BURLINGAME, Calif. (KGO) -- A Bay Area woman's display of determination is being celebrated and raising awareness for cardiovascular disease.
"I love to dance and now that I've lost my legs, I continue," said Leticia Boykin-Owens.
The 55-year-old San Mateo resident has come a long way from where she was just a couple of years ago when she was in the emergency room at Mills-Peninsula Medical Center in Burlingame. "They did a CTA on me and discovered I had an aortic dissection. Terrifying," she said.
A tear in her heart nearly ended her life - her husband Larry Owens by her side. "She almost died three times," said Larry. "I was in the emergency room when the doctor said she had no pulse and that really scared me so I was losing hope at that point."
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His wife had three strokes and a heart attack on the operating table. "The blood circulation to my fingers was cut off so they had to amputate my fingers, the tips of my fingers, and so I had to learn to live like and live I do," said Leticia.
Both her legs were also amputated. "My husband, and my sister and brother were there saying who's going to tell her, Larry's like I don't want to tell her, and Dr. Baumann said 'I'll tell her.'"
"She's always been optimistic even when we first discussed with her having to have the amputations," said Dirk Baumann, M.D. Vascular Surgeon, Sutter Health Network. "She accepted it and was asking me what this means for me and how can I push through this, and what the best way for me to recover from this."
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And, so began Leticia's journey to recovery. "I was determined and I was resilient about it," she said. "I knew I was going to walk again. I had to walk ,so whatever they told me I did."
She worked to build strength in preparation for her prosthetics and another chance at painting her toes and wearing heels.
"I love heels, so every time she comes into my clinic she's like, 'ooh, I want to wear that one," said Mahazarin Ginwalla, M.D. Chair Cardiovascular Department, Mills-Peninsula Medical Center.
"I mean Ticia is amazing, she's been through so much," said the doctor. "It's so important to have that positive attitude because I do believe sometimes it's mind over body."
Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women in the United States, causing one out of every three deaths.
"Get checked regularly and be evaluated by your doctors, and if you have symptoms, let your doctor know," said Dr. Ginwalla.
Chest pain is the most typical symptom of heart disease, but the doctor warns for women there are often more subtle symptoms, including:
As for Leticia, she's teaching the doctors some new moves and is determined to nail the Electric Slide.
"I'm learning how to pivot on my toes, that's a problem for me, but I'm getting it, I'm getting it," she said. "I can do the cupid shuffle no problem."
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