02/06/2018

Former Savannah mayor a ‘Champion’ for women’s heart health following heart incident

Women with heart disease or at risk are invited to the WomenHeart Open House on Feb. 15

Many of us at least recognize the face and name of Edna Jackson. The former Mayor of Savannah spent four years serving the people, not to mention 12 years as Alderman.

Today, Edna continues to be a servant of the people. Her new role is volunteer with St. Joseph’s/Candler’s WomenHeart Savannah Support Network. 

Edna Jackson
Edna Jackson, former mayor of Savannah and WomenHeart Champion

What many in the public may not know about the former mayor is that the day before her run-off defeat, Edna experienced a heart incident. She first came in for a checkup because she had lost her voice. Shortly after that, she went to her primary care physician because she was feeling fatigued and overall not well. 

Edna’s doctor ran some tests and immediately told her she needed to go to the emergency room. Edna’s heart rate was 35. A normal resting heart rate for adults should range between 60 to 100 beats a minute.

“I thought I was just tired,” Edna says. “We were trying to balance a budget, which we did, and I was doing other mayoral duties and running a campaign. It hadn’t dawned on me that it was something more serious.”

Edna now has a pacemaker in her heart. A pacemaker is a small device that is placed in the chest or abdomen to help control abnormal heart rhythms. She had her procedure at St. Joseph’s Hospital and only required one night’s stay.

WomenHeart Support Network

Following her procedure, Edna learned about the WomenHeart program at St. Joseph’s/Candler from her friend Murem Sharpe.

Through a grant from the National Hospital Alliance, St. Joseph’s/Candler developed a WomenHeart program in 2015, joining the WomenHeart National Hospital Alliance, a program of WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, which is comprised of hospitals throughout the country who are committed to advancing women’s heart health.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year, according to the American Heart Association. That’s approximately one woman every minute. In fact, cardiovascular disease claims more women’s lives each year than all forms of cancers combined.

WomenHeart Support Networks were started to provide peer-to-peer, patient support for women living with heart disease by other female heart patients, called WomenHeart Champions, who have been trained to provide patient support.

Edna is now a WomenHeart Champion. She was trained to be a Champion at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Sharpe, Lizann Roberts and Alicia Roberts also are WomenHeart Champions.

Related article: Champions for Women’s Heart Health

As Champions, the women take a week once a month where they spend at least one day visiting with women heart patients at St. Joseph’s Hospital. They also plan events outside of the hospital, attend health fairs around the region and lead monthly support and educational meetings.

“I enjoy talking to people, and I think it’s necessary we support and educate each other as women,” Edna says. “I enjoy visiting with women heart patients. We introduce ourselves and let them know we have had heart problems or heart surgery as well. It makes the patient come to life as if to say, ‘I am not alone in this. Someone has gone through exactly what I have gone through.’ That’s the joy in this program when you see that.”

The WomenHeart Savannah Support Network meets every third Thursday of the month except March (fourth Thursday) and provides education with an emphasis on secondary prevention, as well as psychological and emotional support for female patients as they face their journey living with heart disease.

Any female who’s had heart disease or is at high risk of developing cardiovascular disease is invited to attend a WomenHeart Support Group. You can get an introduction to the network at the annual WomenHeart Open House on Thursday, Feb. 15, from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at 836 East 65th Street, Medical Arts #6, Savannah. Beverages and hors d’oeuvres will be served and guests will be able to meet the WomenHeart Champions, as well as support group members and St. Joseph’s/Candler affiliated leadership.

“I don’t think women realize heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women and that’s why the educational part of WomenHeart is so important,” Edna says. “You may think it’s a little indigestion and it’s not. You may think it’s just fatigue and it may not be. It’s very important that you visit your doctor and listen.

“If a person has a heart problem or is at risk then she needs to join our group and know that there is a support group that will work with them.”

For more information on WomenHeart, visit sjchs.org/womenheart or email WH-StJosephsCandler@womenheart.org.

  • St. Joseph's Hospital Campus: 11705 Mercy Blvd., Savannah, GA 31419, (p) 912-819-4100
  • Candler Hospital Campus: 5353 Reynolds St., Savannah, GA 31405, (p) 912-819-6000
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St.Joseph's Hospital Campus: 912-819-4100

Candler Hospital Campus: 912-819-6000