At its core, “HEART MATTERS” was written to educate women about heart disease – our #1 killer. I had become an increasingly frustrated surgeon by watching so many women die of a disease that was largely preventable. I was also frustrated by the fact that I could only help one heart patient at a time, one day at a time and yearned to make a greater impact on the health of women. Sometimes, I think we should call” heart disease” “heart cancer” so that, perhaps, more women would pay attention to it.
And out of this great frustration was born a book – a book that would not only teach women about how to avoid heart disease but also a book that would be entertaining. After all, what woman wakes up in the morning and says “I want to buy a dry, prescriptive book about heart disease in women today”?! No woman does. And so, in an effort to make the book more dramatic and relatable, I filled the book with stories, actual stories – very tragic, very poignant stories – about women who I have tried to save from heart disease but whom ultimately died. I told their stories for them because they could not. I told their stories so that others might learn from them and live.
I remember my editor saying to me, “But Kathy, it’s morbid. Do ALL the women in your book have to die?” to which I answered curtly “Yes”. “But why?” my editor persisted. “Because that’s what women with heart disease do – they die.”
It wasn’t until a fateful lunch with my publishing agent (our first meeting, in fact) which, by the way, I showed up to with a fever and full blown bronchitis, that the book morphed into a memoir. What he said to me between sips of hot tea and steroid inhalers forever changed the direction of the book. “Kathy, I want you to tell the story about heart disease in women because it’s a timely story and we need to get the word out about this killer of women. And I want you to tell your patients’ stories because it would honor them and add depth to the book. But what I really want to hear is your story – the story of one of the few female heart surgeons in the world who grew up on a farm, spent 17 years in rigorous training and now balances her career with the life she has made with her husband and children. It’s a struggle that all women can relate to – how to have it all and make a difference.  Indeed, that lunch was a game-changing moment not to be missed because of a little evolving pneumonia.
And that, my dearest readers, is how HEART MATTERS took wing.