MACON, Ill. (WCIA) — World Heart Day was Sept. 29, and one woman in Macon has dealt with heart complications literally her entire life.

The CDC reports that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.

Trisha Songer of Macon was born in 1977 with a congenital heart defect, so she has faced issues since birth. She said before receiving the pacemaker; her heart had a hole in it from the surgery cutting too far into the conduction system of her heart. “That meant the bottom chamber would not communicate with the top and would not beat on its own, and I got a pacemaker at six weeks of age.”

She said over the years, and it progressed and worsened. “Later in life, the fact that the pacemaker was beating for me, the heart muscle weakened because it was not being used, so I developed cardio-myopathy.”

Songer was not supposed to have children, but she did. She had four children, and her cardio-myopathy got much worse after her fourth. During this time she was widowed, “After Mike died, the worst happened. Broken heart syndrome is real, and people need to know that.”

She developed right-sided heart failure, and “at that point, I got a pacemaker with a defibration, and it lasted for four years.” She said during that time, she made many changes to her lifestyle. She changed her diet, mental health management, stress, and more, “My doctor very much promoted the heart and soul and body connection, big life changes at that point.”

The doctor, she said, helped her tremendously. “My doctor is all about caring for every part of the body, including the mind. And, in doing that, the heart muscle strengthened a bit, and I was able to go to a regular pacemaker for a while,” said Songer.

Then, five years ago, Songer started dealing with many issues. She had circulation issues, developed tachycardia in the right chamber of her heart, and two valves were leaking. She had six ablations, two shocks back to rhythm, and two heart valve repairs. She said they do still leak, but they are improved.

Two years ago, she went in for a routine pacemaker replacement surgery. She said everything went normally, but something was not right. “I was resting and felt like something was not right and got worse, and worse, and very weak.” She was right to listen to her body. “I ended up being full of infection throughout my entire body, and was in St. John’s Hospital for about three weeks, and then eight weeks of IV antibiotics at home with a visiting nurse to monitor.”

They removed the old pacemaker, sewed a temporary one to her neck, and then debrided the site, putting in a new pacemaker. They then put in another pacemaker safely, which equaled another three and half weeks of hospital stay, and more IV antibiotics for eight weeks at home.

Songer does so much more than deal with heart issues. She is a mother, a grandmother, and a make-up artist, and she runs an in-home daycare. She also volunteers with the Macon County Animal Shelter weekly. In the past, she has run fundraisers for the community. When asked how you do everything despite her health, she said, “You have to; we go through the things we go through to help others.” She added, “Just like anyone else, like any other job, we all have to make a living and function in life no matter how we feel in life; sometimes you just have to push.”

She believes that sharing her story will help others. “I will do medical studies, raise awareness, whatever I have to do. If you are blessed enough to be alive, you should be spending your time helping people while you are here.”

There are certain screenings offered for heart health, depending on age. Songer said you “need to advocate for your health, be proactive. The sooner things are detected, the better. There are certain screenings, and you absolutely have to do those.” She added if you feel a medical professional is not listening to you, “Listen to your body. It will give you signs when something is not right, and if you go to a medical professional and express those concerns and they dismiss them? You need to go to another one.”

Songer said her doctor is fantastic and “has always listened to me throughout my whole life.” She said through pregnancy, she had to go to specialists, but many issues did not happen until after her fourth child’s birth, and the death of her husband.

She said her dad was there for every surgery, and just a few years ago, her father lost his own health battle. He played Santa Claus for years for one of her fundraising programs in Cerro Gordo. Of her father, she said, “He had a heart of pure gold. He was my partner in crime, every surgery, he was there for me, and I was able to do that for him. I am very grateful for that.”

As for sharing her incredibly personal story, she said, “I am happy to help. If it helps someone, that would be amazing, so someone doesn’t have to go through all the crap I have gone through.” She hopes to bring awareness to heart disease as it is the leading cause of death for Americans, especially women.

The CDC reports that heart disease killed 314,186 women in 2020. That equals, one in five female deaths resulting from Heart Disease.