DWN Works Up a Sweat at the Ray

By Kris Gallagher


I’m at that age where the desire to exercise more often conflicts with my desire to not inflame my bad knee. Still, I was intrigued by the free Exercise for Health and Wellness with DWN event at the Ray Meyer Fitness & Recreation Center on Feb. 20. So, I packed up my workout clothes and my bum knee and off I went.

I was happy to see that the two dozen women who joined me were of all ages and athletic abilities. We joked around and encouraged each other as we tried to keep up with the instructors. Thankfully, they told us that is was more important to keep moving than to mimic them exactly. Even better, they told us to scale the intensity of the workout to match the needs of our own bodies.

First up was 20 minutes of Zumba. If you are new to Zumba, it’s a dance-based workout with fairly simple, repetitive motions. In addition to being good exercise, you learn some nifty dance moves. We pumped our arms, wiggled our middles and hopped to the beat of the peppy Latin music. Well, many people hopped. I stepped, keeping the impact on my knee low and still managing to work up a good sweat. I’d forgotten how much fun Zumba is.

The next 20-minute session was a new style of exercise for me: Tabata Blast. The instructor showed us a series of poses that require balance and muscle strength, such as a plank or a deep squat. We’d hold the pose for 20 seconds, take 20 seconds off, and then repeat. Whoa, THAT was a workout! Two days later, my thighs are still screaming. It’s the kind of scream that means calories were burned and muscles were strengthened. I was relieved to hear that regular Tabata Blast classes are just 30 minutes long. I don’t think I could go for an hour!

Finally, an instructor led us through a series of yoga poses that let us stretch and relax and restore our sense of calm. The woman next to me said it was her first time trying yoga and she seemed to be able to do all the poses easily. Yoga is a great way to start exercising if you haven’t been. It helps you loosen up tight muscles and joints, builds your strength and improves your balance. It’s also a mini-meditation session, and most of us can use more of that!

Our workout was jointly sponsored by DWN and DePaul’s Healthy Vin-cent$ Wellness Program. If you are inspired to improve your health, check out the classes held at the Ray and at the newly refurbished gym in the basement of the College of Computing and Digital Media building in the Loop. You can sign up for six-week classes or single sessions as your schedule allows.

Oh, and my knee? It’s just fine. Let’s get fit!

Kris Gallagher is a marketing and communications team member for DWN, and an associate editor in the Office of Advancement at DePaul University.

Why I (an Exercise-Phobe) Walk in the Heart Walk

By Lubna El-Gendi

Running any kind of a race, let alone a marathon, is not on my bucket list. And as someone who is allergic to exercise (doctor’s note pending), that aversion to races extends to “walks.”

Before last summer, the last time I participated in a walk was when I did the March of Dimes as a high school senior. And yet, last summer, I signed up for the DWN Heart Walk team. I can say I signed up for many reasons: I was new to DePaul and wanted to meet people, I was avoiding doing work, I had a spurt of energy at the exact moment I saw the Heart Walk email. But the truth is that what motivated me to actually sign up, and not just “think about it,” was that the walk was benefiting the American Heart Association.

263874_10150237083562636_4290690_nEven though heart disease is the number 1 killer of women in the U.S., I never thought about heart health (or any other kind of health if I’m being completely honest), until my father passed away from a heart attack in 2010. My father was one of those people that are often referred to as “gentle giants.” At 6’3, with a full beard and deep voice, he could appear intimidating (all the guys in high school knew not to mess with me), but was one of the kindest, most positive people I’ve ever known, with a deep, unshakable faith in people.

Per Arab naming traditions, my middle name is my father’s first name and, since his passing, I have been striving to honor his name and memory. That led me to last year’s Heart Walk, where I met the wonderful women of DWN and decided to join the DWN Service & Outreach Committee. I have my dad to thank for my height and laid-back nature, and now I have him to thank for my involvement with DWN. That’s why I continue to walk in the Heart Walk, in thanks to and in honor of my father, Saad A. El-Gendi.


And hey, who can’t use a break from the office?

Lubna El-Gendi is a member of the Service & Outreach Team for the DePaul Women’s Network, and Director of Student Affairs & Diversity at DePaul’s College of Law.

Meal Planning Event Invites Sharing of Advice

By Beth Murphy

As part of a yearlong focus on health through the theme Women’s Ways of Wellness, DWN sponsored a meal planning event this fall to provide tangible ideas for improving physical wellness. Participants gathered for “Making It Count – Tips for Successful Meal Planning” on November 20 at the Lincoln Park Student Center.fitness_200px

The event began with a networking opportunity for all attending, which is among the greatest benefits of DWN programming. Attendees introduced themselves, and then Inez De La Fuente gave a presentation on strategies for successful meal planning. One of the primary issues is making a commitment to doing a better job of meal planning, especially as a vehicle for promoting better eating habits. Even though life gets busy for everyone, especially for working mothers, the benefits outweigh the costs.

