As a Deputy Managing Director for the City of Philadelphia, Rosetta Carrington Lue is responsible for hundreds of employees and many big city initiatives. But her career challenges were nothing compared to a personal health challenge she faced last year.
In March 2012 Rosetta’s health began a swift and steady decline. For six months she traveled from doctor to doctor to figure out why she was so fatigued and retaining water in her swollen ankles and hands. The diagnoses ranged from autoimmune deficiency disease to rheumatoid arthritis to torn Achilles heel and arm muscles to severe anemia.
One day Rosetta was too weak to get out of bed and went to the emergency room. Two days of testing at the hospital showed that she had contracted bacterial endocarditis, a heart infection that ravaged two of her heart valves beyond repair. In fact, she was close to developing infection throughout her body.
Rosetta now encourages people to be more proactive, get a baseline of their heart-health numbers and seek more opinions when necessary. Classic heart illness symptoms can easily be confused.
“It’s human nature to assume certain things if someone doesn’t look the part,” Rosetta says. “My advice to others is that 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.”
But Rosetta’s ordeal wasn’t over after her diagnosis. After a hospital stay that included blood transfusions, two valve replacements and recovery time, Rosetta was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
Only then did she realize how serious things were. Rosetta was forced to acknowledge that she had joined the ranks of women who have heart disease.
“I’ll never forget when they said the words ‘heart failure’,” Rosetta says. “For a moment I wondered if I might die, but then I decided that was not an option and I was just going to focus on getting strong again.”
Using the same leadership skills that served her well in her career, Rosetta began treating her illness like a job. She gathered all the information she could about how to live as healthy as possible. Because of a family history of high blood pressure, combined with the heart failure, being careful with her eating habits, taking her medications and exercising daily were critical.
After Rosetta found support on the American Heart Association website and through her local office, she began to see her condition as an opportunity to help others. She started sharing her story and healthy lifestyle tips with her family, her employees and other members of the African-American community.
“I had to make this more about others than about me so that something good could come out of it,” she says. “I can’t change what happened to me. But I can influence others’ understanding of this disease and show them that even with a heart disease diagnosis we can survive.”