A woman was told by doctors “three times” her palpitations were anxiety – when actually she had a heart muscle disease leaving her at risk of cardiac arrest.
Jade Cooke, 35, used to do yoga five times a week and knew something was wrong when she stated to get extremely breathless.
But her worries were repeatedly dismissed until she demanded an x-ray which led to other investigations that revealed she had a serious heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).
It was triggered by a flu-like virus she got one Christmas – and left her heart barely pumping blood.
Despite her age, she was at high risk of a cardiac arrest, and had an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) with pacemaker fitted in a five-hour operation.
Initially so weak she couldn’t wash her own hair, after six weeks she was back doing gentle yoga.
Cardiologists told her the speedy recovery was partly down to her love of yoga.
Now an instructor, Jade, from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, would like to create classes specifically for people living with heart conditions.
Jade, also a financial controller, said: “I never thought I’d be impacted by a heart condition.
“I think I was in shock at first. It took me a few months to realise exactly what DCM was, and how serious it was.
“I kept asking myself if life was ever going to be the same again.
“After my surgery where my ICD with pacemaker was fitted was my lowest point.
“I felt like I’d lost most of what made me who I was. I just wanted my old life back.
“But slowly, six weeks after the surgery, I started using gentle yoga movements as things started to heal.
“Day to day I now feel a million times better. Now I want to raise awareness about yoga and the positive impact it can have on heart patients.
“I never thought someone of my age and fitness level could have a heart condition, but the truth is heart disease can affect anyone at any time.”
In Christmas 2018 Jade contracted a flu-like virus – and in January she was suffering with fatigue and heart palpitations.
She could barely keep up in yoga classes.
She said: “When I initially went to my GP with concerns, I was fobbed off three times, with them saying it was anxiety.
“My mum came with me in the end and pushed for me to have an x-ray – that revealed my heart was enlarged.”
In March 2019 she was diagnosed DCM.
Her heart’s ejection fraction – a measure of how much blood the heart’s left ventricle is pumping – was just 11% compared to the normal range of 50% to 75%.
By June 2019 she was losing weight and had to cut down her hours at work – before being signed off altogether.
She said: “I couldn’t do much or walk far and it really badly impacted my mental health.
“I’m usually very independent but now mum was having to do a lot for me.
“My life had completely changed. I kept asking myself if life was ever going to be the same again.”
By September 2019, she was at high risk of cardiac arrest and had a five-hour surgery, followed by a six-week recovery.
He was unable to get dressed, drive – or do yoga.
She said: “I wondered if I’d ever be able to do yoga again. I was grieving for the person I had been.
“I felt like I’d lost most of what made me who I was. I just wanted my old life back.”
After an ablation in January 2020 – small burns to the inside of the heart to help stop irregular heartbeats – her heartbeat levelled out and she could return to work on reduced hours.
Three years on, Jade is on three types of heart medication – and her heart function has increased from 11% to 32%.
Jade said: “I also think that yoga has played a part – and my consultant has said he is amazed by my progress.
“My consultant has never actually said why practising yoga might have helped, but it does reduce stress and anxiety and keep my mind and body in balance.”
She qualified as a yoga instructor in July 2021.
She said: “I also want other young women with a heart condition to know that they’re not alone.
“I got fobbed off when I was first ill but eventually I was checked out.”
Jade said she “might not be here today” without research funded by British Heart Foundation.