OAKLEAF – Jenna Coleman woke up with the stomach flu on New Year’s Day 1999. The ten-year-old went into cardiac arrest three times before being taken to the hospital. Once there, she stayed in …
OAKLEAF – Jenna Coleman woke up with the stomach flu on New Year’s Day 1999. The ten-year-old went into cardiac arrest three times before being taken to the hospital. Once there, she stayed in the intensive care unit for a week before doctors could figure out what had caused the malady.
Coleman, now 28, was diagnosed with Sick Sinus Syndrome, meaning her body’s natural pacemaker, the sinoatrial node, can’t work fast enough. Coleman was set up with an electronic pacemaker, something she will have for the rest of her life.
In addition to the pacemaker, Coleman makes bi-annual visits to the cardiologist to make sure everything is still functioning properly. So far, Coleman has avoided any further complications and lives comfortably in her Oakleaf home with her family.
In addition to regular medical checkups, Coleman attempts to fight ongoing hypertension by limiting her sodium intake and eating healthy foods. Though it isn’t always easy, Coleman understands how delicate the heart is and does everything she can to keep hers pumping.
“I really focus on what I eat,” Coleman said. “It can be really hard, especially eating out.”
She even started an Instagram account, @hearthealthymama, to incite an attitude among her followers that it’s possible to manage a career, a family, and still stay active and healthy.
“You can be a mom, and you can be healthy,” Coleman said. “I’m out there to tell people how important heart health is.”
Coleman uses the account to help other moms realize that their health is their responsibility. She said most women know their weight, and their BMI, but more women should be asking their doctor for their blood pressure numbers and knowing what those numbers mean. She also advocates for CPR certification among all moms, seeing it as a potential saving grace in a medical emergency.
“Moms need to realize how life saving that can be,” Coleman said. “My mom performed CPR on me when I had cardiac arrest. I don’t know if that’s what saved me, but it obviously didn’t hurt.”
Coleman now works as an ambassador for the First Coast American Heart Association where she works to inform people on the risks of heart disease.
“Heart disease is so broad, I don’t think people realize,” Coleman said. “I really just stay healthy for my family, you have to find that ‘Why?’ and you’ll find your way.”
Through this ambassadorship, Coleman has attended several events through the Heart Association, and will be participating in this year’s First Coast Heart Walk volunteering in the survivor’s booth.
“The walks themselves are a great form of exercise,” Coleman said, “but at the events there are so many booths and you can become so knowledgeable about heart health.”
The event encourages participants to get out and walk, not only at the event, but throughout the year. This year, the theme is “Healthy For Good,” which reiterates that push to get people active and eating right all year long. The American Heart Association also pushes for youth involvement, with a focus being on informing future generations about heart disease before they become adults and their risk for heart conditions increases.
“It’s for the whole family, my kids will be going,” Coleman said. “In 2015, my son was two and a half and he walked the whole thing and had a really good time.”
This year’s event will be held on September 16 at Metropolitan Park in Jacksonville. The nonprofit expects to raise more than $1.7 million in donations for the American Heart Association. For more information on the walk, visit firstcoastheartwalk.org, or find their page on Facebook.