Heart disease is the number one killer in women.
Those with the Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital of Trinity Mother Frances are bringing awareness to the issue through an annual program called “Women with Heart.”
Eight East Texas women were chosen by the community to be this year’s women with heart. They have one thing in common — they are survivors of heart disease. All of them have stories of struggle and survival through their health challenges.
One of the honorees is Lena Callender. At 82 years old, she is committed to living a heart healthy life through the help of the care she receives at Mother Frances hospitals.
“I have had a hard, hard life, but the heart issue, it was a shock when I got here and it was so bad.”
Mrs. Callender said she found out her heart was in such bad shape when she went on vacation to Hawaii after her husband passed away.
“At 12 o’clock midnight, it (a heart attack) woke me up, and I had the second one (heart attack) at 1 o’clock- 1 a.m. And, that one, I just knew I was going to die. I’ve never had so much pain in my entire life,” she said.
After two severe heart attacks, Callender said she knew she couldn’t go back to living in Colorado anymore. The air was two thin for her to breathe.
“The doctor said, Lena, you’re only going to live a few months if you don’t leave Colorado.”
Mrs. Callender decided she wanted to live a little longer.
“I got my map out, and I thought, ‘where am I going?’” she said. “I wanted to go to a state that didn’t have state income tax. So, I knew exactly what states they were.”
Callender eventually chose Texas and ended up in Tyler.
“I love it.”
She said she’s received the best care of her life at Mother Frances.
“They’ve got wonderful, wonderful heart doctors there.”
The team at Mother Frances speaks highly of her as well.
“Lena is a super neat lady,” said Deb Taylor, chief nursing officer for Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital. “We are really lucky to have had the honor to care for her and to get to know her.”
Mrs. Taylor said Callender is an inspiration for all women.
“What’s so impressive with Lena is she has had a hard time with heart disease, but she is most willing to share her story with people so they know that they may have risk as well.”
When asked why Callender is one of this year’s Women with Heart honorees, Mrs. Taylor emphasized her gregarious nature.
“We wanted to promote the knowledge of women’s heart disease through survivors- women who we are side by side with in the grocery store, in the community, everyday,” Mrs. Taylor said.
Women like Mrs. Callender, who is living heart healthy now.
Callender said she met her husband in Galveston. Living in Texas again is like coming full circle in her life. She said she’s here to stay.