KSU alumna, longtime employee reflects on her battle as American Heart Month concludes

Virginia RogersKennesaw State University alumna and longtime employee Virginia Rogers ’99 has been battling heart disease for more than four years and as American Heart Month concludes, she has a message for those who want to avoid the common condition.

“First and foremost, I would say learn your family history and if you know that it (heart disease) is part of your history, then be proactive, especially when you start getting into your 30s or 40s,” said Rogers, who suffers from coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure. “Getting things tested, being cautious about things and if you have any kind of weird symptoms, go get those checked out. Paying attention to what you’re putting in your body affects everything.

“Try to stay active. You don’t have be out there running marathons, but get off the couch. Get out and do something.”

In the United States, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women. Every year, about 25 percent of all adult deaths are because of heart disease. Since 1963, February has been designated as American Heart Month to bring attention and awareness to the prevalence and seriousness of heart disease, and to urge Americans to lower their risk for developing the disorder.

Cardiovascular disease – which causes more than 800,000 deaths per year – is a term used to describe all kinds of conditions that affect the heart and/or blood vessels, including coronary heart disease (clogged arteries), stroke, congenital heart defects and peripheral artery disease. Coronary heart disease is the most common form of heart disease.

After growing up in Cobb and Cherokee counties, Rogers graduated from Etowah High School in Woodstock. She enrolled at KSU about nine years later as a non-traditional student and went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in visual communications.

“I’ve always had a big interest in art and designing things,” Rogers said.

Rogers returned to Kennesaw State as a full-time employee in July 2000 as senior designer for University Relations, a position she held for almost 11 years. She transitioned to Alumni Relations, working as the creative manager for nearly four years, and then held the same title with Advancement Communications, which was formed after consolidation. Now, Rogers serves as an assistant director for Advancement Communications.

Just a few months before consolidation became final, in August 2014, Rogers suffered a heart attack at age 46 that has changed her life.

“My family has a lot of heart disease in its history, but I had never really paid attention to it,” Rogers said. “I think I was like a lot of folks, you think you’re indestructible and nothing’s going to happen to you. 

“I had been, for a few weeks, having some discomfort and stuff, but of course you just kind of push it to the side. I found myself a lot of times coming into work and I couldn’t keep my eyes open, I was falling asleep and I had to get up and walk around. I had weird pains in the arms and stuff, but again I just pushed it aside.”

Following an event at the Alumni House where she heard from a concerned colleague, Rogers decided to get checked at her doctor’s office.

“The next thing I know, they’ve got me plugged into a thousand different machines and running all these tests,” Rogers said. “They ended up taking me down to Northside (Hospital). They wanted to make sure what was going on and when I got there is when they had decided that I had a heart attack.

“I have two blockages, but they’re in the smaller parts of the veins, so they can’t really put in stents or anything. What was interesting for me was I still didn’t believe I had a heart attack. I have congestive heart failure and will always be a heart patient.” 

Good news about heart disease is there are ways to control it, which helps victims to live fairly normal lives. The disease is also preventable.

“I average about 15 pills a day,” Rogers said. “I wear a patch sometimes if I’m doing any kind of major walking or anything like that.”

The use of medications is not the only part of Rogers’ life that has changed since her heart attack.

“It’s (the heart attack) changed the diet quite a bit,” Rogers said. “I think mentally is where it really gets you because you go through certain stages with it. I found myself at one point planning my own funeral. I had to kind of slap myself out of that because I thought wait a minute, just because you have this disease doesn’t mean you’re dying tomorrow. Diet has changed and exercise has changed.”

Despite the changes in her life over the past few years, Rogers has continued to live happily and be dedicated to her alma mater in many ways, one being as an active and enthusiastic staff member. 

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