ATLANTA - When Claire first came to Morehouse Healthcare to see cardiologist Dr. Elizabeth Ofili, she was struggling.
"I had been having constant stomach pains," Claire says. "Just hadn't been able to eat. My stomach was really tight. I was uncomfortable."
When she'd try to walk her puppy, Claire would end up so tired, she could barely move.
"What struck me was she said, 'I just can't do anything. I can't eat. I can't sleep. And I just wanted to be able to walk my dog," Dr. Ofili remembers.
By last summer, Claire's says she was plagued by daily stomachaches, tired all the time.
"One day, I just couldn't take it any more," Claire says. "So I went to urgent care. And they took my blood pressure. And my blood pressure was so high that urgent care couldn't even treat me. They sent me directly to the hospital."
The problem wasn't just Claire's blood pressure.
Her stomach pain was caused by a fluid build up from her heart.
At 36, she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
"So she basically went from six months earlier having a pretty normal life, to having a cold, and the next thing you know, she's about to have a heart transplant," says Dr. Ofili.
The cardiologist knew that heart failure didn't mean the end for Claire.
"I said, "Let's look at this." Because a heart transplant is obviously a scary thing. But at the same time, I knew we have medications."
Dr. Ofili says heart failure can be managed.
She started Claire on BiDil, a drug combination Ofili says has been effective in helping African Americans with heart failure, designed to boost blood flow out of her weakened heart.
Seven months later, after Claire got sick.
"I'm not quite 100 percent, but I'm getting there," says Claire. "I feel better. I actually feel normal, which is nice."
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