasive and has a shorter recovery time than bypass surgery, which is also done to increase blood flow to the heart muscle but requires open-chest surgery. Most of the time stents are placed during angioplasty. An angioplasty is done using a thin, soft tube called a catheter. A doctor inserts the catheter into a blood vessel in the groin or wrist. The doctor carefully guides the catheter through blood vessels until it reaches the blocked portion of the coronary artery. For more information on angioplasty please see the TMC Healthwise Encylopedia.

Angioplasty is usually a short procedure, but during the procedure Donna had a heart attack. The following August Donna underwent bypass surgery.

While the angioplasty and bypasses address the immediate blockage, it isn’t a ‘quick fix’ as Jenna Edwards a TMC cardiac rehabilitation nurse explains, “You might hear someone say, ‘I had a stent’, but that isn’t changing their risk factors. Here in cardiac rehab we get to talk about life long changes. Cardiac rehab can be instrumental in helping make those life changes and creating new habits.”

Marilyn Woods RN expands on the importance of cardiac rehabilitation, “Cardiac rehab is especially important to prevent another event which those who have had a heart event are at high risk for.”

For Donna, like many heart patients, making cardiac rehabilitation a priority has not been easy. “It’s so easy to fill up your day.”  With seven children and seven grandchildren that’s easy to imagine, but as Donna bluntly adds, “If you don’t make time for yourself, you won’t have any time.”

For Donna Ruboyianos knowing that women often exhibited the less common symptoms of heart disease and recognizing them, and then acting on her suspicions may have saved her life. Today Tucson Medical Center’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program is helping Donna to return to her activities and gain a better quality of life. She wants women to be aware of the symptoms of heart disease and to act when they experience them,

“It’s easy to attribute symptoms to being overweight, or having slept in a difficult position, but don’t ignore them. “