Participants shared their ideas as well, giving tips that had worked in their own kitchens:

  • Cutting up all vegetables purchased at once saves time when the meal that uses the vegetables is prepared; some of the vegetables can be refrigerated, but others can be frozen to avoid waste when buying in bulk.
  • Perishables can be cooked or consumed first, which also avoids waste.
  • Attendees suggested cooking meals on one day for the rest of the week, but noted that you can get tired of whatever meal is prepared by the end of the week.
  • Others mentioned that you can have meal-sharing partners where you exchange meals that each of you has prepared; in addition, you can freeze part of the “batch” of whatever you make on your designated cooking day.

bread-21444_640A number of attendees talked about the stress associated with being a working mother and feeling the pressure to cook all meals “from scratch.” Many agreed that cooking a full dinner after working all day is not always appealing, so preparing meals in advance for the week is far more beneficial and healthy. All who attended were provided with copies of shopping lists that noted each day so planners can determine the ingredients needed for the next week’s meals. The attendees also mentioned a variety of storage containers for storing meals prepared in advance.

While bringing lunch to work usually resulted in eating a more healthy lunch, some said but that it also usually meant eating lunch at their desks and missing out on a chance to take a walk during their lunch time. That’s when Kristen Pengelly’s contribution became highly relevant. Kristen provided all attendees with a Faculty/Staff Pass good for seven consecutive days for use of the Ray Meyer Fitness and Recreation Center. Kristen noted the variety of activities and facilities that are available, including a nutritionist who works with individuals to schedule multiple consulting sessions (which require payment).

This meal planning event was successful in providing a forum for DePaul women to meet, network and learn more about a topic of interest to them that contributes to their Ways of Wellness.

Beth Murphy is a member of the DWN Marketing & Communications team and an Associate Professor at DePaul University.

Why I Walk: A Personal Tie to Heart Health

By Jaclyn Hugg

On September 26, the DePaul Women’s Network (DWN) will join a host of other campus and community teams participating in the American Heart Association (AHA) 2014 Downtown Chicago Heart Walk. With the overwhelming prevalence of cardiovascular disease among adult Americans (it’s the No. 1 killer in our country), this event’s mission is two-fold: 1) to encourage healthy lifestyle choices, and 2) to raise funds to aid AHA’s efforts to prevent, treat and defeat heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.

Last year, I walked with the DWN team and had a great experience. Not only was the weather picture-perfect, but the chance to informally network with successful, empowering women (at all levels of the institution) for nearly two hours proved to be beneficial. Moreover, my participation brought about reflection on my personal tie to the cause—the reason I walk. The Heart Walk is special to me because when I was nine years old, my grandmother (who was then only 59) survived a heart attack and subsequent triple-bypass surgery. Two and a half years later, she had another heart attack, for which she was treated via angioplasty. With no history of drinking, smoking or obesity, my grandmother’s heart disease was attributed namely to family medical history/genetics (her father passed away at the age of 59 from a massive heart attack).

DWN Director Jaclyn Hugg and her grandmother.
DWN Director Jaclyn Hugg and her grandmother.

Fast-forward 21 years, and last October, she celebrated her 80th birthday—a milestone that may have never been possible without the life-saving drugs, medical treatment, follow-up care, and daily exercise and nutrition plan that she has maintained. I feel incredibly blessed to have had an additional 20+ years with my grandmother, as I know many of those who suffer a heart attack or stroke do not have such positive outcomes.

With knowledge of my family’s medical history, as well as the risk factors associated with these types of diseases, I do my best to maintain an active lifestyle and healthy diet. Additionally, I find value in donating to causes like the AHA, as I know that even $25 can make a difference.

If you join DWN, or any other team, at this month’s Heart Walk, I hope your experience is just as favorable as mine has been. As you take each step, remember to enjoy the scenery and the company of your fellow walkers. Please also take some time to ponder why you walk.

Click here to sign up to walk with DWN’s 2014 Heart Walk Team!

To learn more about the warning signs of heart, stroke and cardiac arrest, visit the AHA’s website.

For more specific information—including risk factors, health living tips, survivor stories and more—targeting women, visit the AHA’s Go Red for Women website.

Jaclyn Hugg serve as DWN’s Director of Service & Outreach and is Assistant Director of Advising for the College of Computing and Digital Media at DePaul University.

Heart Attack, *Not* Heart Failure: Part 2

In honor of DWN’s participation in the American Heart Association Heart Walk this fall, Aileen K. Johnson is sharing her personal story of heart attack and recovery in a two-part series to emphasize the importance to women’s heart health. If you haven’t read Part 1, learn how Aileen’s story of suffering back-to-back heart attacks started.

