SURVIVOR STORY: Tina Foster

“You Have to Keep the Faith”

Just a few months after noticing shortness of breath and swelling in her legs, Tina Foster was told she suffered from congestive heart failure. The diagnosis, on October 9, 2019, came as a huge surprise to Tina, who was just 28 years old at the time. “I have no family history of heart conditions,” she said. Doctors say the condition may have been triggered by a virus.

“I was absolutely shocked. It still hasn’t sunk in, even now as I think about it.”

Foster’s condition kept getting worse and doctors inserted a defibrillator in her heart and a balloon in her leg to help her heart pump. Ultimately, she received a new heart on Jan. 11, 2020.

But her journey was far from over.

“My recovery ended up being longer than anticipated because of complications during the surgery. I was bleeding out and they couldn’t find the source of the bleeding. I coded three times. So, it was a lot.”

Doctors had to place Tina in an induced coma for three months. When she came out, she needed to go to rehab for several more months.

“I had lost my ability to walk, breathe, sit up… all my muscles were gone.”

By the time she could go back to work, it had been almost two years since her diagnosis.

Tina was living with her family but eventually had to leave. She lived with friends for a while, but she really needed a place of her own. Her cardiac social worker told her about the HeartBrothers Foundation. She applied for financial assistance and was given a grant which covered the down payment on an apartment.

“That helped me tremendously,” she said. “I moved into the apartment in August 2020.”

Tina is a site coordinator at The Village for Families and Children, a mental health agency in Connecticut, overseeing an after-school program and social/emotional services. She is happy to be back at work, helping young people.

Foster is also pursuing her Master of Public Health degree. “I want to be part of making policies for preventative practices,” she said. “A lot of chronic diseases can be prevented through education and creating policies to prohibit bad habits.”

Looking back at all she’s been through, how did she survive? “You have to keep the faith,” Tina said. “Keeping a positive mindset—that really helped me to push through. “My mother told me the last thing I said before my surgery was ‘God’s got me.’ I believe that’s true. I heard the doctors and surgeons say that someone upstairs was really looking out for me. God really did have my back.”

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