Don’t Play Games with Your Heart: Clariese Armstrong

Feb 4, 2021 | Heart Health, Wellness

Clariese Armstrong unknowingly suffered two heart attacks. Looking back, she now recognizes signs that her heart wasn’t working properly for many years.      Makeup by Amber Himes

Clariese Armstrong, 73

For years, Clariese Armstrong had a cough that would come and go, which she and her family always thought was bronchitis. While it was annoying, it never kept her from working or caring for her children or home. Eventually, though, she began to feel increasingly fatigued. “This is not right; something is wrong,” she said to herself. She went to her primary care doctor, who did an electrocardiogram (EKG) and advised her to see a cardiologist.

Clariese visited Dr. Abraham Joseph at UofL Physicians. “They did all sorts of tests and told me I had had two heart attacks [of] which I was unaware,” she says. Dr. Joseph referred Clariese to cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon Dr. Brian Ganzel who recommended surgery. Clariese underwent open heart surgery to make repairs.

Looking back, in addition to her cough, Clariese can now recognize signs that her heart wasn’t working properly for many years. “Sometimes I’d have profuse sweating, but it was put off on getting older and going through ‘the change,’” she says. “I didn’t realize this was my heart trying to compensate.”

Following surgery, Clariese spent a short amount of time in a nursing home until she was strong enough to be back in her home and then went on to do cardiac rehab at UofL’s Healthy Lifestyle Center at Mary & Elizabeth Hospital, which she has continued doing three times a week. She admits she didn’t bounce back immediately to her old self and had to take time to regain strength. “I thought, ‘I’m gonna jump up and do this and do that.’ My body said, “Uh-uh. Girlfriend, go take that nap,” she says.

Clariese credits UofL’s cardiac rehab staff with providing her exceptional, friendly care. “That group of fantastic, beautiful young people allowed me to go in and vent,” she says. “They were so encouraging. They know my name; they listen to me.”

Her heart experience taught Clariese that as a woman she is worthy of good health and good health care by professionals. She hopes her heart story serves as a reminder of this to all Kentuckiana women.

P.S. Read about other women’s experiences when confronted with heart ailments.

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