|Heart Transplant Survivor Ginger Zimmerman (right) poses with a WomenCare Day of |
When Ginger Zimmerman suspected that she had heart disease, her doctors dismissed her concerns, saying that she was too young and that it didn't run in her family. But Ginger, who spoke at Catholic Health's WomenCare Day of Health on Friday, was adamant. "I live with my body every day, and I know if it's not working right," she said.
By the time she was diagnosed – a result of shopping for doctors until she found one who listened – Ginger's heart was functioning at barely 15%. Three and a half months passed before a donor heart was found.
But with the relief of a transplant came another challenge, a family tragedy: her husband passed away nine days after her operation. His death was the result of a brain bleed, caused by a plane crash as he flew by helicopter to see Ginger in recovery.
"I had to draw on all of my faith and courage to pull through this," she said.
Not only has Ginger pulled through but she has emerged as a role model of how to cope with unspeakable hardship and come out with an appreciation for life.
Ginger isn't bitter or angry about what life has dealt her. She considers life a gift and says that she survives to live. And part of living is taking charge of your health.
She advised the women gathered at Salvatore's Italian Gardens to:
Make small changes. "They can add up big," she said. For instance, after her transplant, she gave up cooking with salt, replacing it with spices instead. She also began eating smaller portions.
Get moving. "Walk. Hula hoop. Dance. Take the dog out. You don't have to go to the gym in order to exercise."
Trust how you feel. "Listen to yourself. Find a doctor who listens to you."
Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Ginger lives in Rochester with her son and shares her story at speaking engagements throughout the country. Visit her website to learn more.