After my first heart attack, the care team at the hospital adjusted my doses of heparin, a blood thinner, and put me on a new treatment, TPA. Once Dr. Greene released me to the cardiac unit he instructed the station nurses to take great care of me. Each and every one of them was an angel. Once I got settled in, seven nurses surrounded my bed and told me that Dr. Greene had never come to the cardiac floor to see about patients once he released them from emergency care. Despite that, Dr. Greene had been on the floor three times since my arrival. I later realized he wanted to be sure the TPA treatment was successful.

My parents and relatives were called and I dozed off to find 20 people surrounding my bed when I opened my eyes. After they left the appointed cardiac surgeon came to see me. With no conversation with me and after reading my charts, he told one of the special nurses (Candy) to remove me from the heparin. Candy in diplomatically suggested I be weaned from the medicine but not removed completely. The doctor replied, “This is the reason I am the doctor and you are the nurse.” I noticed Candy was not too pleased with his reply and she told me after the doctor left, “I will check on you every half hour and give you an EKG each time. If you feel any different from what you do right now, let me know immediately.”

At 3 a.m. on Oct. 5, 1997, I was awakened by the worst pain I’d ever experienced. It felt like some heavy-handed person was giving my heart a very strong handshake and not letting it go. I rang the bell for Candy and a candy-striper came in. I told her I needed to use the toilet that was by my bed but needed help to do so. When I finished, I asked her to get me a washcloth to wash my hands and in the same breath I said I was experiencing a heart-attack and needed Candy immediately. She stated I wasn’t having a heart attack and stated giving another patient a sponge bath. I told her to get Candy there immediately. She left in a huff but three minutes later Candy came in. She asked me on a scale of 1 to 10 how bad the pain was as she walked to the EKG machine. I said, “Nine and a half, and I can’t take it if it gets any worse.” She said she would shoot me with morphine and that would ease the pain. She looked at the EKG reading and began to run out the room. I cried for her to return to tell me what was happening. She said I was having a massive heart attack and I would be OK but I had to have immediate surgery.

Candy had called the emergency room surgeon, scheduled a helicopter flight for a cardiologist from a nearby state, contacted my then husband, and fired the candy striper in the three minutes it took her to come in and give me the morphine shot. The emergency room surgeon came in and read my EKG and hit the ceiling. She began to yell at Candy because what she saw indicated the morphine should have been given to me by IV, not a shot in the hip. Before I knew it, the cardiologist arrived. The doctor was a very handsome man in an Armani suit and Gucci shoes. I could not stop smiling at him. The morphine had me floating so much my heart could have been cut out and fed to me and I would not have cared. I was flown, with Candy, to the doctor’s hospital, where I received an angioplasty and a stent to open up my 97-percent clogged artery.

To this day, I am a cardiac patient of Rush St. Luke Hospital under the care of Dr. Jeffrey Snell. He has placed me on a great medical regimen. I must get my cardio in, keep my weight down, and watch my blood pressure and cholesterol level. I had participated with the American Heart Association Heart Walk even before joining DePaul University’s teams. I was a Heart Walk captain last year and will be participating in this year’s walk under the leadership of the DePaul’s Women Network.

The Heart Walk and our DWN blog serve as excellent educational and preventive tools. Walking is a great cardio exercise and is a blessing to the heart. Since my heart challenges, I make sure I walk daily and I get in at least 15-20 minutes of cardio exercise each day. I was informed after the heart attacks that my heart works at an 85 percent capacity. Sixteen years later, I believe it works at a higher level than 85 percent.

I raised a nephew who is now an OBGYN and who six years ago had twins (boy and girl). The boy was born with a heart problem that was discovered in the womb and at six months old he had open-heart surgery. It is vital that everyone learns of their family’s medical history and understands the medical history of their mates, partners, husband or wives. It can seriously make the difference of an attack or a failure.

Aileen K. Johnson is a member of DWN’s Service and Outreach team and is assistant director of conference services at DePaul University.

Aileen Johnson Heart Walk
Aileen K. Johnson (far left) walks with part of her sponsoring team at the rainy 2012 American Heart Association Heart Walk for DePaul. With her (left to right) are cousin Sylvia Denwoodie, campus coordinator Kurtis Todd, friend Portia Porter and Aileen’s twin sister, Idelle Johnson.

Heart Attack, *Not* Heart Failure: Part 1

In honor of DWN’s participation in the American Heart Association Heart Walk this fall, Aileen K. Johnson is sharing her personal story of heart attack and recovery in a two-part series to emphasize the importance to women’s heart health. Read Part 1 now and check back on Aug. 16 for Part 2.

