Go Red for Women: A Survivor’s Story

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By Shyla Stokes | Photography provided by The American Heart Association

On the night of October 30, Tina Costello went to bed like she had any other night. She kissed her daughter goodnight and climbed into bed next to her husband.

“I woke up at 11:30 p.m. kicking my husband, and I said my chest was tight,” says Costello. “I don’t remember much about it, but it wasn’t excruciating.”

Two months prior, Costello had been in a car accident and slammed into the steering wheel. She’d experienced chest tightening for ten months leading up to the accident, but doctors attributed it to anxiety. After the accident, Costello saw several more doctors as the chest tightening continued. Not one of them thought Costello’s symptoms were an indicator of heart problems.

“My husband asked if my arm was hurting, too, and I told him my right arm was,” says Costello. “He wanted to get to the hospital. I got up, got dressed, grabbed a blanket and pillow and lay in the truck. I was able to do all of this unassisted. We live way out in the country, so he was going to take me to the Healthplex in Norman.”

Costello says she was talking all the way to Blanchard, holding a relatively normal conversation.

“The last thing I remember saying is, ‘Maybe we should go to urgent care,’” Costello says. “My daughter turned around and I was gone. My tongue was out and my eyes were rolled back.”

The Costellos frequented this road and Tina’s husband, Jeff, knew that a police officer would be sitting up ahead.

“If that police officer isn’t there, call 911,” Jeff said to their daughter Britney.

Thankfully, he was. A Blanchard police officer helped pull Tina from the truck and immediately started administering CPR. After three sets, she began breathing. This bought them enough time for first responders to arrive.

“They lost me a few times on the way to the hospital,” Costello says. Costello had what they call a ‘widowmaker’ heart attack, which is a complete or near complete blockage of the main artery down the front of the heart (LAD). Only about 10 percent of people survive this heart attack.

Doctors were able to place a stent, and Costello spent four days in a hypothermic coma. After the surgery she was in critical condition and doctors weren’t sure she’d make a full recovery. To everyone’s surprise, particularly Tina’s, she has.

“I’m so blessed and so glad I’m seeing a doctor now,” Costello says. “It’s a miracle I’m alive.”

Costello’s story is being highlighted as the survivor story of the year at the Go Red For Women luncheon this year in Oklahoma City, taking place May 11. The big goal of this luncheon is to educate women on heart disease in women specifically. The theme, Reducation, will focus on three key themes: education, inspiration and determination.

The event will include a health expo where women can come get info on exercise, reducing stress and eating well.

Tina Costello will be sharing her story at the event. She has continued to make health and lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and getting more exercise, and she urges others to do the same.

“You know, if you’re not feeling right, go get it checked out,” says Costello. “It’s highly important that if you feel anything to get it checked out.”

Women are encouraged to see their doctors and have cholesterol levels, blood sugar and blood pressure monitored. Even if there aren’t symptoms present, it’s important to know your numbers.

While the accident has taken an enormous toll on her family, Costello says she’s seen some positivity in the aftermath.

“My daughter wanted to be a cardiologist, even before all of this, and last year she wrote an essay on cardiology,” says Costello. “Dr. Crook, my cardiologist, wrote a letter for her to help her get into the National Honor Society. She just received her letter of acceptance, so that’s been really neat.”

Heart disease and stroke cause 1 in 3 deaths each year among women. Eighty percent of these events may be prevented through education and making health and lifestyle changes.

For more information on Go Red For Women and the American Heart Association, visit goredforwomen.org.

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