kristen and chad

My name is Kristen Gradney and I am the Clinical Nutrition Manager at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, LA. I am married to Chad, who was diagnosed with FH last year, and the mother of the busiest, sweetest 2 year old I know, Hunter.

Two of the most special men in my life are currently affected by FH, therefore I want to help others like them to know that this disease exists and with early diagnosis, knowledgeable medical staff, and aggressive treatment, their story can be told differently.

Chad, who was my fiancé at the time, went in to the ER one morning, as I was taking my last nutrition final, with chest pain.

The next day he was scheduled to have open heart quadruple bypass surgery, at the very young age of 27. Our lives were turned upside down with doctor’s visits where he was the youngest patient in the office, medication costs, and recovery from surgery that slowed down our lives – temporarily. We were married two months later and we went on to start living life like there was no tomorrow. Chad took the medications prescribed and stayed active, as he always had. He would fish and hunt all year in addition to just being an outdoorsman. Of course, as a dietitian, I was always counting fat grams, cholesterol, sodium, carbs, and pretty much everything in each bite of food. As his cholesterol would bounce around and go up and down, his cardiologist, who is a huge proponent of diet and stress therapy, gave Chad direction to follow a diet he wrote, stop watching the news at night, and begin journaling to help improve his numbers. While some of these things were good suggestions, none of them made an impact on his long term heart health, as we recently found out.

In March of last year, Chad went back to the ER with chest pains that were worsening. Another heart cath was done, and to our surprise, all but one of his bypasses are now occluded. The cardiologist he had recently started seeing, spoke to me over the phone in the nurses station, and informed me that there was nothing else that could be done but manage his symptoms with medication. When that no longer worked, he would need a heart transplant because his arteries were so diseased.

It was devastating news that led us to Johns Hopkins for more answers.

After going to Johns Hopkins and meeting with a cardiologist and lipidologist, he is now being treated very aggressively with medication and lifestyle changes. They recognized his case immediately as being FH. At this time, an NMR lipoprofile was ordered for our son by the lipid clinic there and it was found that he does have markers for FH and will be monitored closely as well. Chad now has cholesterol lower than mine and his labs are impeccable, after 7 long years of fighting an uphill battle with FH that we had no idea we were fighting.

We want others to know that this does exist and that this is not the result of “eating too much McDonald’s” as someone in the hospital remarked when they saw this young, vibrant, normal weight man come in. For the sake of my son and those like him, I hope that awareness to this disease can bring about therapies and resources that can prevent him from having to go through what my husband has in his 35 years.