In the first half of 2012, Rosetta Carrington Lue began to experience a series of seemingly unrelated health issues: swollen hands and ankles, a torn Achilles tendon, fatigue and anemia. The doctors gave her a boot and crutches for the tendon, sent her to physical therapy and suggested iron pills. Rosetta, who is Chief Customer Service Officer for the city of Philadelphia and a self-described fast paced Type-A personality, was accustomed to managing many competing priorities. She carried on handling her hectic schedule - and her deteriorating health.
As Rosetta's health continued to decline and symptoms began to worsen, she was still unaware that an infection was devastating her heart. "I didn't know the symptoms of heart disease. I wasn't thinking there was anything wrong with my heart."
One March morning she woke up to intense pain on one side of her body. She couldn't get out of bed and she couldn't walk. "I thought, maybe it's my sciatic nerve and it will wear off," she remembers. "I called a friend and tried to put on a happy face." But her intuitive friend sensed it was something more serious, called 911 and sent her to a local emergency room.
Two days of testing revealed that Rosetta had contracted bacterial endocarditis, and the infection had destroyed two of her heart valves beyond repair. She required a blood transfusion and open heart surgery to replace her aortic and mitral valves with mechanical ones.
Motivation to Heal
The hardship wasn't over for Rosetta. During her months-long recovery from the surgery, she received shocking news: she learned she had congestive heart failure and that her youngest brother had been killed. "I couldn't have my mother suffer two losses. It wasn't an option," she says. "It gave me the motivation to heal again, question everything and not take anything for granted."
These two events led her to Penn Medicine's Heart & Vascular Center. "My boss wanted me to find someone who could be direct but not sterile." He referred Rosetta to cardiologist Mariell Jessup, M.D., the Medical Director of the Penn Heart and Vascular Center. "It was the best thing that ever happened."
Putting Her Heart in the Right Hands
For the first time in months, Rosetta felt like she was in the right hands. "It felt like someone was really listening to me. I have been in customer service a long time, and I can tell when someone is genuine or going through the motions," she says. "The patient engagement is amazing, the doctors are stellar and I can see why Dr. Jessup is the president of the American Heart Association. She doesn't panic. I call them with anything, any question, even things that don't have to do with cardiology. And they never turn me down. They treat me like I am in their corner."
Much like she does with her career, Rosetta has now taken charge of the situation. She understands how her family history of high blood pressure, and her recent healthcare experience, impacts her life and her health. Rosetta made several life changes – changes to her diet, increasing her exercise, and reducing her stress. "I'm still Type-A, but I have learned to let a lot of things go," she says.
A Heart Health Hero
Rosetta has also taken a more active role in raising heart disease awareness. She is currently a national spokesperson for the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women campaign, and hopes to help other women recognize the signs of heart disease. "If it wasn't for one woman listening to me on the phone, I may not have lived. I have been empowered to help others."
Her advice to others is "If you feel something is wrong with your body and don't feel mentally or physically satisfied with the diagnosis given, talk to your healthcare provider or seek other medical opinions to get to the bottom of your issue quickly and treat it on time. A proper diagnosis can make the difference between life and death."
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