NORTON, Va. - Every fifth of the month, we wear our red at News 5. It's part of our partnership with Wellmont Health System to keep you informed about the leading cause of death in women -- heart disease.
This month, News 5 sat down with a woman who spent years battling fainting spells and learned how a device smaller than the size of your palm made a big difference in her life.
For nine years, Betty Edwards never knew when it would happen. "I was just in the bathroom brushing my teeth getting ready to go to bed, and I just fell backwards in the floor," said Edwards.
Fainting spells would come and go; at home, at the grocery store, even while singing at church. "It comes on so fast that I don't really understand it," said Edwards.
But a lack of understanding wasn't for lack of trying. Edwards did not ignore her symptoms. "They did every test that you could think of but nothing showed up," Edwards added.
To get some answers, Edwards starting wearing a heart monitor where technicians would actually kept an eye on her heartbeat 24/7.
What doctors found was alarming. "It had caught that her heart had almost practically stopped for a good 10 seconds," said Dr. Orson Go, a Wellmont CVA cardiologist.
"I was shocked and a little scared," Edwards told us.
Dr. Go said Edwards has a condition called 'sick sinus syndrome', where the heart's natural pacemaker weakens, sometimes stopping the heart. "The electricity of the heart is like a light bulb. When you're healthy it goes on really easily, and just before that electricity completely disappears, it will flicker," Dr. Go explained.
The condition could lead to heart failure, so surgeons immediately implanted an artificial pacemaker. "The purpose of the pacemaker is to deliver a small amount of electricity just like the heart's normal rhythm," said Dr. Go.
With a heart now keeping a normal cadence, Edwards doesn't have to worry about passing out or missing out on a full and happy life. "That's my friend now!" laughed Edwards as she talked about her pacemaker.
Here is an important fact to remember: if you experience symptoms you believe could be heart-related, like frequent fainting, see a physician as soon as possible.