Family changes their lives after mom has heart attack

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - At just 31 years old, Keisha Hawes had a heart attack and her husband and three children were left in shock.

It was a diagnosis no mother ever wants to hear.

But instead of giving in, Hawes viewed her heart problems as a challenge, and she used the motivation to get her and her family in shape.

The Hawes - Madison, Mason, Morrison, Michael, and Keisha - never expected to deal with a heart attack so early in their lives together.

"The cardiologist came in and said, 'Ms. Hawes, there's no need for us to do a stress test because it's evident that you've had a heart attack,'" she said.

She was taken aback.

"For me, I was like, 'No, no, no, no, this is how people go home with the wrong babies, you know. Hospital people make mix-ups; you have the wrong person. I'm 31. I'm not having a heart attack," Keisha Hawes said.

But she did. Worsening chest pains convinced her to leave her family and drive herself to the Emergency Room in the early hours of the morning.

Her husband waited at home with their children until he received word that it was more serious that they could have imagined.

"I was very scared. I got the kids together. I had to make a thousand phone calls and it was - I was afraid," he said.

An EKG revealed that Keisha Hawes had a 95 percent blockage in her main coronary artery and it had been left untreated.

"I was going to be walking around one day and just drop dead," she said.

It was a reality check for her and her family. Things had to change.

She already had the odds stacked against her. She is a diabetic with a family history of heart disease and she wants it to end with her. Along with making better food choices, her family exercises regularly.

One of their biggest accomplishments is finishing the Cooper River Bridge Run.

"At the end of the race, I don't know. Something happened and it just tasted delicious to cross that finish line, like it tasted better than any French fry or hamburger I could have ever eaten," she said.

That taste of success pushed her forward.

"She's very powerful, a very powerful woman," Michael Hawes said. "I'm lucky to have her."

They Hawes are beating heart disease one heartbeat and one footstep at a time.

For survivors of heart disease or stroke who want to tell their story, join the 2014 Go Red for Women casting call on Jan. 9, 2014. It starts at 5:30 p.m. at the Francis Marion Hotel in downtown Charleston.

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