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Tracy J Heart to Heart Healing - Tracy's Story

“He took me for a walk around the hospital,” she says. “He spent the time to make sure I understood how lucky I was. He said it won’t be easy, but that I can do things to get healthier. I appreciated that he was so honest.”

Support from her social circle and doctor helped one woman control high blood pressure. Now she’s paying it forward.

Tracy Johnson understands the importance of paying it forward. Twice in the past six years, she experienced the effects of the “silent killer” – high blood pressure. In 2012, a nurse sounded the first alarm, when Tracy became ill at work. “My blood pressure was 220/120, and she sent me straight to the emergency room. That’s when I first found out I had high blood pressure.”

Tracy was able to keep the condition in check through prescription medications, healthy eating, and quitting smoking. Those were tough steps, she says, but important ones for managing high blood pressure; especially important for Tracy as an African-American. African-Americans are at higher risk for developing high blood pressure and the health conditions that can stem from it.

Over time, Tracy’s symptoms waned and so did her attention to her health, she admits. This past spring, her sense of having an elephant on her chest got the attention of her fiancée, who practically forced her to go to the hospital. Tracy’s trip to Newark Beth Israel likely saved her life.

The cardiology team at Newark Beth Israel discovered that Tracy had developed heart disease as a result of her high blood pressure. Two of her arteries were 90 percent blocked including “the widow maker,” an artery that once completely blocked is known to lead to sudden death.

During heart catheterizations, Gautam Visveswaran, MD, an interventional cardiologist at Newark Beth Israel, treated her blockages by placing stents (tubes) in her arteries, which opened up blood flow. He then did something Tracy didn’t expect.

“He took me for a walk around the hospital,” she says. “He spent the time to make sure I understood how lucky I was. He said it won’t be easy, but that I can do things to get healthier. I appreciated that he was so honest.”

That talk made an impression. Tracy was able to go home the next morning and has since gotten back to a healthier routine. “I’m losing weight, taking my medication and exercising more,” she says.

Tracy Johnson