Heffernan, Deborah Daw 1952-
HEFFERNAN, Deborah Daw 1952-
PERSONAL: Born 1952; married; husband's name, Jack; children: five. Education: Attended Georgetown University and Harvard Graduate School of Education.
ADDRESSES: Home—ME. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.
CAREER: Writer. École d'Humanité, Switzerland, teacher; Boston University, Boston, MA, associate dean of program in artisanry; vice president of corporate-training enterprise, Boston, 1983-97; freelance writer.
An Arrow through the Heart: One Woman's Story of Life, Love, and Surviving a Near-Fatal Heart Attack, Free Press (New York, NY), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: Writer Deborah Daw Heffernan earned degrees from Georgetown University and the Harvard Graduate School of Education before moving on to a career as an executive. In May of 1997, Heffernan was a healthy forty-four-year-old woman; she had been happily married since 1989 to her husband Jack, who was thirteen years older than she and who had five grown children. However, during a yoga class, she suffered a massive—and nearly fatal—heart attack. In An Arrow through the Heart: One Woman's Story ofBecoming Whole After a Heart Attack, Heffernan describes her life before and after the heart attack, and examines the changes it brought to her life.
Before the heart attack, Heffernan was a nonsmoker and healthy eater with no family history of heart disease: she had no way of knowing she was at risk. She had a high-pressure position as a corporate training executive. When the heart attack hit, Heffernan was fortunate to be close to a hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and to receive prompt care from rescue workers, who transported her to the hospital for an emergency bypass operation. Physicians implanted a defibrillator—a device that regulates heart beats—in her chest, and this allowed her to survive.
The ensuing period of lengthy recovery changed Heffernan's life. Her relationship with her husband grew even stronger, as he became her temporary caregiver. In order to help her heal, they moved from Cambridge to a vacation home in Maine. Jack's grown children, who had formerly been distant from their father's new wife, became closer to her as she spent more time with them, and she also became closer to her sisters. Gradually, she became stronger, walking in the Maine woods, taking up yoga again. Through her experience she learned that, despite her physically healthy lifestyle, she had been under stress for decades as a result of her career choices and her family background. Although Heffernan's continuing health was by no means assured—doctors told her that she might need a transplant in the future—she was able to find great peace and happiness in her new life.
A Booklist reviewer called the book "absorbing" and in Publishers Weekly, a reviewer commented that it is an "insightful and openly emotional account" of a life-changing experience. A Kirkus Reviews writer called it "an arresting story" and praised Heffernan's mingling of medical facts with her inner journey. In a newsletter for the Massachusetts General Hospital, where Heffernan was treated, she wrote that this mingling was her intent: "More than half a million woman die each year from heart disease. . . . I wrote An Arrow through the Heart to ambush women with critical information disguised as a good read, rather than letting heart disease ambush them as it did me."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 15, 2002, review of An Arrow through the Heart, p. 1365.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2002, review of An Arrow through the Heart, p. 382.
Publishers Weekly, April 15, 2002, review of An Arrow through the Heart, p. 51.
MGH Hotline Online,http://www.mgh.Harvard.edu/ (May 24, 2002), review of An Arrow through the Heart.
SimonSays.com,http://www.simonsays.com/ (July 23, 2002).*