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I am Deborah Daw Heffernan, an experienced cardiac patient and advocate. You may know me as the author of AN ARROW THROUGH THE HEART. A memoir of life, love, and surviving my first, near-fatal SCAD and heart attack, ARROW was originally published by Simon & Schuster in 2002. Featured that year on The Oprah Winfrey Show’s groundbreaking program about young women and heart disease, ARROW continues to be one of the few books published on women and heart disease—updated and revised in 2015. Having gratefully received a heart transplant in 2006, today I am thriving with my lovely new heart—complications and all—the subject of my next book,​ PERFECT STRANGER. ​

This website is a “workbook companion” to my book(s)

It offers medical management support—connections to helpful cardiac organizations, practical tips, and printable worksheets to keep track of data—for fellow heart attack, SCAD, bypass, heart failure, and heart transplant patients. I may emphasize women, whose cardiovascular health has long been ignored, but men are welcome and will certainly benefit from my practical know-how in navigating heart disease. I know what it is like to be shocked by a cardiovascular event or diagnosis. I know what it is to return home overwhelmed following a tough check-up or a hospital discharge, and ask oneself, “Now what?” This practical website just might be what you need to help build a system for taking good care of yourself. Everything here helped me, with special thanks to the remarkable people of Massachusetts General Hospital, my saviors and guides.

FOLLOW me on Facebook for notice of new tips and tools posted here

My intention is to post on Facebook and my Blog far more often than I actually do. As I add more information to this website I will announce it on Facebook. Please choose to FOLLOW me, as I only accept “Friend” requests from people I actually know. I hope the information on this website, Facebook, and in my book(s) helps you on your own adventure of the heart, in all its meanings. 

Let me help you begin to see illness as living, not as the end of your life

Not enough is known about how chronically ill cardiac patients—especially SCAD and heart transplant patients—cope with and manage their health requirements in their real lives. Our clinicians send us into the world with best wishes and the basics of diet, exercise, and medication management. But there is so much more to it that only day-to-day living with chronic illness can teach us. We learn on the job, largely alone. We figure it out as we go. 

My adventures in Cardiac Land have brought terror, hilarity, and pain, as well as speechless joy and crushing despair. In other words, being chronically ill is also living a life. Illness just happened to become my greatest teacher. You see, in striving to heal all of me—body, mind, and spirit—throughout multiple cardiac disasters, I have learned that illness can actually give life back to us. So, I urge you to resist staying too long in “Why did this happen to me?” The more interesting questions are: What are you doing about it? What have you learned and how have you grown from it?

Please, aways consult your doctors!

​​Your medical team is deeply invested in your life. They can best answer most of your questions. If they are not meeting your needs, switch doctors! Engaged and caring physicians do exist. (See YOUR MEDICAL NOTEBOOK under TIPS & TOOLS for how to keep notes in preparation for speaking with physicians.) I am alarmed by how many people turn to on-line chat communities first, rather than to their clinicians. I read a 2 a.m. post from a woman describing her obvious heart attack symptoms and asking for advice from her chat group! Wrong. Get yourself to the ER! So, please consult your doctors. The same goes for my suggestions. Just because something has worked for me does not mean it is for you. Our bodies are all different, and science and medicine are constantly changing. Your medical team has the latest information.


ONE out of every THREE women you know? Even young women? More women dead than from all cancers combined? And do you know that 80% of cardiovascular disease is preventable—largely through lifestyle changes that anyone can incorporate relatively easily, even pleasurably?

I cannot live with this knowledge without trying to do something about it through awareness-building, advocacy, and sharing what I have learned.

There has to be some good that comes of my too-much-experience in Cardiac Land—two massive heart attacks (MI), two spontaneous coronary artery dissections (SCAD), a double bypass, cardiomyopathy, multiple angiograms, stents, ventricular tachycardia, extreme supraventricular tachycardia, two ICDs and EP testing including cardio-conversions, a heart transplant, kidney failure, years of heart biopsies, dreary drug reactions, and a pseudoaneurysm (worse than it sounds), and the complications of a heart tranplant. All this despite my relative youth, a lifetime of great health habits, and no family history of cardiovascular disease.

All book-related earnings—and more—are donated to cardiac causes. I gain no financial benefit from people, organizations, or products mentioned here. I just want to save you the trouble of the search. If anyone does benefit commercially from my suggestions, maybe they will be inspired to contribute to cardiac causes!

Available as an eBook at online retailers and at your local bookstore. All my book-related earnings are donated to cardiac causes. So, buy a book and save a life!