GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - February is Heart Health Month - a good time to think about keeping your heart healthy. It's also a good time to think about how far we've come in terms of treatment. No one knows that better than Eddie Bigelow from Saucier.
At 73, Bigelow has lived with serious heart problems since 1995. But she has managed to stay active through numerous procedures, and even continued working full time until 2010.
"It doesn't mean it's a death sentence," she said. "You could die from it, but you could also die from something else."
So Bigelow chooses not to let it get her down.
"Just because you have heart disease, you don't have to quit living. You can keep working and living a full life."
Bigelow's heart problems developed when she was in her 50s, and caught her by surprise.
"I was sick for six months before I was diagnosed with heart disease, and that's because I was only 55 and in good health otherwise."
Since that time, she has had a quadruple bypass, has been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, and is on her fourth implantable defibrillator.
"When I got my first defibrillator, I had a 70 percent chance of sudden death."
Bigelow's defibrillator monitors her heart. If the rhythm is abnormal, it will deliver an "internal" shock to the heart to correct it.
Her physician since her diagnosis has been Cardiologist, Dr. Bharat Sangani. He says they have been through a lot over the last 20 years.
"There have been multiple times she could have died."
But careful monitoring and medical technology have helped keep her alive, along with a positive attitude, which Dr. Sangani says plays a huge role in long term recovery.
"Obviously, the development of medical technology has helped. But let us not forget the will to conquer these things; she has taken risks and shown the desire to live."
And Bigelow agrees that attitude plays a key role.
"If you lay back and let it happen, it'll kill you; and it's a struggle." But as she breaks out in a big smile she says, "It's worth every minute of it. Because I'm living a full life and enjoying things I never thought I'd see."