At 40 years old on Oct. 4, 1997, at 1:22 p.m., I experienced my first heart attack. You immediately know there is something going on in your body: the instant the attack happens there is a different flow within your body. I experienced an immediate rush of heat from my feet to my head and I began to sweat uncontrollably. I raised both arms straight out as if I were about to fly and noticed a current of energy/pressure flowing from fingertip to fingertip. The only way I know how to describe it is what the current might feel like in a clear lightbulb. This heart attack was considered an inferior heart attack that takes place in the back portion of the heart. The pressure or pain point of this heart attack settled in my shoulders. It felt as though a 500-pound person was resting on both shoulders and I felt some chest discomfort.

Before I shared what happened to me with my husband (now ex-husband), the thought went through my head that the health challenge I was going through came from my mother’s (Native American) side of the family. My mother had six sisters and one brother. All have since passed from heart complications except for one sister who is my godmother and is currently 89. My brother (Ali) had triple bypass and stents placed in his arteries due to heart issues. My oldest sister (Pamela) has since died from a massive heart attack, and my twin sister has been diagnosed with hypertension and cholesterol issues and is likely to have heart complications.

When the ambulance personnel came to take me to the hospital, they could not get a pulse reading. I was still experiencing that electrical rush sensation from fingertip to fingertip. I instructed them to go to the lower region to get a reading. I expressed that I was experiencing a heart attack and for her to PLEASE treat me as if I were a heart patient. I shared that my mother’s side of the family had heart disease and shared with her my recent experience. It was hard for everyone to believe because I was only overweight by 8 pounds and never had high blood pressure or any symptoms of heart condition issues. I did not overuse alcohol, smoke cigarettes or do drugs. And mainly due to my age, it was hard to believe.

When we got in the ambulance, I overheard the ambulance attendee (Jessica) call the emergency room physician (Dr. Greene). I remember him asking Jessica my age, was I overweight, the drug and smoking questions. I interrupted her conversation and said, “Tell him my family history.” After that, Dr. Greene instructed them to give me the drug heparin, an immediate blood thinner. They thought there could possibly be some blockage.

Dr. Greene was the absolute best. He took care of me as if I was his daughter. I asked my ex to call my best friend (Karen) who was in the medical field to tell her what was happening to me. When she came to the emergency room she went straight to the heparin drip and said, “They have you on a very high dosage, do you know what this drug is for?” I said, “No but the pain in my shoulders is much better.” She said the drug was to thin my blood so it can flow properly to my brain. She then said I would be bleeding from some part of my body due to the thinning. She was right—soon I began to bleed from my mouth, where I had had a root canal a few weeks earlier. After gauzing and the amazement of the nurse, Karen asked me the exact time of the attack. I told her 1:22 p.m. and she went to find the doctor.

What I found out a month later at a dinner party at Karen’s is that she asked Dr. Greene to give me a new drug called TPA. She explained to me that it had only been on the market for a year but it was like a Band-Aid for the heart because once the heart had been attacked, TPA would repair the damage. However, it had SERIOUS side effects and I had to have it within three hours of the attack. At the moment of discussing this with Dr. Greene, I had a 45-minute window. If it worked it would be a great treatment. If it didn’t and my body rejected the drug, I would not make it. Dr. Greene was very concerned about using it and wasn’t 100 percent sure I had had a heart attack. Karen suggested, due to my medical history, I had more than likely had a heart attack and at 40 she wanted to see my heart healthy again. Karen suggested Dr. Greene speak to the chief surgeon in charge of emergency to see if he could try running a little of the TPA through my heparin IV to see if I had any side effects. It was decided, and I remember the look on both Karen and Dr. Greene’s faces when the TPA was injected. It was one of hopefulness and anticipation.

As you read my account of this, you can see trying the new medicine was a great decision. However, 18 hours later I experienced a massive heart attack due to what I believe was an inaccurate call of the appointed cardiac doctor …. [To be continued.]


A heart attack is an ACUTE disorder. It occurs when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood through a coronary artery (a blood vessel that feeds blood to a part of the heart muscle).

Heart failure is a CHRONIC condition in which there is an intrinsic and immediate disorder of the heart muscle.

It is very important for the reader to know the difference between a heart attack and heart failure. Even though both conditions are very serious, a heart attack exhibits telling signs that something is seriously wrong or the disorder occurs before the heart is attacked. Symptoms differ between women and men, such as dizziness, hypertension, intense sweating, painful shoulders, arm pain, shortness of breath, extreme chest pain or a combination of these symptoms. Heart failure is the moment in which the heart fails to work properly and when the heart patient develops a serious heart condition. This condition can lead to immediate death and/or major surgery and other life-altering complications. In heart failure, there is quick death of the tissue that surrounds the heart organ.

Aileen K. Johnson is a member of DWN’s Service and Outreach team and is assistant director of conference services at DePaul University. Check back here on Aug. 16 for Part 2 of Aileen’s story.

Aileen Johnson
Aileen K. Johnson in Summer 2011