We had the good fortune of connecting with Jacqueline Avalon and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jacqueline, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
I’m a 30 year old 1st generation Filipino born and raised in Panorama City, Ca. I lived and studied in the US until I was 11 when I moved to Manila, Philippines. I completed high school in 2010 and obtained my Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing in 2014. I moved back to the US after receiving my degree and I have been a registered nurse for about 8 years now.
Apart from this, I’m a woman who has lived with congenital heart disease (notably Ventricular Septal Defect) for 28 years. For years, I was told by cardiologists that the 2 holes I had on the wall that separated my left and right ventricle will eventually close up as I got older. And of course that didn’t happen. I’ve lived a relatively active lifestyle (hiking, running, jogging, exercising) despite having a heart that would often prevent me from pushing myself to become stronger. I would have the occasional palpitations (skipped heart beats) but I never felt a single chest pain….until Covid-19 came.
On September 2020, while I was working as a night shift staff nurse at a well-known acute hospital in Los Angeles, I had one episode of chest pain at 4:00am that I never felt before. I didn’t tell anyone except one of my co-workers about it because I didn’t want to have anyone worry about me. I was able to end my shift and went straight to the emergency room. After a series of tests and blood work, they couldn’t find anything wrong with me and I was going to be sent home to rest. However, my primary care physician told the ER physician that I have to be admitted for observation. I agreed to do it.
After 2 days of observation and an invasive diagnostic procedure, my congential heart specialist told me that I have a rare case among young adults called Double Chamber Right Ventricle (DCRV) along with other structural issues that resulted due to my untreated VSD. She told me my only option is to have open heart surgery to help restructure my heart so I can have a better quality of life.
On October 14, 2020, I had my open heart surgery and made a full recovery. 13 months after, I was able to achieve my number one item off my bucket list: Complete the Los Angeles Marathon.
My heart journey has made me become a more compassionate and stronger person (literally and figuratively). It has made me to become more appreciative with what I’ve been blessed with in life and to not take the little things in life for granted. It is truly a blessing and privilege to live a healthy life and to be surrounded by loving and supportive people like my family and close friends.
I hope one day, the story of my heart journey brings comfort, hope, and support to any woman who is living with heart disease.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Apart from being a nurse, I’m also a Mayo-trained Womenheart Champion. This opportunity presented itself to me while I was on a nursing travel assignment and it was through my patient whom I was taking care of that day. She saw the scar on my chest and she mentioned about the organization and peaked my interest.
Long story short, I saw the application form to becoming a Womenheart champion (the deadline for submission was the next day) and I applied. And the rest is history!
Having medical knowledge and the first hand experience with open heart surgery and the recovery from it truly gave me a unique perspective that I know I can utilize it to help my community.
I’ve made my own podcast called “Jacqueline’s Heart On The Mic” to share with people my heart journey and (possibly) interviewing other women with heart disease and sharing their journey as well. The purpose of my podcast is to spread awareness about women with heart disease, to encourage women (especially young women) to advocate for themselves to the medical providers, to provide a safe space and support for any woman who might be struggling with their cardiac diagnosis, and to let these women know that they are not alone in their journey and there are people life myself who can support them.
I’m also working on being a speaker in health forums and participating in health fairs to further spread the awareness.
Some of the challenges I’ve been facing so far is the lack of opportunities to speak in public about my story. However, I’ve been slowly overcoming this by making my own opportunities like the podcast and sharing my experience on social media. While I do hope to receive an opportunity to speak in front of the public, I will continue to make content that will serve my purpose.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Koreatown is my spot of choice. For places to eat: Louders (Korean comfort food! great for group dinners and super lively), Mun Korean steakhouse (if you’re craving quality kbbq meat), Road to Seoul and hae jang chon (top tier all you can eat Kbbq), Han Bat Sul Lung Tan (BEST Ox tail beef soup), MDK noodles (have their cold noodles during the summer! It’s refreshing!)
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I want to dedicate this shout out to my fiancé Lloyd, my brother Matthew, my mom, my future in-laws Teresita & Ernie, my future sister in-law Chiara & brother in-law Isagani and their kids Travis and Raya. To my friends Tim, John, Lee, Gino and more! They have gone above and beyond for me during this huge turning point in my life.
Last, but not least, I want to dedicate this to my organization WomenHeart. It has opened my eyes and has given me comfort, support, and confidence that I was looking for while I was recovering from my heart surgery. I hope to deliver that same kind of comfort and support that I felt when I had my training as a womenheart champion at the Mayo Clinic to my Los Angeles Community.
Other: “Jacqueline’s Heart On The Mic” podcast on Spotify and Apple Podcast
Timothy Santos, Lloyd Vergara