My Survivor Story: Dawn Koceja
This month, Snap Fitness is proud to sponsor the American Heart Association’s Milwaukee Hearth Walk, taking place September 29. To celebrate, this month we’re providing you with heart health-themed fitness tips, recipes, and a very special survivor story from the American Heart Association.
Dawn Koceja of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin has a strong family history of heart disease, so when she decided to train for a marathon at the age of 39, she saw her doctor first. She was given a clean bill of health, but a hip injury which required surgery derailed her marathon plans. After recovering from the surgery, she couldn’t get back to her previous level of fitness. She was experiencing chest pains and shortness of breath. Several cardiologists were unable to pinpoint what was going on, but one suggested she had a rare condition: myocardial bridging.
Her condition was confirmed at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Basically, Dawn’s left descending artery dips into the heart muscle, instead of lying on top of it. Every time her heart beat, the muscle would cut off blood flow through the artery. Dawn underwent open-heart surgery at Mayo, where doctors “un-roofed” or removed half of her top heart muscle. She was the first patient to have this surgery at Mayo.
After months of rehabbing, she was able to pick up her workouts once again. She enjoys cross training, running, biking and weightlifting. Originally she was on 15 pills a day, but thanks to healthy living, she is now off all medications.
Dawn has several messages she likes to share: You’re never too young to develop heart disease. Be an advocate for yourself and your health; find a doctor you trust who will listen to you. Know your family history of heart disease. Eating right, exercising and not smoking truly can make all the difference in the world when it comes to heart health.