“The First Thing I Thought Was ‘I Don’t Want to Die’”

January 15, 2024

For ten months in 2020, Celia Juarez had extra weight on her shoulders – 2.2 pounds to be exact. That was the weight of the personal defibrillator, or LifeVest™, doctors had her wearing around the clock since discovering she was at risk for sudden cardiac arrest. The LifeVest was there to help keep her alive if the worst happened.

Her story began nearly a decade earlier when she began experiencing pain in her torso and a fluttering sensation in her chest. By February 2020 her symptoms could no longer be ignored. The then 49-year-old schoolteacher ended up in the hospital where she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and cardiomyopathy. As part of her treatment plan, Juarez enrolled in the Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation Program.

Launched in June 2020, this first-of-its-kind program in South Texas helps people with severe heart disease – or those who have recently had a heart-related procedure – improve their health through a combination of education and supervised exercise.

The program’s dedicated team – made up of professionals in the fields of medicine, nutrition, exercise and behavioral health – monitor participants’ progress while they undergo sessions aimed at strengthening them both physically and emotionally.

The program focuses on three main pillars:

  • Regular Exercise
  • Heart-Healthy Eating
  • A Healthy Mindset

The end goal is to help reduce a patient’s risk of having another heart event while increasing their cardiovascular function.

“I love the people here,” Juarez says of the program. “They are professional, positive and friendly.”  She is especially thankful for the encouragement she received along the way. “When you are here, they are right there beside you,” she says. “They encourage you every step of the way and help you look at life in the most positive way.” Today, Juarez is no longer wearing the personal defibrillator and her heart rate has improved dramatically.