Meet Daniela Leonhardt. She is a healthy, busy mother of two who has always exercised and eaten right.
In December of 2010, Daniela started experiencing fainting spells. After she fainted for the first time, her doctor told her it was due to a virus. A few months later, she fainted again at a conference, at that time doctors thought it could be hormones. As time went on, she learned to control her fainting spells until the dizziness faded. As the episodes became more frequent, she became increasingly tired and started to lose focus. Doctors did not take Daniela's symptoms seriously until May 2012 and often blamed them on anxiety, because she was a busy young mom.
A Physician Assistant (PA) at her doctor's office told Daniela that he'd like to run an EKG to which Daniela responded, "Are you kidding? It can't be my heart, I'm too young!" After running two EKGs, the PA returned and the mood in the room shifted, suddenly becoming very serious. He said that her heart rate was extremely low at 32 beats per minute and was "shocked" that she was functioning. She was hospitalized and diagnosed with Malignant Sinus Mediated Bradycardia (essentially, the electrical system in her heart was miss-functioning/failing), later discovering that her only treatment was a pacemaker. After her pacemaker was put in place in 2012, Daniela felt better, in fact the “fog” had lifted. In 2014 she began to experience the same symptoms as before, fainting and some added super-fast heart rhythms. In late 2014 she had surgery to fix the SVT (Supra ventricular tachycardia) rhythm, but the recovery was long and tough.
One morning in March of 2015, Daniela fell as she was getting out of bed. She knew the signs of a stroke from volunteering with AHA and crawled to the bathroom. She tried smiling at her reflection in the mirror, but her vision was blurry. Her eight-year-old son came into the bathroom, asking his mom if he could call 911. Daniela told him that she would be okay and called a friend instead. Her friend immediately told her to go to the hospital. Upon arrival, the doctor told her that he thought it was a panic attack and prescribed her medicine to help with anxiety. She was instructed to follow up with her cardiologist the next day. He told her that the ER doctor was wrong, and she had suffered from a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA/mini-stroke).He sent her to see a neurologist; Daniela's neurologist praised her son for asking to call 911 and understanding the signs of a stroke. Further testing showed that Daniela had five lesions on her brain, meaning that she had five mini-strokes before her pacemaker was placed. Her cardiologist and neurologist discussed findings and concluded that the TIA was due to Atrial Fibrillations. Daniela now takes blood thinners twice daily.
In 2018 Daniela started to feel unusually tired and her heart rate would fluctuate out of control. She went to see her cardiologist and after further examination and her pacemaker interrogation, it was decided that the Atrial Fibrillations were cause for all these symptoms; it was time for another surgery. She had this surgery this past August and while in surgery another dangerous rhythm was discovered and ablated (burnt off). She is now rebuilding heart stamina and working hard to allow her heart to heal. It is Daniela's mission to help save more people from heart disease and help others understand the signs and symptoms, as it is called the "silent killer" for a reason. We are so inspired by Daniela's son's ability to recognize the signs of stroke and Daniela's strength to share her story with others.