The first thing WomenHeat Champion, Roxanne Watson shares with us when she picks up the phone is that she has an interview with her state senator. Then she jokes that she was on the news for her birthday twice last week. The following week is the anniversary of her heart transplant and Roxanne has been appearing on the news—just as she has done almost every week since her transplant in 2010— spreading awareness about women’s heart disease.
“I didn’t know I had a heart attack. I walked around for six weeks afterwards before I went to the doctor,” Roxanne says.
It was the doctors at her local hospital who suggested she attend WomenHeart’s Science & Leadership Symposium (S&L). “The best part was every single person in the room had something in common,” Roxanne recalls. “We were all fighting the same tough battle. It really does feel like a sisterhood.”
Armed with the knowledge she gained from S&L, Roxanne jumps at every opportunity to spread awareness. She is often called to speak on local news programs, schools, and community events. “Don’t go back home after S&L and say I met some amazing women. Go to work!” Roxanne says. “Because [of] this WomenHeart connection, I can get in anywhere.”
She can regularly be found at her local mall, where she hands out WomenHeart’s signature Red Bags of Courage, which include information about heart disease in women. “I tell people this is the only free thing you’re going to get in the mall today and this little bag is worth more than anything in the mall. It’s going to save your life.”
”I thought I was having hot flashes. I was having a heart attack,” explains WomenHeart Champion, Melissa Botello. “It was late at night when I began feeling unusually fatigued, experiencing jaw pain, having what I thought were very intense hot flashes.”
Melissa didn’t want to wake her family, so she ignored her pain. When she eventually did seek treatment for her jaw pain, she recalls, “No one really took my pain seriously. Doctors suggested I was menopausal.”
Mostly out of a matter of precaution, she eventually ended up in the catheterization lab for what she was told would be a quick, thirty-minute procedure. “I looked at the clock and saw it said 1 P.M.,” Melissa recalls of entering the lab. “When I woke up it was 5 P.M. and I was instantly terrified.”
She had been there for an angiogram and ended up having an angioplasty, with two stents placed in her heart.
Melissa is a single mom who works full-time. She has professional experience telling stories, forging connections, inspiring others and uses all of those skills when she creates or appears on health podcasts. She says that attending the Science & Leadership Symposium helped her better formulate her heart message. It gave her the facts to pair with her personal story. Look for another heart health podcast from Melissa in the coming weeks.