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'Why me?': Ohio native woman reflects on heart disease diagnosis, urges other women to get checked

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Posted at 6:25 AM, Feb 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-14 06:25:19-05

CLEVELAND — Heart disease remains the leading cause of death for women in the U.S. and many of those who suffer experience symptoms as a warning sign.

But that wasn't the case for Jen Wallace, a wife and active mom of two from Ohio.

Looking back, she often reflects on 2020; the day she saw her doctor for a normal check up.

“I just went in for a routine physical and was diagnosed with a heart murmur, which I never been told I had before,” she explained.

Immediately, she was confused.

“I really hadn't had any major health issues or concerns. So, when this came about, I just felt like, you know, no one, why me?”

Eventually she reached out to the Cleveland Clinic. There, doctors confirmed Jen had an aneurysm and atrial septal defect, also known as a hole in the heart. The congenital heart defect causes an abnormal opening in the dividing wall between the upper filling chambers of the heart. It’s something generally diagnosed early in children.

“Of course, I googled it. And of course, you know, you start to go down the path of all of the scary things that could happen,” Jen recalled.

At just 34, Jen needed open-heart surgery in the midst of a pandemic.

“We were a little bit more cautious, I think, as a family leading up to my surgery,” she said.

Now, Jen is now fully recovered and is choosing to share her story, while also encouraging others to push for answers when it comes to their health.

The Cleveland Clinic tells News 5 their recent online survey found 34% of Americans feel even if they do have a family history of heart disease, there’s nothing they can do to limit the risk of developing a heart condition. However, doctors say that is not the case. They say a simple checkup and early treatment help can save lives.

“If something feels off or something feels like this doesn't seem right, you know, get it checked out,” she said. “You have to listen to your body, you have to be your own advocate.”