I had congestive heart failure and did not notice any symptoms

  • Shannon Hennig is a small business owner and health and wellness marketing specialist.
  • Over the summer, she began to feel severe fatigue, stiffness in her feet and legs, and chest pains and difficulty breathing. She tested negative for COVID-19 and was refused in the emergency room after being told she had a cold in her chest.
  • In September, the 34-year-old was hospitalized for six days and diagnosed with congenital heart failure, a condition that primarily affects people over the age of 50.
  • Hennig realized that, preoccupied with work, family, and caring for COVID-19, she overlooked her own physical condition and tossed her symptoms aside as nothing serious.
  • Hennig is now working to improve his health and warns other working moms to come to him more often to avoid the same mistake.
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In early 2020, I was a busy 34-year-old entrepreneur and busy mom, living with my wife and son in Calgary, Canada. I have spent the last five years developing a consulting gig into an advanced full-time business, working with health and wellness industry experts on their branding and marketing.

I had something to be proud of. In my first year, I brought in over six digits of revenue, and I easily managed to do that in 2020 as well. I had big plans to scale, build a more efficient sales funnel, and hire a team to support me.

My goal was to increase revenue by building a signature program for private clients, while extending reach to small business owners through an online teaching and learning program. I was hoping to start working with hundreds of new clients.

One day in early September, I woke up at 4:30 in the morning with a recognizable murmur in my chest.

It sounded and felt like the things you get when you fight a severe cold in your chest.

All summer I felt exhausted and tired than ever before. I have had cold and flu symptoms since July, and in the previous two weeks I have gained 12 pounds. My legs and feet were constantly swollen and stiff, and when I climbed the stairs, I had noticeably difficulty breathing.

I described the level of fatigue for my husband as being almost “at the cellular level,” and no amount of napping or slight slowing down eased my exhaustion.

None of these symptoms made sense to me because I was active, eating healthy and losing 55 pounds in the previous year. During quarantine due to COVID-19 priority I gave health the best I could and I thought I was doing well.

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I did my best to cope with the reality of the pandemic and what it meant for my business, along with the challenge of my husband and I to educate a six-year-old child.

My busy daily routine started to affect my business in a big way. I no longer had time to devote to the work of the client and I struggled with deadlines that under normal circumstances were never a problem. I also had no idea where I would find time to teach my son.

In talking to peers and clients, everyone seemed to suffer from the same low-level anxiety and exhaustion as I did. It wasn’t like I was alone and unique in my physical and mental intent of juggling all the balls, so I pushed my health aside.

My time was pouring into creating the job of my dreams, but I still didn’t realize that my lack of work-life balance was not sustainable.

Fast forward to that morning in September and I knew I had to get help. I had already been tested for COVID-19 and the results were negative, despite my symptoms coinciding with those widely associated with the virus. I had even been to the emergency room 10 days earlier, complaining of the same problems, along with coughing up a small amount of blood, but they sent me home and told me I had a cold in my chest.

In the emergency room, as I watched my blood pressure rise to lethal levels and my ability to breathe become less and less, I was diagnosed.

The doctor told me that I have pulmonary edema, a condition in which your lungs fill with fluid and that I have congestive heart failure.

There I am. A 34-year-old woman who was sitting alone in the emergency department because the restrictions on visiting COVID-19 do not allow my husband to be with me was told that at the moment, at this moment, my heart is failing and I am dying.

A whirlwind of emergency treatment followed which opened my blood vessels, slowed my heart and oxygen entered my body. The IV flow of heparin, blood thinner, and nitroglycerin (a drug that helps relax blood vessels and makes blood flow to the heart easier) stabilized me before I was transferred to the intensive care unit.

I was hospitalized for six days, where I learned that my heart was pumping less than half the amount it should. Further diagnosis showed that the primary cause was high blood pressure that had been uncontrolled for too long.

As I came to terms with the diagnosis, I immediately contacted Google to learn more about what I was stunned and stunned to see that the symptoms of heart failure mimic many of the symptoms of COVID-19, including shortness of breath and shortness of breath, fatigue and weakness, and constant coughing and chest pain. I learned that congestive heart failure can also cause rapid weight gain due to fluid retention, coughing up blood and swelling in the legs, ankles and feet.

Read more: The pandemic disproportionately affects working moms. Here are three ways leaders can nurture a culture of support for working parents, according to the vice president of LinkedIn

During the summer, I had symptoms of heart failure, but I was too busy with my work and took care of COVID-19 to think about anything else.

After a round of tests, including an echocardiogram and an MRI of the heart, I was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, which is a weakening or thickening of the heart muscle to the point that it cannot pump blood properly.

When left untreated, she manages stress, diet, and exercise, and can progress to advanced heart failure.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), cardiomyopathy often remains diagnosed, but as many as 1 in 500 adults in the United States may be living with the condition. When left untreated, she manages stress, diet, and exercise, and can progress to advanced heart failure.

I knew I had to completely rethink all aspects of my life if I wanted to move forward.

Shannon Hennig before and after hospital 2020.JPG

Hennig the day before admission to the hospital and six days later after discharge. In the two weeks after hospitalization, she lost 27 kilograms of water and fluid accumulation.

Shannon Hennig


The stress of company ownership, motherhood, and COVID-19 pushed me to the end of a complete collapse. I had many risk factors for cardiomyopathy, but I had no idea that this disease could affect someone my age with such deadly consequences.

Since my diagnosis, I have made changes to better align work and family responsibilities and be more aligned with what my body is trying to tell me. For other busy working parents at the time, I advise you to sign up with your own physical and mental health just as you do with your loved ones, so you don’t miss a life-threatening diagnosis like I almost did.

Shannon Hennig is a freelance writer and professional in health and wellness marketing. She is the president of OpenInk Solutions, a company that helps health and wellness professionals build their personal brands and become thought leaders in the industry. Follow her Twitter.

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