Congenital Heart Disease Survivor, Age 40, South Gate, CA
Lidia Morales knows better than anyone the importance of getting a second opinion.
Plagued by heart palpitations, prickly pains in her chest and shortness of breath for months on end, Lidia waited to see a doctor until after a high school friend died suddenly from a heart attack. That was her wake up call.
"I immediately thought: if this could happen to someone I knew, then what about me?" she says.
It would take a visit to not one, but three doctors before Lidia received an accurate diagnosis: a rare condition in which there is an abnormality to a coronary artery caused her bothersome symptoms over the proceeding months. Bypass surgery was her only option for survival. For Lidia, doctors may as well have told her that her life was over.
"In an instant, I saw my whole life flash before my eyes," she says. "I kept thinking of my three young children growing up without a mother. I cried the entire way home from the doctor's office. I just didn't realize it could be something so serious."
After a successful surgery, Lidia gained a new perspective.
"Surviving the surgery and then going through cardiac rehab was life-changing for me," Lidia says. "You really learn to not take things for granted when you have such a hard time doing the smallest things like walking, brushing your teeth or opening a window."
Once her strength was back, Lidia had to overcome the mental hurdles that often come with being a heart disease survivor. "I used to be an avid exerciser, but after this surgery I worried about my heart rate getting too high," she says. "I would go to my doctor for every little thing because I was scared."
Five years later, Lidia is more accepting of what happened to her. Instead of focusing on what she might do wrong, Lidia now focuses on what is right about her life post heart disease. "I'm eating better than ever and exercising again," she says. "I've made changes to my lifestyle that will benefit my entire family."
Lidia is also more open to telling her story, hoping that it will help other women.
"I show people my surgery scar and tell them it's my beauty mark because this experience has taught me so many things about my life," she says. "It sounds crazy, but if I could go back and change what happened to me, I wouldn't."
The greatest lesson for Lidia: The importance of listening to your instincts and seeking another opinion if things don't feel right.
"I could've easily died if I hadn't pushed for another opinion and more tests," she says. "I always tell people that no one knows you better than you!"