Heart disease survivor Amanda Daniels has defied the odds by not just giving birth once, but twice, years after doctors told her childbirth was next to impossible.
While hooked to a cardiac monitor during a wisdom teeth removal procedure when she was 18, doctors noticed an irregular heartbeat and sent her immediately to a cardiologist. She was diagnosed with arrhythmia, a generally benign condition in which the heart beats at an irregular or abnormal function.
After being diagnosed, Daniels visited the cardiologist regularly yet was still able to lead the active lifestyle she had come to love and enjoy, even working as a spin instructor.
She will be one of hundreds of people walking in the American Heart Association 5K Walk this Saturday starting at the Santa Monica Pier.
The Heart & Stroke Walk is a family event featuring a non-competitive 5-kilometer walk/run and one-mile Survivor Path. Other highlights include a Health and Wellness Expo, Survivor Lounge, Kids Zone featuring games and educational information promoting heart health, VIP Tent for sponsors and top fundraisers and live entertainment.
Most people find out they suffer from idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy after cardiac arrest, luckily Daniels found out about her second diagnosis during a regular visit to her cardiologist.
“I was dating, having fun, teaching spinning and my whole life changed,” Daniels said.
According to the American Heart Association, idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy is a condition in which the heart becomes weakened and enlarged and the pumping chambers contract poorly; it occurs more frequently in men than in women, and most common between the ages of 20 and 60. Doctors instructed Daniels to stop teaching, warning her against letting her heart rate go over 120.
“I have always been an athlete,” Daniels said. “I played high school volleyball and for me to get diagnosed and not be able to workout, because that was such a part of who I am it took a lot of soul searching to reconnect and learn who I was and how to deal with my condition and to understand what that meant.”
Surrogacy is a popular option for women living with high-risk heart disease.
Yet, Daniels had always dreamt of giving birth.
Eventually, however, Daniels’ doctor gave her the green light. After consulting with her husband about their options, they took their first leap of faith in 2007 and their second in 2010.
“Through the American Heart Association, I learned everything I needed to know about my condition,” Daniels said. “I am very grateful.”
During doctor visits she noticed those sitting in the waiting rooms with her looked nothing like her: older men and women in their 60s and 70s. As a 25-year-old, Daniels was hopeful her peers were out there also seeking familiar faces.
With her friend Alisa Becket, she found Women Heart West Los Angeles, a support group for women that meets monthly at UCLA. The group is made up of women ages 30s to 80s.
“As a heart coach, my goal is to inspire people to listen to their body, become their own advocate. As women we give everything of ourselves to someone else,” Daniels said. “We are caregivers – we rarely take care of our selves. Whether you’re in high school or a mother of young children, a grandmother, or great grandmother, we are all empowered when we take care of our heart health.”
For the first time in over 10 years, the former spin instructor mounted a spin bike early last week for a class.
“It was a profound experience,” she said. “It was this moment of happy tears. I am still on medication, and my doctor has given me the green light to work out. There was a point in time when I did not know if I could have children, did not know where my life was going to take me. I am humbled.”
Daniels also has blog called “Voices To Share… Healing Hearts One Voice at a Time,” which she said was inspired and created through her own story of survival and healing (voicestoshare.com).
This Saturday is the first time in many years that the AHA fundraiser is taking place in Santa Monica. The community is invited to join the fight against heart disease and stroke by forming a team with family, friends or coworkers and signing up on www.GLACountyHeartWalk.org.
There is no fee to participate in the event. Individuals who raise $100 or more will receive an official Heart & Stroke Walk t-shirt.
Santa Monica is one of seven locations in Los Angeles County that will host the Greater Los Angeles Heart & Stroke Walk. Walks will also take place in Antelope Valley, Pomona, Pasadena, Downtown LA, Santa Clarita and Long Beach. The goal is to raise a combined $1.75 million.