Small changes add up when you are trying to live a healthier life. Just ask Lauren Turkovitz, a dietician at St. John’s Home. A very health conscious individual, Lauren comes off as a young, energetic, female professional who loves everything about food. When she is not at work, you can probably find her at the gym. “I have always been very active, even as a young girl,” states Turkovitz.
When Lauren was 14, her mom passed away suddenly of a massive heart attack. Like Lauren, her mom was active and ate well. Her family never had a history of heart disease. “It came out of nowhere,” Lauren says. Following the horrific events of her mother’s passing, Lauren and her family went to get heart echoes in hopes of finding answers and preventing something like this happening again. “You’re in this grieving process and you don’t really think this is something that will happen again.”
This all changed last year. In January of 2017, Lauren noticed a gas pain that started in her back. After three days, the pain persisted and Lauren found herself driving to the hospital one morning instead of driving into work. “I didn’t really think it was anything severe,” Lauren explains. “I think the anxiety from being in the hospital kind of kicked into overdrive and that’s when I became fatigued and realized the pain was now in my chest.”
After having an EKG, the doctors knew right away that something was wrong. Lauren’s main artery (LAD) was 100% blocked. With the prognosis being very poor, Lauren needed immediate attention. “They had to place a stent in that artery,” remembers Lauren. “And then there was the whole recovery process.” During her time out of work – 3 ½ weeks to be exact - Lauren recovered and spent a great deal of time going to cardiac rehab.
“I still feel like I’m recovering from it. It’s an ongoing process, both mentally and physically.” After numerous follow up appointments, Lauren still does not have answers as to why this happened. Besides the blockage, there was nothing that would have indicated that she was at risk for a heart attack. “My cholesterol was fine and my blood pressure was normal,” explains Lauren.
Although Lauren is still recovering today, she has let go of the fear and faces challenges as they come. “Every day after my heart attack is extra time that I have been given. It’s a privilege to wake up every day; it’s not a right.” Realizing that most things in life are trivial, Lauren truly appreciates every hour of every day. Her positive attitude and outlook on life shines through in her professional career and is obviously noticed by her co-workers. “Lauren is a team player and is willing to jump in and help where needed. She works with our employees as part of the Health Watchers program and teaches the importance of nutrition and exercise,” states Linda McCoy, dining services practice partner.
Today, Lauren is using her past experiences to be an advocate for those who might not be aware of the symptoms that can indicate a heart attack. She will be participating in the Rochester Heart Walk on April 14 with her team: DASH. “DASH is a heart healthy diet that stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension,” explains Lauren. The team was started last year with other dieticians at St. John’s Home.
The cause for the American Heart Association hits home for Lauren. “It’s just something that I feel is my responsibility now.” For Lauren, the Heart Walk serves as a way to not only keep the memory of her mother alive, but to celebrate her own progress in surviving a heart attack. “I only really saved myself because of what happened to my mom – because I knew the symptoms,” states Lauren.
Even though it is difficult to make individuals realize that heart attacks can happen to anyone, Lauren hopes her story and knowledge will help others live a healthier lifestyle and be aware of the symptoms that can occur. “There is no magic pill to be healthy; it takes work and effort,” says Lauren. “It could have gone so differently had I not listened to my body.”