Go Red For Women™ Campaign features Milwaukee woman
Kimberly Montgomery chosen to spread awareness of heart disease and stroke
By Lynda L. Jones
Each year the American Heart Association seeks out women from across the nation to act as the faces of the Go Red For Women movement. This past February, casting calls were held at Mayfair Mall and Southridge Mall in Southeast Wisconsin, allowing women to share how heart disease and stroke have impacted their lives. Time Warner Cable produced these Casting Calls, along with volunteers and staff from the American Heart Association. The American Heart Association’s Milwaukee office is thrilled to announce that one of these brave women has been chosen to serve as a “Real Woman” for the coming year.
Kimberly Montgomery’s story is one for the ages. She is a self-described “health nut” who ran every day, practiced yoga, and made an effort to eat a healthy diet. She had high blood pressure, but, with her doctor’s help, it was under control. Her cholesterol levels were excellent. On August, 20, 2011 while driving home from her hot yoga class, she began to sweat profusely. Soon she grew nauseous and became sick to her stomach. She stopped at a friend’s house, who suggested they go to the doctor. They ‘walked’ to Urgent Care, where doctors told Kimberly she was having a heart attack. Next thing you know, she’s having two stents put in.
To say that the experience shocked her is an understatement. In an interview with The Milwaukee Courier, Kimberly says that even on her ride to the hospital in an ambulance, it was all still unbelievable to her. “I’m having a heart attack? I can’t be…they must be wrong.”
It wasn’t until the doctor said to her in a very serious tone, “Well, now we must go in to see how much damage the heart attack did to you.” He then explained to her the procedure, he entered through her wrist, a new procedure. She was awake the entire time, after being given an anesthesia for the area of entry. She could see on a screen what the doctor was looking at. 75 percent of blockage was found in one artery and 80 percent in another. Following the procedure she was off of work for six weeks from her job at the Mayor’s office.
Today, Montgomery is back to living an active life. Now, she doesn’t just watch the sodium in her diet, she keeps close tabs on her cholesterol as well. It wasn’t until after her heart attack that Montgomery learned that women often have very different symptoms than men when it comes to heart disease. “I thought I was having hot flashes, or a case of food poisoning. I had no idea these were symptoms of a heart attack,” says Montgomery. “I want to make sure other women understand their symptoms and really listen to their bodies, before it’s too late.”
It wasn’t just her story that caught the attention of judges at the local, regional and national level, it was her personality. Kimberly is full of energy and exudes a real sense of joy when telling her story. Her passion for the fight against heart disease, and her genuine concern for others make her a perfect spokeswoman.
“This has been a wonderful experience. All ten of us Go Red Women got together in Los Angeles for our photo shoot, and we had so much fun. I can honestly say I have nine new sisters,” says Montgomery. “I’ve always tried to spread the word about healthy living to the people in my life. Now I get the chance to encourage women across the U.S. to take charge of their heart health.
Kimberly also shared during her interview, that she was determined to share her experience and what she learned from her newly diagnosed heart disease. She reached out to the American Heart Association locally, and was eager to learn how she could help to spread the word for those who are uninformed on the silent warnings of a heart attack as she was prior to her attack.
The ‘Go Red For Women’ Campaign was an unexpected opportunity. She has not only learned so much from her own personal experience, but she is continuing to learn from others participating in the campaign as well. At 50, she is actually one of the oldest members of the 10 women chosen for the campaign. The youngest is 22 years-old, and has been aware of her heart disease since the age of 19.
Following Kimberly’s heart attack and surgical procedure, she attended a three month program provided for heart disease patients that further educated her on the disease and how to live an active and productive life with it. She recently was a guest on the nationally syndicated talk show ‘Dr. Oz’, and was part of a two part series that exclusively featured Rosie O’Donnell speaking for the first time publicly about her heart attack.
Montgomery will be featured in a wide variety of advertising nation-wide for the next year, including the America Goes Red initiative for American Heart Month, February 2013. Go Red For Women is sponsored nationally by Macy’s and Merck and in Metro-Milwaukee by ProHealth Care.