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Health scare provides change of heart for Canfield woman

October 13, 2011
By Kathleen Palumbo
Nov. 7, 2008: “Am I having a heart attack?” “You’re having the big one.” Not the response expected by an active 37-year-old mother of two, who thankfully sought medical attention in the knick of time.

Jennifer Knarr of Canfield never smoked, had never been diagnosed with high cholesterol, and for all intents and purposes was healthy. But Knarr was informed by three doctors that she would not likely have survived had she not listened to her gut and visited a hospital.

What felt like indigestion and clammy skin didn’t concern Knarr the previous week, when she simply took some antacid and returned to bed for a good night's sleep. Five days later however, she became fatigued and short of breath. Contacting her husband who urged her to meet him at the emergency room, fortunately, Knarr did just that.

Being told that she was in fact having a heart attack; Knarr said she was scared to death, left wondering if this was her second and not her first. “A survivor, she hopes others will listen to what their bodies are telling them,” said Gina Berila, communications director for the American Heart Association.

Knarr was transported to St. Elizabeth Medical Center, where it was discovered that she had arterial blockages of 95 percent in the front section of her heart, and that the bottom of her heart muscle, as a result of the heart attack, was dead.

Although following a catheterization, the medical team implanted stents to open her arteries; Knarr’s heart attack left her heart pumping blood out at an effectiveness of approximately 40 percent.

Flash forward nearly three years, and, Knarr said she works out regularly, has lost weight, and is on medicine to maintain proper heart function. She has improved her eating habits, controls portion size and incorporates fish, and more fruits and vegetables into her diet. In addition, Knarr said that the knowledge that stress is a big factor has helped her to change her outlook.

Viewing her heart attack as a wake-up call, Knarr said she feels blessed to be alive and feels better than she has in years, her concerns now lying in the future health of her two sons, Ryan, 11, and Cory, six.

The mother of Knarr’s husband David suffered a heart attack at age 57 and has a pacemaker. Her own history combined with that of her mother-in-law have spurred Knarr into action, to ensure her sons are as heart-healthy as they can be by offering healthy foods and starting annual visits to the pediatric cardiologist.

Knarr’s future includes medications on which she will always remain.

“It’s been an adjustment,” she said, adding, “My doctors have told me the stents should last about 20 years, but I plan on sticking around for a lot longer than 20 more years, so I now need to think about the fact that -- down the line -- they will have to be replaced,” she said.

Knarr recently walked to raise awareness about heart disease at the 2011 Youngstown Area Heart Walk, where the tri-county community gathered to raise funds for lifesaving research and education and awareness about the warning signs of heart disease and strokes.

Hoping that with continued research, doctors may find ways to extend the life of the stents, and continue to improve noninvasive procedures for stent replacement, Knarr remains dedicated to spreading the word about warning signs and risk factors so everyone has the knowledge to be their own best health advocate.

According to Berila, Heart Walk is the signature fundraising event for the American Heart Association, and strives to create hope, inspire change and celebrate success for all participants who commit to fighting cardiovascular disease and stroke in their own lives.

Article Photos

Jennifer Knarr, her husband David, and sons Ryan and Cory, attended the recently held American Heart Association’s Heart Walk, an annual event that promotes physical activity and heart-healthy living in a fun, family environment.



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