Saturday, January 31, 2015

2015 American Heart Month

This year on the eve of American Heart Month, I ponder why it is I go red.  In reality the act of having the STEMI (and being lucky enough to survive it) only lasted less than an hour from onset of my symptoms to the time I arrived in the cath lab.  I realize this time frame makes me  really lucky.  I called an ambulance and they called a STEMI alert to the hospital.  This meant the cardiac team--cardiothoracic surgeon, cardiac anesthesiologist and cardiac nurses were all waiting on me when I arrived.  What hospitals refer to as "door to balloon time" was less than 15 minutes. Truly it took just long enough for them to get me off the ambulance gurney, get me into a hospital gown and sign consent for treatment forms(and we did some of that while we were wheeling down the hall).  I knew it was bad because we were in a big rush and I could see the look on the doctors faces.  I can be kind of a smart ass so as we were rushing down the hall I reminded the anesthesiologist if he was solo on my case he couldn't leave and go to another case.  He asked me if I was a nurse and I just smiled and said no but I bill anesthesia for a living.  He shot me a smile back so I knew I was in good hands.  I like a doc that can smile and have a sense of humor when I am telling him how to do his job.  Perhaps he felt like he should cut the lady having a massive heart attack some slack.  While all of this was very unsettling, the real shock came as I started my recovery. 

I was now 42 and a STEMI survivor.  I really didn't know what that meant at first as I didn't realize the seriousness of what had happened.  I turned out not to need the anesthesiologist because they chose to place multiple stents in my LAD rather than bypass it. He hung out and we talked some and he talked me through what I could see on the monitors.  I realize now he was hanging out to make sure they didn't decide to bypass.  Because I didn't have any major surgery I was under the false impression that it must not have been as bad as they thought. It indeed was as bad as I first read on the doctor's faces.  In the days and weeks that followed, my whole frame of reference for normal started to shift.  I now was considered chronically ill, never to actually be "better".  I can't tell you what a bitter pill that was to swallow.

I started to work my way back to my new health and as I did I had a couple important revelations.  First, I realized I was not the only 42 year old woman to ever have a massive heart attack.  Second, I realized that my attitude was going to drastically affect my outcome.  As I realized these things, my purpose started to become very clear.  If I was going to survive this and I was going to now posses all this new information, I better get out and share it.

I knew about Go Red For Women prior to my heart attack and I knew it was about heart disease.  What I also so smugly knew was that it didn't apply to me because nothing like that would ever happen to me.  Of course heart disease and stroke kills 1 in 3 women every year--that is about one woman every minute.  Yes, you read that right, one woman every minute.  How arrogant was I to think that it would not be me?  As I now go out and share my story, I can see the same thing in other women.  I can see them thinking, "Wow, what a scary story. Good thing that will never happen to me." I am telling you ladies that think this that 1 in 3 die, how do you know it won't be you?  This year, this is the main reason I go red. I face the new challenge to tell my story in such a way that women don't just think it is a shocking story, but to learn to tell it in a way that makes an impact beyond shock--to make an impact of understanding that just as easily, it could be them.  It is a tall order but I never shy from a challenge.


There are many other reasons that I am going red.  I am going red for my heart sisters at the American Heart Association Kansas City:

What an extraordinary group of seemingly ordinary women.  Each with a passion to educate and support one and other. 


What an awesome life experience to get to go red with this amazing group of ladies!


I go red for others too.  I go red for my high school friend Michelle because her daughter was born with a heart defect.  I go red for my high school friend Jamie and his wife who suffered an unimaginable loss from heart disease.  When you start to share your story, people share back and you realize how many people heart disease and stroke have truly touched. I go red for all of the friends I have from my elementary through high school days.  Each and everyone of them special to me.


I go red for my co workers.  My company has supported me 100% and are going red for the third year in a row this Friday.  They have hopped on board and we have a company heart walk team every spring.  They support my efforts with the American Heart Association and I am so thankful for that!

 I go red for my family:

February 6 is National Wear Red for Women Day.  I invite you to GO RED with me this Friday.  Take your best selfie and let me see it!  You can tag me on Twitter @skinnybitchchro or if I know you personally, you can upload a pic to my Facebook wall.  If you know me in person, you can friend me to upload your pic to Facebook.

This is not just for ladies because the effect of heart disease on women affects the men that love them:

As we celebrate American Heart Month, please remember that 80% of cardiac events and strokes are preventable--take care of your hearts!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Life Is The Special Occassion

Recently, I was talking to an acquaintance and I complimented her on the fragrance she was wearing.  She said thanks and went on to explain that she would normally save it for special occasions but she was out of her day to day scent.

I left the conversation with her thinking about all of the things that women save for special occasions.  They buy nice candles and never burn them.  They buy fancy lotions and bubble bath and it sits as decoration in the bathroom.  They buy the "good" perfume, most likely their favorite scent and rarely wear it.  They buy a rockin' dress and hot heels and the outfit sits in their closet for the special occasion. They accrue PTO at work and never use it.  They buy fine china and crystal and  never set the table with it.

When I called the ambulance and I was on my way to the hospital not only was I making work calls from the ambulance (because as luck would have it I was on call for my software company), but I was also figuring out how much PTO I would give back if I died.  Really, I was.  There is no accounting for what goes through your head when you are in an ambulance!  I vowed to myself I would start using it if I lived. 

As I have walked this journey I have come to the realization that there is no sense in waiting.  I have burned every candle in my house.  Once I burned them, I went and bought more of the good candles and burned them again. My kids bought me the perfume I love for my birthday and I wear it.  I don't have an everyday scent that is different from my "good" perfume.  I used to, but really, what was I waiting for to wear the good stuff?  Had I not survived my heart attack, all of the things I was saving would have gone unused.

I put this into practice when I bought my last car. As a usually practical person, I looked at SUV's and sedans.  All were perfectly fine except they weren't the car I wanted.  I wanted the car that had no practicality whatsoever.  As I found myself saying that I would wait until the last two kids were out of the house before I bought the car I really wanted, I stopped myself.  What was I doing?  Why was I saving the purchase for later, what if I died before then? I drive the totally impractical car and I love it!

I hear women say it all the time.  I'll save that for a special occasion, I'll use that when.....  When what?  When you can't enjoy it anymore? I'll do that when....When what?  When you are thinner?  When you are richer?  When what?   Think about when what and stop waiting for the special occasion to do or use the things.

I urge you to burn the candles while you use the fancy bubble bath.  You should wear the "good" perfume and wear the rockin' dress and hot heels. You should use your PTO if only for a staycation. By all means eat pizza on the good china and drink beer from the good crystal for the only special event you need is life.