Me, Princess Leia and Heart Disease

As I heard about Carrie Fisher’s (aka Princess Leia) heart attack upon that London flight. My own heart dropped. I knew her chances of surviving were not stellar. Being a semi-heart expert myself, I knew that there were some things that were not in her favor. The number one thing being that SHE WAS A WOMAN.  Before the feminists lose their minds, you might want to know that the number one killer of women is not breast cancer, but it is actually heart disease.  As someone who has been fighting this thing for four years now, the one thing I thought she had going for her was being taken to UCLA. After all, it was UCLA that saved my life.  If they could save my pathetic, little life then surely they could save hers.  However that wasn’t the case.

princess-leia-metal-bikini-e1337274700461As a little girl, I remember watching the Star Wars films but I was much more a Darth Vader fan than a Princess Leia one. I even dressed up as Darth Vader one year. But I don’t want you to get the idea I hated Princess Leia because I didn’t. She did seem funny and smart but Darth could kill you with his hand, very cool. I was a tomboy back then so liking Princess Leia seemed “girly” though most girls back then would probably tell you they liked her because she wasn’t “girly.” Of course, that gold metal bikini didn’t help her make her less “girly” in my eyes.

I didn’t feel like I had all that much in common in with Princess Leia but last week that all changed. In a swift second, we had more in common than we ever would. I could almost hear her saying, Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope:

 

And while Obi Wan Kenobi may have been Princess Leia’s only hope for me and Carrie, UCLA was ours. I wished that she would get Dr. Shamsa and Dr. Shemin as her primary cardiologists. After Dr. Shemin was my cardiothoracic and given my complicated history, was the only one who could have pulled off my surgery at all. From what I have been told he is the best in the country when it comes to complicated heart surgery. And I believe they are right, otherwise I might have ended up like Carrie. Dr. Shamsa is a cardiologist and deals with the day to day management of heart issues. (Of course, if you read my blog before you already knew that).

When she died I was in shock. While I knew the factors such her age, being a woman and the fact that first heart attacks tend to be the most fatal (however, if you are lucky to survive the first one, each one after that becomes increasing worse.) and the fact she did drugs back in the day, only increased her chances of her not surviving this. Knowing all of this I was still holding UCLA up as being able to pull off a miracle, they did for me after all. So when she did, it wasn’t so much a shock from the heart attack killing her, it was a shock that UCLA couldn’t save her. It didn’t make sense, I had a whole slew of medical conditions going in. Why were they able to save me and not her? It is like some kind of quasi-survivor’s guilt

However there may be one saving grace in all of this. Princess Leia, an American icon just became the face of heart disease for women. For years, there has a been a push to study heart disease for women because it what happened to the Princess happens to so many ordinary women. According to the CDC, heart disease kills 22.4 percent of women each year. Yet nothing is done.  However, it is like that with all diseases, no one cared about AIDS until Rock Hudson died from it.  No one gave a hoot about ALS until Lou Gehrig considered himself the luckiest man in the world despite having it. Parkinson’s research didn’t hit its high until Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali spoke about it. And the granddaddy of them all MS, which was almost unknown until Jerry Lewis and his telethon.

Her last remaining legacy may not be Princess Leia but what she does to further research for women’s heart disease.  Both the Princess and Carrie fought many great fights in their lives, let’s make sure the one they couldn’t win, is used to help women all over the world to help their greatest fight as well-the fight for their heart. If you want to know more about how you can help your heart go here:

Heart Disease for Women

More needs to be done to help women with heart disease. Women are often ignored or seen as hypochondriacs  and not taken seriously. I got lucky, I finally found someone who would listen to me when I was told I had allergies by another doctor. If there is a war on women it is found in the healthcare industry and has nothing to do with birth control but with the heart. 

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