Soroptimists and WGH team up on heart health for women

Lynn Tippery could have died two times over without knowing what killed her.

In the fall of 1992, Tippery, a South Whidbey Soroptimist member, had two heart attacks. She went into cardiac arrest twice and her heart stopped beating.

“I was sitting at my dining room table, smoking a cigarette, discussing my favorite movies with my daughter,” Tippery recalled. “Nine o’clock on a Sunday morning.

“It started as a burning sensation in my left arm and then into my shoulder,” she said. “Next I felt like I couldn’t breathe and my chest was being crushed. Absolutely no warning signs.”

The second attack hit her in the emergency room at the hospital. She was only 44 at the time.

Thanks to the emergency staff at Whidbey General Hospital, she was revived and flown by helicopter to Providence Hospital in Everett, where an angioplasty was performed.

Tippery is now helping to prevent others from living through such an ordeal.

Soroptimist International of South Whidbey Island has teamed up with the Whidbey General Hospital Life Center for Essential Wellness to offer “Heart of a Woman,” a free program for local women who may be at risk for coronary heart disease.

Eligible South Whidbey women will be able to receive a free heart health screening exam in February, which is American Heart Month.

“If this test had been available in 1992, it would have prevented my heart attacks,” Tippery said.

Tippery encourages women to be aware of their vulnerability and take advantage of programs such as the one sponsored by the Soroptimists.

In retrospect, there were cases of cardiac problems in her family, but for many, a heart attack is a man’s disease.

“Both of my grandfathers died at 59 from heart attacks. And my father had a heart attack at 54,” she said.

Tippery is a 16-year advocate for Women’s Cardiac Care, and said women should not be tested and diagnosed by standards set for male testing.

“We are not little men,” she said.

Heart disease is the number one killer of women over the age of 25. Half of those women, just like Tippery, had no symptoms before their attack.

The fact that timely screening for risk factors and learning how to adopt healthy habits can directly save women’s lives is what motivated local Soroptimist president Kim Allen to take action.

“We started ‘Heart of a Woman’ to save lives here on South Whidbey by reaching women who may not otherwise have access to the services that the Life Center provides,” she said.

“Heart of a Woman’s mission is to reduce the risk factors that are known to contribute to heart disease by educating and by making healthcare more accessible,” she added.

The program will be available through June, or until funding runs out.

Women facing financial need, in the zip codes of 98236, 98249, 98253 and 98260 are invited to call the Life Center at Whidbey General Hospital at 321-7656, ext. 2130 to make an appointment for a free heart health screening.

All inquiries and results will be confidential.

This one-hour session includes a complete cholesterol test, triglycerides, fasting blood sugar and a one-on-one session with a nurse to discuss risk factors. Depending on the results, participants may be invited back for a free eight-week wellness program of lifestyle and diet strategies.

The heart attack changed Tippery’s life. Fortunately, in a positive way.

Days after her first heart attack, she was home with a new awareness that she was no longer afraid to die and the question: “Am I afraid to live?”

Living is much more challenging, she explained.

“My flatline experience removed all fear of dying and what comes next,” Tippery said.

“I didn’t want to come back, because there was such beauty and light. Absolutely no pain. Coming back the pain was excruciating and it takes courage to live your convictions, follow your passion, appreciate every moment,” she said.

One year later, an emergency bypass surgery was performed at Providence and she came home knowing without a doubt she was not afraid to live.

Upon regaining her strength, she joined Soroptimist International of South Whidbey Island and found great friendship and support to utilize her talents to improve the lives of women and girls in her community and throughout the world.

Soroptimist International is a worldwide organization for women in management and professions, working through service projects to advance human rights and the status of women.