This woman had a heart attack in 2009 and is now sharing her story to help others

A Washington woman who survived a dramatic heart attack in 2009 is hoping to raise awareness about the importance of regular medical checkups and a healthy lifestyle.

Candy Caplan, 50, was describing her one-month road trip from Baltimore to Las Vegas in March when she began talking about her July 30 th, 2009, episode. It was the result of a faulty bypass valve defect discovered at the time of a routine physical and repaired through surgery.

Caplan, who developed serious endocarditis (inflammation of the heart lining), an infection, and was hospitalized for 10 days, said she was amazed to be alive. She had gone into the prime of her life, she said, and so much more was still to be discovered.

“My mom said I cried four times a day, and then it was, ‘How can I stay alive?’,” Caplan said. “But I think if I didn’t go through that, I wouldn’t be doing this now.”

She is promoting the title of her autobiography, “Deliciously Lost,” which was co-written with her sister, Sara. The story is told through Caplan’s images, personal musings and vignettes.

Her heart attack sparked what she called a moment of awareness. “I really felt something clicked,” she said. “I felt there was something to the story, and that someone could benefit from my message. I got off the phone, I started crying, I really did — and I started talking about this to my friends and family.”

Caplan is working with the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, partnering with the First Mile Dietitians to provide First Mile challenge kits with tips on how to protect the heart, with clues to remember while cooking, in sports and other activities.

Caplan has undergone follow-up cardiac testing and heart stress testing and keeps a heart-healthy diet. She’s learning to prioritize stress- and lifestyle-management techniques and she says the programs are succeeding. She is taking the new book on the road, speaking engagements and book signings.

“I did not realize that having a heart attack meant I would never be able to get married or have children,” she said. “There is so much to lose with a life-changing event. But it’s very empowering, and if people will just take care of themselves … they will have that chance.”

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