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Thoughts From… a Cardiac Survivor

  • Author: Nichole Sisson
  • Date Submitted: Oct 27, 2020
  • Category: Cardiology

My name is Nichole Sisson, and I will be this year's coach for Excela's Heart, Lung, & Vascular Institute Heart Walk Team. I am a 10-year heart survivor and have been involved with the American Heart Association (AHA) for almost half of my life. In addition to being a Heart Walk team leader I have been a volunteer, spokesperson, and most recently chairperson for Open Your Heart, which raises awareness for congenital heart defects through AHA. All of these roles in this organization have shaped me into the woman that I am today. Excela Health Logo

I was born with a heart defect that went undetected until I started having symptoms at 13 years old. My symptoms were a rapid heartbeat, chest pain, shortness of breath, and a near-fainting feeling. Three years of these "episodes" passed before a recording of my heart rate was captured and a diagnosis was confirmed. In 2010, my highest recorded heart rate was 310 beats per minute. This recording is what led to my diagnosis of Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT) and subsequent 5 1/2-hour surgery at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh. Since my surgery, I have not had any episodes.

Due to my cardiac history, my dream has always been to specialize in cardiology. I graduated with my PharmD from Duquesne University with a concentration in acute care and shortly after began my pharmacist career with Excela Health in 2019. I started as an inpatient pharmacist at Westmoreland Hospital, and I have since transitioned to now serve as the Heart Failure Clinical Pharmacist. At the Excela Health Heart Failure Clinic, we help patients to manage their heart failure through a comprehensive approach offering educational resources and helping patients to understand their disease. It is amazing to bring my passion for AHA and Excela's mission together to help cardiology patients within our community. It's hard to put into words just how much that truly means to me.

On November 14, the AHA Greater Pittsburgh’s Heart Walk will occur virtually, and we are inviting you to join our team, or make a donation. I walk because I know that with every step, I'm making a difference in someone's life. I know this firsthand because the steps that others have taken before me have made a difference in my own life. As I celebrate 10 years of a healthy heart, will you be a Heart Walk Hero with me?

Your donation will fund groundbreaking research that literally keeps hearts beating and helps people within our community and beyond live longer healthier lives.

Ready to sign up? Click here to join our team or contribute.

Nichole Sisson​​
Nichole Sisson, Heart Failure Clinical Pharmacist
Excela Health Heart, Lung & Vascular Institute