Rosie O’Donnell in Sarasota: Heart Disease in Women is No Laughing Matter

My Friend VM, Rosie O'Donnell, and Me at McCurdy's Comedy Club, Sarasota, Fla., March 22, 2014
My Friend VM, Rosie O'Donnell, and Me at McCurdy's Comedy Club, Sarasota, Fla., March 22, 2014. Okay, we look like the photo was taken after midnight because it was taken after midnight.opens IMAGE file
My Friend VM, Rosie O’Donnell, and Me at McCurdy’s Comedy Club, Sarasota, Fla., March 22, 2014. Okay, we look like the photo was taken after midnight because it was taken after midnight.

Typically, when someone moves into a new neighborhood the Welcome Wagon comes knocking with a small basket of goodies, information and a message of, “Hello, welcome to the neighborhood.” Over the weekend comedian, actor, author and mother opens in a new windowRosie O’Donnell did the opposite.

Or perhaps she was going on the offensive and rather than waiting for the Sarasota community to come knocking on her door (because I’m sure restraining orders would be involved), she introduced herself to Suncoast residents by showing off her comedic talents and sharing an important message at opens in a new windowMcCurdy’s Comedy Club.

This was my first time at McCurdy’s and it was quite fun. It’s intimate and cozy with cabaret-type setting. My friend VM was one of my guests along with a couple from town.

Another Sarasota Resident
“I’m now a resident,” O’Donnell announced early in her set. The mom of five added she’s spending about three hours a day “collecting tiny sharks teeth” on Casey Key. “Are they midget sharks?” she asked while indicating how small the prehistoric teeth are. The Sarasota tourism folks must be happy knowing the celebrity is touting one of the area’s popular (and free) tourist activities.

Laughs and Seriousness
From parenthood to marriage to being an Irish-Catholic-Jew (you need to see her show to understand), the comedian kept the audience laughing up until she shared the seriousness of the opens in a new windowmassive heart attack she suffered. Even then, she peppered the incident with lighthearted humor.

During the summer of 2012, O’Donnell was 50 and did what many other women do. She ignored the signs of a heart attack.

Well, she didn’t exactly ignore the five signs, she acknowledged them but they didn’t fit the symptoms she thought were associated with a heart attack. She did not seek medical attention until 60 hours after the cardiac event. SIXTY. FREAKIN’. HOURS.

As a society we’re taught the primary symptoms of a heart attack are radiating pain down the left arm and a tight feeling in the chest. For O’Donnell, she told the audience she was hot and sweating, extremely exhausted, pale as a ghost, had incredible pain in both her shoulders, and vomited.

We’ve been taught about heart attack symptoms for men. Women can experience different symptoms. Do you know what they are?

O’Donnell also didn’t do something I wouldn’t do (and I haven’t but there have been occasions when I should have) because of her codependency. Even though she was feeling like dog-doo-doo, she didn’t seek medical attention right away. She didn’t call an ambulance.

Yeah, I haven’t done that either, using the same logic she did – that there’s someone else who needs it more or what’s happening doesn’t warrant an emergency. If you recall, opens in a new windowI drove myself to the hospital when I thought I had appendicitis (this was after I scooped the litter box, washed the dishes and took out the trash. I ended up having an appendectomy that night) and earlier this month I should’ve called an ambulance (or at least drove myself to the ER) for abdomen pain. Since I didn’t have an appendix, I rationalized, how serious could it be? It was Friday morning and had to work over the weekend. Because our office is so small there was no one else to cover my events. Turned out I had a severe bacterial infection and my doctor scolded me for not going to the ER. Anyway, I digress…

According to the opens in a new windowCenters for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States.
  • Although heart disease is sometimes thought of as a “man’s disease,” around the same number of women and men die each year of heart disease in the United States.
  • Almost two-thirds (64%) of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms.

Heart attacks can happen to many people and there is no predicting when or where someone will need an AED to save someone’s life. It is therefore so essential there are more AEDs in many places for ease of access. For instance, if you were in church, there has to be one nearby! If you’re in a church group, buy an AED for church from or look around for a similar seller.

Rosie’s #HEPPP
To help women remember the signs of a heart attack, Rosie O’Donnell has come up with HEPPP. Now when you pronounce it, you need to pronounce all the “P’s”.

Signs of a heart attack in women are:

P – PAIN – this can be anywhere, such as neck, jaw, shoulders or elsewhere

Got it?

O’Donnell has also come up with a catchy little song to remember HEPPP but you’ll need to catch one of her shows or her upcoming HBO special to hear it.

Resources for Women About Cardiac Risk
Heart disease runs in both sides of my family in men and women. Recently I learned I have heart disease and was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes about a year-and-a-half ago. At first, I was disappointed in myself and how I could let myself get to that point. I realized I have the ability to control and improve my health.

I’ve been taking opens in a new windowsteps to reduce that risk including losing 30 pounds by changing the way I eat and adding exercise into my life. (Oh, and I’m not stopping at 30.)

Following are a few resources to learn more about cardiac risk in women:

opens in a new windowGo Red for Women

opens in a new windowAmerican Heart Association

opens in a new windowBayer – i am ProHeart

Welcome to the neighborhood, Rosie. Enjoy the sunshine! Just be sure to wear your sunscreen.



Jennifer A. Huber is an award-winning travel and outdoor blogger and writer in Southwest Florida. Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led her to a career path in the tourism industry for more than 30 years. She spent a decade with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley, and Everglades National Parks. She founded the travel blog, with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely. The unexpected death of her former husband in 2008 reminded her how short life is. His passing was a catalyst for sharing her experiences with the goal of inspiring and empowering others to travel solo. Jennifer holds a Travel Marketing Professional certification from the Southeast Tourism Society, is a certified food judge, member of the NASA Social community, and alum of the FBI Citizens Academy. When not traveling, she is either in the kitchen, practicing her photography skills, or road tripping with her dog, Radcliff.

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