Heart attack survivor advocates for quitting smoking


Denise Fetters is encouraged by the FreshStart smoking cessation classes at St. Elizabeth Healthcare and energized by the cardiac rehab program.

As for Dr. Robert Strickmeyer, who put the stent in that opened her clogged artery last summer: “He’s very nice, I enjoyed talking to him.”

And, she likes the personal attention she receives from cardiologist Dr. D.P. Suresh. “He is very sweet, very personable.”

Denise is doing “all the right things to help herself get better,” said Suresh. She’s stopped smoking and she’s following the advice of her doctors, he said.

In most women, the symptoms of a heart attack may be tightness or fatigue, rather than a dramatic, crushing pain.

Heart disease in women is not something to be taken lightly because one in seven women die of heart disease,” Suresh said.

Denise’s second heart attack woke her up in the middle of the night last summer. A constant ache from front to the back; it didn’t respond to one, then two doses of nitro, and she headed to the hospital.

“I’m one of those people who takes charge,” said Denise.

She’d participated in two Freshstart classes and had her last cigarette the day before her second heart attack. She plans on attending another session, she says, and adds: “I’m going to be a spokesperson for them.”

“The Freshstart classes encourage me,” said Denise. She’d tried calling another program but never got through. She figured, “I guess I’ll do it cold turkey and I did.”


Any other advice?

One tip she’s glad to share is to stay away from people who are smoking when you are trying to quit. “I taught myself to not be around people who smoke,” said Denise. She’s relaxed that rule as she’s adapted to her new, non-smoking habits but, at first, the temptation was too hard.

“I’ve got a lot more energy. Before, I just didn’t want to do anything. I just sat and sat. Now, I exercise and then I can go for a walk.”

Joyce Jacobs of the Freshstart program said Denise is a great resource in the classes. Health is the number one reason smokers say they want to quit. When someone who has had a heart attack, like Denise, talks about health risks, participants really pay attention, said Jacobs.

Denise has had a third heart attack but she says she is recovering and in cardiac rehab.

“I like the way they treat you, I like the way they take care of you,” she said of the St. Elizabeth team of doctors, nurses and staff.


Freshstart is a FREE 4-week smoking cessation program developed by the American Cancer Society and offered by St. Elizabeth Healthcare. The program is designed to provide group support to help smokers quit and individualized help to meet your goals. For information on upcoming classes or to register, click the button below or call  (859) 301-5570.