Hula hoop fitness instructor and business owner Tasya Lacy thought she was in the best shape of her life — until she had a “widow maker” heart attack.
Tasya Lacy was struggling with what she figured was a pulled muscle near her left shoulder blade. Two weeks later, she couldn’t shake the pain or a relentless exhaustion despite taking pain relievers.
Her husband, Dale, urged her to take a break from teaching several hula hoop classes a week. She resisted, but she did pledge to rest after leading an upcoming hoop-a-thon. The event was full of beginners, so she thought it might end early; instead, a few stalwarts hooped for three hours straight.
As the event was nearing the end, Lacy tried to demonstrate some moves when she suddenly felt a pain in her chest that radiated through her left arm.
“I thought I’d pulled something again and played it off and said, ‘Oh, I can’t do this because I’m 50,’ because I was embarrassed,” said the now the 54-year-old living in Columbus, Ohio.
Later, Lacy went to a friend’s wedding reception, feeling guilty she’d missed the ceremony earlier. Within a half hour, she began to feel nauseated and quickly returned home.
Once home, Lacy struggled to get comfortable and tried to make her way to the bedroom when she again felt a jolt of pain. Her husband took one look and announced they were going to the hospital.
“The last thing I remember was saying, ‘I don’t want to go to the hospital,’ and woke up with tubes everywhere,” she said.
Lacy was having a heart attack. She underwent a catheterization, a procedure doctors use to diagnose and treat some heart conditions. After Lacy’s catheterization, doctors placed three stents to open a 99 percent blockage in her main coronary artery.
Since that 2016 event, Lacy has focused her life on staying healthy. She also has struggled to process what had happened. Over the next few months, she returned to the hospital several times, fearful of another heart attack. She sank into depression and gained weight after she stopped exercising.
“I was mad at the world,” she said. “I thought I was doing everything right and still had a heart attack.”
But with support from her family, friends and faith, Lacy recovered.
She still experiences angina and she knows she’s at risk for a second heart attack, so she closely monitors symptoms, seeking help when something is wrong rather than ignoring it.
Doctors aren’t sure what caused Lacy’s heart attack. She wasn’t aware of any risk factors and was told the form of hereditary angioedema she was diagnosed with at 19 wasn’t to blame. Because Lacy didn’t know her father, she isn’t sure if she had a family history of heart disease.
In 2017, she connected with her local American Heart Association. For the past three years she has organized an annual fundraiser that encourages women of all ages to find a physical activity that motivates them.
“I realize hula hooping isn’t for everyone, but I also know I wouldn’t have been working out if my only choice was a treadmill,” she said.
At her husband’s urging, Lacy eventually returned to teaching hula hoop classes, sharing her experience with her students and encouraging them to learn the symptoms and risks of heart attack and to listen to their bodies.
“My friend’s husband got the help he needed because I reminded them both to recognize and know the symptoms of heart attack — and he ended up undergoing a triple bypass,” she said.
“I found my purpose.”
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