Finding Fitness and Heart Health

Toni Zoblotsky, 45, like many women, had trouble bouncing back from a difficult pregnancy. “No matter how I ate or how I exercised, my weight kept increasing. By 2014, I was at my all-time largest and I quit exercising. I gave up.”

During a hiking trip in California, Toni had to face what her health had become. “I was having trouble balancing and moving around was more of a struggle,” she says, “It was frustrating when we got wet in a stream and I couldn’t fit into any of the group’s spare clothes.” Despite the inconveniences, Toni became lost in the blissful serenity of the nature around her. “Out there amidst all that beauty and joy I felt this sudden inspiration and decided I was going to change.”

Toni’s decision would eventually save her life. On the returning flight to Memphis, she came up with a plan to take care of her health. She enlisted a personal coach who helped her curb her lifelong addiction to sugar and ease into exercise. “She tried to get me to do yoga, and at the time I’d see these tiny moms in Lululemon. I thought to myself, ‘I’m not like them, I’m not flexible, and Lululemon doesn’t have anything I can wear.’” A friend convinced Toni to try a free class at Hot Yoga Plus. “I didn’t think that I could do it, but I was able to do about 80% of the first, basic class. Over time it became an obsession and I moved on to more complicated classes.”

Now committed to her health, Toni went in for a check-up. Her nurse practitioner said, “You have the loudest heart murmur I have ever heard. You have nothing in your chart that mentions a heart murmur. You should get it checked out.” This made sense to her, since she could always recall a pounding heartbeat. Toni’s primary care physician found an echo and referred her to a cardiologist at Stern Cardiovascular Foundation. Their tests revealed more damage than expected and, because of her young age, they referred her to the top cardiologist, Dr. Nishimura, at the Mayo Clinic.

Immediately they prescribed open-heart surgery, which was performed on May 27th of this year. “My heart was having to pump so hard that they feared one day it would just quit. Reflecting back, my heart had pounded and skipped beats for as long as I can remember. I’ve learned that it was because of this condition, and that it wasn’t a normal thing.”

Since then, Toni’s recovery has allowed her to ease back into hot yoga and other fitness classes, which she does seven days a week. She attends cardiac rehab three times a week at Methodist Hospital at the Jewish Community Center.

Now that she’s a few months out of surgery, Toni plans on participating in the American Heart Association Mid-South Heart Walk on October 1. Toni has learned an immense gratitude for life and says, “The serendipity of my story is in asking my primary care physician why we didn’t find this sooner. He said, ‘I think it’s because you lost all of that weight, that we could finally find it.’”

By Robin Beaudoin. Photo by Sarah McAlexander.

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