Toni Braxton is opening up about a “traumatic” health scare she suffered after a lupus complication.
The R&B legend reveals that she had to have emergency heart surgery as a result of a blockage in her coronary artery. She tells PEOPLE that she underwent a procedure after doctors discovered the abnormalities during a screening.
The 55-year-old “Un-Break My Heart” singer was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in 2008. While she routinely gets urine and blood tests to monitor her health, she admits that she kept pushing it off.
“I kept putting it off thinking, ‘Oh, I’m fine. I’ll be okay.’ But my doctor was persistent and I went to get tested in the last week of September. I did a specialized test and they looked at my heart and saw some abnormalities,” she reveals. “I found out that I needed a coronary stent. My left main coronary artery was 80% blocked. The doctors told me I could’ve had a massive heart attack, I would not have survived.”
At the time, Braxton was also grieving the loss of her sister, Traci Braxton.
“It was a traumatic moment for me. I was in shock,” she recalls. “I remember that day because my chest was aching often, just hurting. And I thought I was just sad because unfortunately my sister had just passed and I thought, ‘Wow, I’m really aching in my heart for my sister.’ And come to find out, of course I was sad about my sister, but I also had underlying health issues. It was my body talking to me, telling me something’s not quite right.”
Two days after seeing the doctor, Braxton underwent emergency surgery and a stent was inserted in her heart. She remained in the hospital for a few days as she recovered.
Looking back, the Grammy-winning songstress said she’s grateful she was able to preempt a heart attack. “It was really a scary moment,” she says. “Had I not gotten that test, my life would’ve been different.”
She learned an important lesson from the eye-opening experience. “I look at it like it was a blessing in disguise for me because now, putting off tests? Oh no, I will not put off tests,” she said. “If all I have to do for my lupus and my kidney health is pee in a cup, I can pee in a cup. How many times do you need me to pee? If all I gotta do is get my arm pricked for some blood? Oh yes, I can do that. How many vials do you need?”
Braxton urges others with lupus to get regular screenings, noting that Black and Asian women are four times more likely to develop lupus nephritis and the risk of death is three times greater for people with it.
“It’s important to get those screenings — simple things,” she added. “The goal here is long life and old age.”