Resilient Heartbeats

Tampa Electric Brand & Strategic Communications Manager Lauren Nieves with her father, Angelo, and younger sister, Rachel.

When Lauren Nieves thinks of her dad, the words, “strong, steadfast and resilient” come to mind. That’s why the Tampa Electric Brand & Strategic Communications Manager was completely caught off-guard when she got an urgent call from her father’s wife.

“The first thing she said to me was that I needed to come as soon as possible. The fear in her voice was like a punch to the gut,” recalled Lauren. “She told me that they thought something was wrong with my dad’s heart and she just kept repeating that my dad keeps asking for me. That’s when I knew just how scared he was.”

Lauren immediately hit the road. “The drive to the hospital felt like the longest drive of my life,” said Lauren. “It was hard to keep my mind from going to the worst place. A lot of prayers were said on that drive.”

When Lauren arrived at the hospital, she learned her dad started feeling funny the day after his second wedding. “He woke up feeling off. He felt very weak and when he started experiencing extreme heart racing, he knew something was wrong,” shared Lauren. “The symptoms came on hard and fast and my dad truly feared for his life.”

Turns out more than 20 years prior, doctors diagnosed Lauren’s father with an arrhythmia in his heart. “He was having episodes where he would get extremely light-headed and his vision would go away,” said Lauren. “Six months after these symptoms started, my dad fainted at the grocery store. Essentially, there was a short circuit in his heart. (Doctors) were able to zap the nerve to correct it.”

More than two decades later, a different culprit was to blame. “Unlike the first arrhythmia, which happened because of an electrical glitch, his second arrhythmia was more self-induced,” explained Lauren. “Stress, physical activity and dehydration are all factors that can trigger an arrhythmia. So, the stressful planning leading up to a warm afternoon wedding followed by a long night of dancing and celebrating was the perfect storm.” Thankfully, medication and fluids got him back on his feet and today Lauren’s dad is healthy, maintaining a balanced diet and regular exercise routine.

Although he may be back to looking strong, steadfast and resilient, Lauren will never forget the day she got the emergency call five years ago. “Life can be so busy, and we often take things for granted, including our health and hearts,” said Lauren. “My dad’s scare was a good reminder about how important it is to take care of our bodies – prioritize your health, listen to your body and make time for health check-ups.”

That reminder is why Lauren feels honored to be a part of Tampa Electric’s leading role in the Tampa Bay Heart Walk on Nov. 4. “The cause is near and dear to my heart – Archie and Tampa Electric’s role in the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk is so appreciated because the support and awareness it brings to heart health is making an impact in our community and contributing to live-saving research,” said Lauren. “It’s amazing being a part of an organization that prioritizes the well-being of their team members. For Tampa Electric it’s not just a statement, it’s action.”

So, you can guess who was Lauren’s first and most generous donor (so far) to her Heart Walk team. “My dad has one of the biggest hearts out there,” said Lauren. And his heart is just one of thousands you can help keep healthy with a donation to Tampa Electric’s Heart Walk team today.

After his first heart health scare, Angelo Nieves bounced back and was able to stay active with his two daughters throughout their childhood – Rachel Krupka (L) and Lauren Nieves (R).