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GoRed Real Women Representative Rekisha HarrisRekisha Harris is a fighter, and brings new meaning to the word “strength.” Her battle to survive heart disease, though all odds seemed against her and obstacles seemed endless, demonstrates the power of being your own advocate in the healthcare system.

“We are the ones who live in our bodies each day. And we have to speak up when something doesn’t feel right,” she says.

Rekisha knew something wasn’t right after the delivery of her youngest child. She’d encouraged doctors to look beyond what they assumed was pregnancy induced asthma, but they assured her things were normal. When she fainted a few weeks later, however, she was sure doctors were missing something – and her hunch was right.

Following another admission to the hospital, tests revealed an enlarged heart that was surrounded by fluid and a clot in her left ventricle. Doctors again speculated that this was a complication stemming from her recent pregnancy, not a long-term problem. She was prescribed a few medications and sent home.

One month later, with her symptoms worsening and medication seemingly ineffective, Rekisha was in the hospital again. This time, the news was devastating.

“Doctors told me my heart was functioning at about 15 percent capacity and I would need a transplant,” she says. “The only positive was their belief that I was years away from needing the new heart.”

Relieved to finally have an accurate diagnosis and looking forward to getting back to relative normalcy with her growing family, Rekisha underwent several procedures, including placement of an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), and returned home.

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