RACINE, Wis. — In the heart of downtown Racine sits Denise Lockwood’s office. She’s the owner of the Racine County Eye, a local news website, and has been a journalist for 25 years.
“We tend to run ourselves ragged,” said Lockwood. “We’re always chasing after the story and it’s not okay to make that battery empty because it does nobody good.”
In the spring of 2019, she remembered walking up the stairs to her office when she noticed something was off.
“I couldn’t go up this flight of stairs and not be out of breath,” said Lockwood. “I would get to the top and I would put down whatever I had and I’m like, ‘oh man, that was so hard.’ I couldn’t tell anyone. I literally couldn’t talk.”
Lockwood later discovered she had atrial fibrillation (AFib), which causes your heart to beat irregularly and often rapidly. AFib can lead to blood clots, stroke and heart failure.
“They told my husband in the ER if I waited 24 more hours, I would have been dead,” said Lockwood. “That was a pretty compelling wake up call.”
After 10 days in the hospital, she knew it was time to put her health first, not only for herself, but for her family and her passion for storytelling.
Dr. Charles Lanzarotti is an electrophysiologist at Ascension St. Francis Hospital. Lanzarotti said healthy habits can prevent AFib.
“Eat right, get enough sleep, don’t smoke,” said Lanzarotti. “Everything in moderation, moderate alcohol intake because all of those things lead to AFib, so people who drink excessively or smoke or are inactive. Those all lead to everything, including high blood pressure, diabetes and atrial fibrillation.”
While Lockwood is used to sharing stories of Racine County residents, she now shares her own story of getting diagnosed with AFib. She said her goal is to help others.
“Don’t minimize the symptoms,” said Lockwood. “They’re not in your face. This progressed a good five to six months, but they were all there.”
Lockwood said keeping up on a healthy lifestyle is important because she has a granddaughter who she wants to stick around for.