Sunday, March 22, 2015

Courage, Dear Heart

Back in the fall, I met a new to me Heart Sister, Jenna.  As are most of my heart sisters, Jenna is an amazing woman. She is an incredible advocate, mom to two young children and an Army wife.

Jenna suffers from idopathic (meaning undetermined origin) cardiomyopathy.  According to the Mayo Clinic cardiomyopathy is " a condition where the heart muscle is abnormal. The main types of cardiomyopathy include dilated, hypertrophic and restrictive cardiomyopathy. Cardiomyopathy makes it harder for your heart to pump and deliver blood to the rest of your body. Cardiomyopathy can lead to heart failure.Cardiomyopathy can be treated. The type of treatment you'll receive depends on which type of cardiomyopathy you have and how serious it is. Your treatment may include medications, surgically implanted devices or, in severe cases, a heart transplant"

 Jenna (far left) with me (center) at the 2015 Red Dress Dash

I was so surprised to read Jenna's Facebook status several nights ago because even though we all know each other are sick, I really didn't understand how sick Jenna is. She and I had a conversation at the KC Heart and Stroke Ball about how she would eventually need a transplant.  When we stand there talking to each other looking healthy it is easy to put aside the fact that she or I or any of our heart sisters are really sick. She is so young and I guess it never dawned on me when I looked at her that eventually would be now. Her status read:

"The past month or so has been rather eventful in the Bell house. As many of you know my passion and advocacy for heart health stems from my own battle with heart disease. We've reached a pretty climatic point in my cardiac journey and will be placed on the transplant list. We've known this was an eventual step for me and are ready to move forward. As we were scheduled to PCS this summer to Leavenworth, the kids and I are going to go ahead and make that move. Dan will remain here as a geographical bachelor for a bit and join us soon. 
I've started a blog if you are interested in my journey to this point all that info is already there. Scroll to the bottom to start at the beginning. I'll post more stories in detail as the weeks go on and obviously post when I get 'the call'.
Many people have already asked, "How can we help?". We are so appreciative of your support and willingness to help. There isn't a lot that can be done for me directly but I've added a few ideas below. The first two are pretty self explanatory but I want to take a second to explain the third - see comments.

Courage, dear heart ~ C.S. Lewis"

Jenna's cardiologist has started a clinic in Kansas City to help stop high school athletes from dropping dead during their sport. Had Jenna's doctor not sent her to a cardiologist with her mild symptoms or had she participated in a cardio-intensive sport in high school she might not be here today. She fully supports this program to get high school athletes cardiac screenings for $60. Sadly, some families can't afford $60 to protect their student. If you want to do something in Jenna's honor,  please consider making a donation to help this amazing program in its efforts to end sudden cardiac arrest in high school athletes.

Jenna's journey is important for so many reasons.  It teaches that heart disease does not just happen for elderly women or  even middle-aged women like me. It happens in young women and sometimes very young women.  Heart disease is not just heart attacks and strokes.  Heart disease can come in the form of cardiomyopathy or congenital heart defects. It teaches that this disease of heart disease is mostly invisible and silent if not shared. Jenna's journey represents grace and beauty in the face of terrible illness. She represents resiliency and determination. She represents an incredible story that I am so honored to share with you. Most of all she represents another amazing woman that I am so fortunate to know and advocate with--another amazing woman who I would not know if it were not for heart disease.  This, my friends, is the silver lining of heart disease. 

Follow Jenna's journey at Grapefruit And Tattoos .  I love the name of her blog and wallow in the sadness of the truth of the name as I love both grapefruit and tattoos!