Jenny’s Story: Don’t live in fear, but just be aware and never hesitate to get help should you feel unwell or have concerns about your health

Written by Carly Jones (Sister of Jennifer Wellings)

Please note: The following story contains distressing themes and may be uncomfortable to read for those who have experienced a recent loss. Reader discretion is advised.

My sister passed away on Thursday 6th July 2023 and in that moment the world lost a truly beautiful soul who made it her mission every day to make other peoples’ lives better.

Jenny had always wanted to be an actress, ever since she was a little girl. Starring in local pantos and having leading roles in every school production, she was in her element. After getting on to an acting course towards her degree at Leeds uni, she started to suffer from issues with her joints. At first, it was only occasionally and then very quickly, it became more frequent, to the point where she would struggle to walk some days. This made it extremely hard for her to carry on with her dream career as the longer she was on her feet, often the worse it would become. After a little while, she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, a condition that we as a family had not had much experience with. My dad suffered from arthritis so to me, it was a similar thing. Over the years, Jenny went to many appointments at countless doctors’ surgeries and hospitals, but often, as with many conditions like this, they tend to only treat the symptoms, not the root cause. She sometimes found that certain foods such as dairy would cause her to have flare-ups, but sometimes she would just wake up in the morning in pain, having done nothing different the day before. 

Jenny carried on living her life and went on to have a little boy who is now 11. Life was not always easy for Jenny, and although she may not have been able to pursue the career she wanted, she found happiness in helping others. She would always go out of her way to speak to people who may just need that friendly face or to put her arms around a stranger who had just had some awful news.

Friday the 30th June was just like any day for Jenny. She had ventured into town, popped into a few of the local shops she used to visit, and then later in the evening went over to her partner’s house. A few hours after arriving,  she started to feel ill and went to lie down, but when she got back up, she was sick and felt worse, so her partner called an ambulance. At this point, they were told it was going to be 2 hours until they could get to her. Minutes later, Jenny collapsed. 

In the early hours of Saturday 1st July, my mum and dad had a call from Jenny’s partner to say that she had collapsed and had to be taken to hospital. The ambulance crew had taken 20 mins to arrive and during which time her partner had to give CPR. The ambulance crew took over and gave another 20 mins of CPR, at which point they managed to get her heart started again. They rushed her in to hospital where they discovered she had suffered a severe heart attack and cardiac arrest, and one of the major arteries to her heart was blocked. They operated immediately and put Jenny on life support and in an induced coma. For almost a week myself, my other two sisters and mum and dad were by her bedside, living the emotional rollercoaster of not knowing what each day would bring. At this point, the fact that she had rheumatoid arthritis wasn’t really mentioned to us that it could be a factor in what had happened. She had recently started Methotrexate and we had concerns in case it was linked to that, as it had made her quite sick.

It was only after doing some research that we realised how having RA increased your chances of cardiac issues.

Jenny had been diagnosed with high blood pressure, and although she was on medication, it seems the last reading she had had a few days earlier at a doctor’s appointment was very high. 

A couple of days later, they tried to bring her out of sedation, but she wouldn’t wake up. After running some tests, they delivered the awful news that she had no brain function and that life support would need to be discontinued. 

The last few days were heartbreaking for all of the family, including her beautiful little boy, who we knew would have given her the strength to fight and live on had it been her choice. The day Jenny died, a part of our family died too. She really was beautiful in every way and had a smile to light up a room.  Having only turned 40 the previous October, she still had so much more life to live and love to give. Jenny wanted to be an organ donor but unfortunately due to strict timings she wasn’t able to do that. I do know though, that if Jenny’s story can help save even just one person or family from going through this then she would want to do it. I hope that by sharing this, it helps raise more awareness of RA in general and the link to cardiac issues. If Jenny or even us as a family had have known the risk factors, we could have tried to ensure that things such as high blood pressure readings were taken seriously or been more aware of what to look out for and to not hesitate to get help. If you or anyone you know suffered from RA, please take the time to find out about other risk factors and let those closest to you know too so they are aware. Don’t live in fear, but just be aware and never hesitate to get help should you feel unwell or have concerns about your health.

Jennifer Wellings and her family

It is important to remember that you have a significant amount of control over your cardiovascular risks. You cannot alter the fact that you have RA, but you can reduce other potential risk factors. Read our ‘Top heart health tips’ blog here.

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