FH Family Story – Debby A.
Debby was seven years old the last time she touched her father’s flat top hair cut. “Mom and Dad were going out dancing and we were left with Bonnie the babysitter,” recalls Debby. The next thing she remembers is waking up in the middle of the night to the news that her father had a massive heart attack and passed away. He was 30 years old and had Familial Hypercholesterolemia, though he never knew it.
Things were never quite the same for Debby and her siblings. They had to have tests done every year to check their cholesterol and they were always on weird diets. “For a while we only had powdered eggs and powdered milk. We never had real butter, and if it was ‘fat-free,’ we had it.” As she grew older, like many of us, she ignored her family’s cholesterol issue. “When you’re young, you’re invincible.” Then, at 36 years old she lost vision in her left eye. Doctors ran tests and her cholesterol totaled somewhere in the 500s. She had inherited her father’s FH. Her doctor urged her to go on medication, and she did – off and on. “I didn’t feel sick and I had other things to spend my money on. That medicine is expensive without insurance, and I had two small children to take care of.”
At 42 she went in for a routine checkup and was immediately admitted to the hospital and scheduled for a quadruple bypass and a carotid artery endoscopy. Today she has had a few more stents and continues to feel the effects of a blockage in the right subclavian artery. Her arm tires easily and she gets chest pains. When her doctor found the subclavian blockage he told her there was nothing he could do until it was an emergency because she was not insured. So she essentially has to wait for a heart attack before care can be provided.
“It creeps up on you,” says Debby, “You don’t even know you’re sick. You just get tired and think they’re normal aches and pains everyone has from getting older. It’s kind of embarrassing to be sick and not know it. It’s embarrassing now that I didn’t take care of myself. No matter how much you know, when the high cholesterol hits or you need procedures, you feel so guilty.”
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