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Reporter Talks to Students About Heart Attack, Women’s Health

Jennifer Donelan

ABC 7 reporter Jennifer Donelan says the pain went "from zero to 10" during her heart attack in 2010.

February 4, 2011 – ABC 7 reporter Jennifer Donelan talked about her own heart attack and women’s heart health in general at Georgetown Feb. 3.

Donelan spoke at the invitation of the university’s chapter of the National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA) – a student group within the School of Nursing & Health Studies.

The nursing majors planned the event to help raise awareness about women’s heart health in recognition of National Wear Red Day Feb. 4.

“The students had the opportunity to plan and implement a professional lecture related to their career path,” said faculty advisor Jean Farley, instructor of nursing.

Zero to 10

Following her 5 p.m. television news broadcast on Sept. 8, 2010, the 36-year-old Donelan began feeling pain deep inside her chest. Then her left arm went numb.

“The pain goes from zero to 10,” she recounted. “I am on all fours, and I start crying.”

A member of the crew called 911, and she was transported to Washington Hospital Center. There, she heard shocking news.

Saving Her Life

“Your EKG shows you are having a heart attack,” Donelan recalled the doctor saying.

She later learned that she had suffered from a rare condition known as a spontaneous coronary artery dissection.

“Had I not listened to myself and called 911, I would be dead,” she said. “Doctors tell me I saved my life by calling 911.”

Heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the leading cause of death among women. At the event, the group raised funds to donate to the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign.

NSNA chapter vice president Erin Devitt (NHS’11) introduced the reporter, highlighting her many career accomplishments.

Remembering Nurses

“Her strong ability to tell others’ stories has greatly impacted journalism and the lives of her viewers,” Devitt said. “But today we are here to listen to her personal story, one that has just as much – if not more – impact than her news broadcasts.”

Donelan told the future nurses gathered in the audience how important their work is to patients.

“I will never forget the nurses,” she said. “They are the ones who got me through, in the middle of the night, that fear of sleeping because I might not wake up.”

Julie DeLoia, the school’s interim dean, said the event shined a spotlight on a very serious health issue for women.

“We were all spellbound by her story and left thinking about our own hearts in a different way,” DeLoia said.

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