Actress Tracey Conway told women on Tuesday they need to care for their health the same way they would that of a loved one.
“We have to care enough about ourselves,” she said. “It is so easy to care about someone else’s health.”
Conway spoke to an audience of 355 in the St. Luke Ministry Center. The occasion was the 10th annual “Heart Truth for Women” luncheon sponsored by St. Francis Hospital.
The luncheon is part of a national awareness campaign aimed at women during American Heart Month. Heart disease is the leading killer of women in this country.
Also speaking at the event was St. Francis cardiothoracic surgeon Charles Anderson who discussed robotic heart surgery.
Conway, 57, is well suited to speak about heart problems. After performing in the live taping of comedy show “Almost Live!” on Jan. 21, 1995 in Seattle, Wash., Conway fell to the floor suffering not a heart attack but a full cardiac arrest.
“I died that night,” she said, showing the audience a slide with an official notice from paramedics confirming she was dead when they arrived.
With a defibrillator they shocked her heart back to beating again.
That might not have been possible if not for a volunteer fireman who was in the audience and performed CPR on Conway until help arrived.
Conway told the audience that if they don’t already know CPR they should learn because you never know when someone’s life may depend on it. “You want to be able to step in and help,” she said.
She said she doesn’t recall much about the day of her cardiac arrest but was told that, at first, the audience laughed thinking it was part of the act. The show being taped was a comedy about doctors.
“I’m not that good an actress,” she said, laughing.
As many other women with heart rhythm disorders, Conway now wears a implantable cardioverter defibrillator.
She said that if any woman is feeling ill she should not wait to get help. “You wouldn’t if it was your daughter,” she said.
She said it is never too late, no matter where a woman is on her health path, to start doing things such as eating heart healthy foods and getting exercise.
Stress can contribute to heart problems. “You have to deal with it and not let it drive you into unhealthy behavior,” she said.
Conway said when the stress begins to get to you, “take a deep breath and acknowledge that this, too, shall pass.”
She said a night out with the girls is her prescription for fighting stress.