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Smarter Living: American Heart Month

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

February is American Heart Month. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women in the United States. According to the CDC, every year approximately 715,000 Americans have a heart attack and around 600,000 people die from heart disease in America each year.

One out of four deaths in this country are from heart disease.

Friday is "National Wear Red Day for Women." In this edition of "Smarter Living" we'll meet an amazing survivor who, despite dying in a hospital waiting room, never stopped fighting to live.

When Tesca Kinard was a teenager she was diagnosed with something that would impact her life from then on.

"At the age of 16, during a sports physical, I was diagnosed with an enlarged heart," she says. "At the age of 21, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. At the age of 29, during my second pregnancy, my blood pressure skyrocketed to stroke level."

Kinard says that while delivering her daughter, "I became very short of breath and I kept saying something is not right."

She eventually passed out.

"I went home and things kept getting worse and worse," Kinard says. "I had no energy to even hold my newborn."

Kinard was prescribed medicine for a rapid heartbeat. Another doctor told her she had congestive heart failure.

That came as a surprise to her.

"I was like, congestive heart failure? She said, 'That's why you're having problems breathing.  Your lungs are filling up with fluid.'"

Kinard says that for years she was in denial because she was young, strong and athletic. That is, until her heart again started to fail.

In 2004 while in the waiting room at Duke Hospital, she died.

"I had been dead for four minutes. My heart had stopped beating. I had no heartbeat," she says. "I had no oxygen to my brain for four minutes. I was resuscitated and in a coma for two days."

Years passed. She was a functioning heart disease victim, but then in April 2011 while driving with her daughter in the passenger seat, it all started to go wrong.

"I felt my body start to shut down."

She went into cardiac arrest. It didn't end there.

She went into cardiac arrest at her home last year.

"My defibrillator had fired 5 times to bring me back," Kinard says.

A few hours later while in the emergency room at Duke, she went into cardiac arrest again. A month later she was put on a heart transplant list.

On the day of her daughter's prom, she went into cardiac arrest again. While in the hospital on June 1, 2013, she received the life-saving call from her transplant coordinator.

"He said, 'We have a donor for you.' And I was like, 'Are you serious? Are you serious?'"

He was serious. Kinard couldn't believe it.

Kinard got her transplant.

"I'm here and able to tell my story. Having a new lease on life, I live each day to the fullest as though it's my last," she says. "I challenge everyone to live each day as though it's their last."

Tesca's mother passed away from heart disease. She teaches her daughters to also live a heart healthy lifestyle and to exercise and eat healthy.

Sharon Tazewell

Sharon anchors WNCN Today weekday mornings starting at 5! Her background has helped mold her into an outstanding journalist and a perfect fit for our community. Sharon's also a trained pianist and a member of NABJ. More>>

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