PLATTSBURGH — Stephanie Ormsby and Ginger Zimmerman have a lot in common.
They are both mothers of three boys, wives and career women — and they're both survivors of cardiovascular disease.
They shared their stories with 400 other women — and a sprinkling of men — during the third-annual Go Red for Women dinner at Plattsburgh State to stress the importance of heart health.
"Feb. 1, 2010 changed my life forever," Ormsby said.
She began that day like any other, doing household chores at her home in Peru, getting ready for work and taking the dog out.
But when she bent over to make her bed, a burning pain traveled across her chest and down her left arm. She was having a heart attack.
For Ormsby, the thought of not seeing her sons — Michael, Matthew and Ryan — was the most troubling, which is why she stresses that women see a health-care provider regularly.
"If not for yourself, for your children and the ones you love."
Ormsby had never smoked, ate well and was in good health.
"To this day, they don't know what caused my heart attack. That is the scariest thing."
Like Ormsby, Zimmerman was a healthy, young mother — but Zimmerman had signs early on that something was wrong.
At 28, she was a working artist, mother and wife who lived in Baton Rouge, La.
"We had plans for the future," she said of her family. "Most of all, I had a life."
But that all changed as her energy and health began to fade. She spent years searching for the cause of her illness, while doctors pointed out that she was too young and healthy for heart disease.
"I was quickly labeled a hypochondriac," Zimmerman said. "I live with my body every day, and I know if it's not working properly."
And she was right.
After four years, Zimmerman was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Her heart was functioning at only 15 percent.
"I was told I was dying. I was 32 years old."