Making a difference with every step
“At 70, my dad was thin and fit, with a megawatt smile,” said Nikki Nocera, vice president and chief of staff to CEO of Exelon Utilities, which oversees ComEd. “He didn’t drink much or smoke and ran over five miles, five times a week.”
In 2013, shortly after his 70th birthday, Nocera’s dad suffered sudden cardiac arrest while on a run and passed away. Four days before, Nocera recalls, her dad told his doctor he was struggling to run like he used to and worried it was a sign of getting older. Nocera’s dad also felt mild chest pain and fatigue.
The doctor conducted a blood test and ordered an EKG, neither of which test for heart disease. With positive EKG and blood results in hand, her dad left the doctor’s office feeling nothing was seriously wrong.
After her dad’s passing, Nocera did some research and found that, had he been administered either a stress test or calcium scan, doctors may have discovered a 98 percent blockage in his left anterior descending coronary artery.
Nocera shares her story with others to help prevent more cardiac-related deaths.
Scott Vogt, ComEd’s vice president of strategy and energy policy, also shares his story to educate those about the disease.
In 2015, after experiencing minor chest pain, he mentioned it to his doctor at an annual checkup. The doctor ordered a stress test that resulted in Vogt undergoing an angiogram at the hospital where a significant blockage was discovered in the left coronary artery. He had a second stent inserted into his right coronary artery a few months later.
After that, Vogt made significant changes to his diet and lifestyle. He ultimately lost 50 pounds by eliminating fried foods, red meat and cheese from his diet (which he says was basically his entire diet at the time!). Today, he exercises regularly and pays close attention to what he eats and how he feels. He now sees his cardiologist and undergoes a stress test annually.
Since being affected by the disease, these leaders are actively engaged in the American Heart Association’s annual Heart Walk. They walk alongside survivors, colleagues and friends to make a difference and share their story with others who might benefit from their experiences. For more information or how to participate in the Heart Walk go to www2.heart.org.
Nikki Nocera, vice president and chief of staff to CEO of Exelon Utilities, at the American Heart Association Heart Walk.