A woman was told by doctors “three times” that her palpitations were anxiety – when she actually had a heart muscle disease that put her at risk of cardiac arrest.
Jade Cooke, 35, did yoga five times a week and knew something was wrong when she said she was getting extremely breathless.
But her concerns were brushed aside repeatedly until she demanded an X-ray that led to other tests revealing she had a serious heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).
It was caused by a flu-like virus she got at Christmas one time – and her heart was barely pumping blood.
Despite her age, she was at high risk of cardiac arrest and was fitted with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) with pacemaker during a five-hour surgery.
Initially so weak that she could not wash her own hair, after six weeks she returned to gentle yoga.
Cardiologists told her that the speedy recovery was partly due to her love of yoga.
Now an instructor, Jade, from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, wants to create classes specifically for people with heart conditions.
Jade, also a financial controller, said: “I never thought I would be stricken with a heart condition.
“I think I was in shock at first. It took me a few months to realize exactly what DCM was and how serious it was.
“I kept asking myself if life would ever be the same again.
“After my surgery where my ICD with pacemaker was placed, my lowest point was.
“I felt like I had lost most of what made me who I was. I just wanted my old life back.
“But slowly, six weeks after surgery, I started using gentle yoga moves as things started to heal.
“Every day I now feel a million times better. Now I want to make people aware of yoga and the positive impact it can have on heart patients.
“I never thought someone my age and fitness could have heart disease, but the truth is heart disease can affect anyone at any time.”
In Christmas 2018, Jade contracted a flu-like virus – and by January she was suffering from fatigue and heart palpitations.
She could barely keep up with the yoga classes.
She said: “When I initially went to my GP with concerns, I was fobbed off three times with them saying it was anxiety.
“My mom eventually went with me and pushed me to get an X-ray — which showed my heart was enlarged.”
In March 2019, she was diagnosed with DCM.
Her heart’s ejection fraction — a measure of how much blood the heart’s left ventricle pumps around — was only 11% compared to the normal range of 50% to 75%.
In June 2019, she was losing weight and had to work fewer hours – before being written off altogether.
She said: “I couldn’t do much or walk far and it had a really big impact on my mental health.
“Normally I am very independent, but now mom had to do a lot for me.
“My life had completely changed. I kept asking myself if life would ever be the same again.”
In September 2019, she was at high risk for cardiac arrest and underwent five hours of surgery followed by a six week recovery.
He couldn’t dress, drive or do yoga.
She said: “I wondered if I would ever be able to do yoga again. I mourned the person I had been.
“I felt like I had lost most of what made me who I was. I just wanted my old life back.”
After an ablation in January 2020 — minor burns to the inside of the heart to help stop an irregular heartbeat — her heart rate flattened out and she was able to return to work in shorter hours.
Three years later, Jade is on three types of heart medication – and her heart function has increased from 11% to 32%.
Jade said: “I also think yoga has played a role – and my advisor has said he is amazed at my progress.
“My advisor never actually mentioned why practicing yoga would have helped, but it does reduce stress and anxiety and keeps my mind and body in balance.”
In July 2021 she qualified as a yoga instructor.
She said, “I also want other young women with heart disease to know that they are not alone.
“I was fobbed off when I was first sick, but eventually I was checked out.”
Jade said she “might not be here today” without research funded by the British Heart Foundation.