Women share tales of heart disease on Red Couch

Neil Golub, left, with Andalib Nawab and Jane Golub emphasize the importance of women's heart health at the Red Couch Tour on Wednesday, April 12.

KASSIE PARISI/GAZETTE REPORTERNeil Golub, left, with Andalib Nawab and Jane Golub emphasize the importance of women's heart health at the Red Couch Tour on Wednesday, April 12. KASSIE PARISI/GAZETTE REPORTER

By Kassie Parisi

Gazette Reporter

CLIFTON PARK — Local women were recently given the opportunity to share their personal experiences with their gender’s No. 1 one killer: heart disease

The Red Couch tour, which made its second stop on April 12 to the Market 32 in Clifton Park, is the result of a combined effort from Ellis Medicine and The American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign.

As part of the tour, the red couch, which was donated by Huck Finn’s Warehouse, travels to different locations and encourages women to take a seat on the couch and share their experiences with heart disease.

The March 12  event was held in the pharmacy section of the supermarket, and local women joined Dr. Andalib Nawab of Ellis Medicine and spoke about their respective struggles with different types of heart disease.

Jane Golub, director of in-store marketing programs at Price Chopper Supermarkets, was one of the women who sat on the red couch to share her own experience.

Having worked since she was 16 years old, Golub said that she never felt any pain prior to discovering her heart issues.

I felt I was invincible. In my mind, I had no symptoms,” she said. Then, after returning home from a shopping trip to the city, Jane’s husband and current executive board chairman of the Golub Corporation,  Neil Golub, noticed she seemed fatigued as she climbed the steps at the Rensselaer Train Station.

Eventually, June was examined by a doctor and was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, or AFib, which meant that her heart was beating at a rapid irregular pace. She now has a pacemaker, and is grateful that someone noticed that there was an issue, even if she couldn’t see it herself at first.

Lifelong Battle

For Deborah Flaherty-Kizer, heart disease was a mysterious monster to her for the first part of her life. When she was born, a nurse told her mother that she would never live. A doctor could tell that Flaherty-Kizer had a heart problem, but, due to a lack of technology at the time, was unable to diagnose what the precise issue was.

But Flaherty-Kizer defied that prediction and was in the first class of women accepted into the United States Naval Academy. As part of the entrance process, she had to undergo medical testing. During the test, it was discovered that she had a congenital heart issue and, upon further testing, she was eventually diagnosed with Ebstein’s anomaly, a rare heart defect that affects that includes deformed heart valves. 

That ended her bid to get into the Naval Academy, but still there was nothing to be done to overcome the Ebstein’s anomaly. Then, two years ago, Flaherty-Kizer finally underwent an eight-hour surgery that replaced a valve, closed the heart defect, and rerouted blood to take pressure of the atria.

Now, almost 60 years after her parents were given such bad news, Flaherty-Kizer is on the road to recovery. That recovery has been tough, but to keep things in perspective and to prevent depression, Flaherty-Kizer reminds forces herself to think about the things that she can do now that she couldn’t have done just months ago.

“I learned through that process, don’t believe what they tell you about recovery. Everyone’s recovery is different. I never thought I would get through it and at times it was a long haul.”

Symptoms Go Unnoticed

According to Nawab, one in three women die of heart disease. A death of a woman occurs every 80 seconds in the United States a because of a heart disease related event. Many women, like Golub, don’t notice their symptoms.

Since the Go Red for Women Campaign began 12 years ago, she said that 670,000 have been saved, and women are able to get affordable preventative heart screenings at places like Bellevue Woman’s Center.

“I cannot tell you how important it is to have this program,” Nawab said.

Previously, the couch tour stopped at Proctors in February, and will make a stop at the Colonie Center Mall on May 10.