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’Keep pushing’: Gardiner woman beats heart disease after several heart attacks

At age 35, Jennifer Browne’s life changed forever.
Published: Feb. 4, 2021 at 4:54 PM EST
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GARDINER, Maine (WABI) - February is American Heart Month - a time to raise awareness about cardiovascular health.

A Gardiner woman is doing her best to educate women and men about heart disease.

This, after undergoing triple bypass surgery following multiple heart attacks.

“When the doctor told me I had congestive heart failure, I said, what? I worked full time. I was a very busy mom. I was very physically active and it just never crossed my mind,” said Jennifer Browne.

At age 35, Browne’s life changed forever.

After chest pains and difficulty breathing, she had a visit with her doctor. They diagnosed her with anxiety, gave her some medication, and sent her home.

Her condition, however, did not improve. So, she made another trip to her doctor.

“When they decided to do an EKG, that’s when everything changed,” Browne explained.

“Over a matter of a few weeks I was admitted in and out of the hospital. I had my lungs strained three times. I was sent to Maine Medical Center where I learned the full extent of my heart disease.”

In 2016, Jennifer underwent triple bypass surgery.

“It initially was successful and then I coded 29 times. So, I was put in a medically induced coma and I didn’t wake up till July,” she explained.

A year later, Jennifer had a new heart.

She waited just eight months to receive one.

Now, 40, life is different for Jennifer and her family.

She had several toes amputated and she says she can’t walk for more than 20 minutes.

But that doesn’t stop her from eating right and moving her body when she can.

According to the American Heart Association, preventative measures are key.

With good lifestyle choices, heart disease and stroke are 80 percent preventable.

MaineHealth Physician Notes Increase in Heart Disease in Maine Women

Dr. Anna Boniakowski of MaineHealth/Maine Medical Center talks of a recent increase in Maine women being seen for heart issues and urges women to learn the heart attack warning signs. This Friday is National Wear Red Day. #GoRedMaine

Posted by American Heart Association in Maine on Tuesday, February 2, 2021

“While 80% preventable is a big number, there’s still 20% that we don’t know why these things happen and they’re unusual, and sometimes we can never figure out the cause, like in Jennifer’s case,” explained Brenda Vitali, Communications Director for the American Heart Association, Northern New England chapter. “I think that makes it all the more important for younger women to become familiar with the warning signs and really know them so that if they’re having them themselves or someone they love, they’ll know right away to seek help.”

Now 3 1/2 years into recovery, Jennifer is still taking charge of her heart health, and she’s encouraging others to do the same.

“Don’t be afraid to take no for an answer. Keep pushing because it will save you,” said Browne.

Friday is National ‘Wear Red Day.’

You’re encouraged to sport the color red and raise awareness for women’s heart health.

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Posted by American Heart Association in Maine on Wednesday, February 3, 2021

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