To look at Nicki today, you would never guess that last year at the age of 29, she had a heart attack. She doesn’t exactly fit the profile. She was very active. Nicki says she was an avid runner and fitness nut.
Her father had a heart attack at 40, a triple then a quadruple bypass at 45 and a heart transplant at 55. When Nicki was 24, her dad died at the age of 65.
Nicki always looked up to her dad. He was her hero. After his death, she kept thinking about how she wanted to follow in his footsteps and become a phyician. After four years of going back and forth, she decided to do something about it and enrolled in classes.
To quote Nicki “I enlisted in the army to help pay for school. I left December 28th with my eye on the prize. It was so hard to leave my husband Steve and son Luke, but I knew I would be back in a few months.”
The day Nicki had her heart attack, she was in Fort Leonard Wood Missouri at basic training. At first she wasn’t aware of what was going on, but the first signs came early that morning. She woke up feeling exhausted and nauseated. By 11:30 that morning, she felt like her heart was going to fly out of her chest. She asked her drill seargent for medical attention and was refused. That afternoon in the barricks she went into the bathroom and was extremely ill. Later that afternoon, she was in a class when she kept feeling worse and worse and her heart kept beating faster and faster. She stood up and said she was going to be sick and didn’t make it to the door before she collapsed.
Nicki says the next week was one of the scariest of her life. Several hours after her collapse, Nicki was told she had a heart attack. After being tossed back and forth between the army base hospital and a hospital in Springfield, she was finally taken to the University of Columbia hospital where she was diagnosed with Wolf Parkinson White which affects electro conductivity of the heart.
Nicki was discharged from the army on February 5. Steve and Luke drove to Missouri and were by her side every step of this crazy scary time. Nicki says that Steve never left her side. He took a month off work to be home with her. She says he was and always has been her best friend and number one cheerleader
On February 5, Nicki had a cardiac ablation where they found three accessory pathways and one split pathway. The doctors used her as a case study because there are very few cases they have operated on that had such an iteresting arrhythmia and split pathways are extremely rare.
Rehab was a little tough for Nicki. She is not a good sit at home and be still kind of girl. One week after the ablation, Nicki went skiing. She had a blast. Nicki was very fortunate to have a speedy and very easy recovery. The doctors attribute it to the fact that she was in such good shape to start with.
Nicki says the highlight of her recovery was running the Chicago Marathon on 10-10-10 for the American Heart Assosciation and the Indianapolis Marathon on Novemeber 6, 2010. Yes, you read that right. Two marathons in less than a month.
A typical day for Nicki now would make most peoples heads spin. She gets up three days a week at 5:00 to run at 5:30. She works full time at an insurance office. Two days a week she swims for 30 minutes. She teaches boot camp classes two nights a week. She just became a certified zumba instructor and does that two nights a week. She has even gone back to school and is taking a nutrition class. Add to that, being a wife and mom and training her husband. Nicki is one busy lady and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Nicki’s focus right now is the Party Hearty Zumbathon she is spearheading in my town for the American Heart Association. When she called the American Heart Association to list the Zumbathon with them, they got to talking. When they heard Nicki’s story, they asked her to be a part of their survivor calender. They will be sending a photographer to the Zumbathon. It is going to be an awesome night. I am happy to say that I am going to be a part of it.
Nicki says her focus now is to make woman aware that heart disease isn’t something that happens to our fathers and brothers and uncles and husbands. It happens to us as well and is the number one cause of death in women all over the world.
Nicki is an excellent instructor. She has made me want to come to class four days a week. So much so that I just bought a six month membership. She is going to whip me into shape yet and I couldn’t be happier to have her by my side in my fitness journey.
There is so much more to Nicki’s story, but time and space made me pick and choose. Even the things I told you are condensed. Let’s just say that she is even more amazing then this shows!
I think that if you are looking for someone to exemplify the Power of One, it might just be Nicki Caylor!