Juanita Lidster sits with her two boys, seven-month-old Luc and 13-year-old Jordan. Photo by Danette Dooley/Special to The Telegram
On July 12, 2008, Juanita Lidster delivered a healthy baby boy. Three weeks later, open heart surgery saved her life.
"Five days after I brought Luc home, it was five o'clock in the morning and I had just nursed him," the 38-year-old says. "I put him back in his cradle and I went to get back in bed and I took a pain in my chest."
She brushed her symptoms off as heartburn or acid reflux. But when the pain started to crush into her chest, Lidster began thinking "heart attack."
"I started getting afraid and I was thinking if I was having a heart attack that something was supposed to happen to your arms. As soon as that thought entered my head, both of my arms started to go weak and numb."
Lidster and her family live in Cupids Crossing.
She was taken by ambulance to Carbonear hospital. She spent five days there before being taken by ambulance to the Health Sciences Centre for more tests.
On the way her condition worsened, leaving her close to death.
"If I hadn't gone in that ambulance they said I wouldn't have made it. I was supposed to have a dye test, but as soon as they saw me I was on the operating table."
Lidster had four blockages to her heart. Her left main artery had also self-dissected, she says.
"My cardiologist told me there was a one-in-a-million chance that this could happen … I still look at the scar on my chest and can't believe what's happened."
Lidster has a 13-year-old son, Jordan. Her fiancÉ, Richard Maheu, has a 15-year-old daughter, Emma.
Lidster is grateful to her family, especially her mother, who looked after her baby while she was in hospital and recovering from the surgery.
"One of the hardest parts of this for me was that I had to give up breastfeeding. I was devastated about that because I'd nursed my other child until he was almost two."
Not being able to hold her infant was also very emotional, she says.
"I couldn't even lift my baby so he had to stay at my mother's. Every time I saw him I just cried because I felt so guilty."
Lidster says looking back on her life now she wonders if the stresses of her pregnancy, including the fact that her fiancÉ was working in Western Canada, contributed to her heart attack.
Whether or not that's true, she feels she's been given a second chance in life.
Since her surgery, she has changed her lifestyle. She quit smoking and revamped her diet in favour of heathier food.
Lidster gushes over the support she received outside her immediate family. She believes a Facebook prayer group set up by a friend helped in her recovery.
"Over 700 people joined the group. I had people chanting for me in England. And when I was in the hospital I was so blown away to hear about the group."
Lidster is working on her first solo album. Her fellow musicians who came out for a local benefit concert, including the Sons of Erin who came from St. John's to offer their support.
"Musicians come together especially when another musician is down. Even people I didn't know came out for the benefit and that was so overwhelming," she says.
A portion of the proceeds from Lister's CD will be donated to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, she says.
"This is an opportunity for me to give something back to the cause for the tremendous care I got," she says.
Jodine Kean, director of health promotion and resuscitation programs with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Newfoundland, says people need to realize that heart disease is not just a man's disease.
"Heart disease and stroke are the leading cause of death among women, killing one in three," Kean says.
Women face the same risks and symptoms of heart disease and stroke as men, Kean adds, but women often ignore the symptoms thinking they are hormone-related.
Chest pain or discomfort, pain the arm, neck, jaw or back, nausea, indigestion or vomiting, sweating and difficulty breathing are all signs of a heart attack, Kean says.
"If a person experiences any of these warning signs, they should call 911 or the emergency response number in their area immediately," she adds.
The good news, Kean says, is that most risk factors can be controlled and women can reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke by as much as 80 per cent by making lifestyle changes.
"I look at Luc and he's such a happy and healthy baby," Lidstone says. "And I need to do everything I can to stay healthy myself, to be here for my family."