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Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Mother's Story

Marjorie and Lynn
Today we have a very touching story to share from a mother-daughter duo who experienced heart disease for themselves eleven years ago this month. I must advise, keep a tissue close at hand - this story brought tears to my eyes; the kind of tears of renewed hope - women can recover from heart disease and live a full life. Take it from Lynn and her mom, Marjorie, who is living a fulfilled life after triple bi-pass surgery!

Lynn (daughter): It was such a strange time - what with our country going through a very shocking experience and we, as a family, worrying about Mom and her heart! From my own experience, I definitely did some compartmentalization! Like me calling my sister and telling her to be sure that the television was not on in Mom's room. She could learn about the world outside her room later; right now we wanted her to heal. 

What I learned about heart health through her experience is this: it can and does happen to people who are seemingly the picture of health! So the information and awareness that organizations like Stitch Red share is critical to women's health. I also learned that there is life, make that fulfilling life, after triple bypass heart surgery! My mother is incredibly active and happy and has done nothing but move forward since her surgery. She watches what she eats, she exercises and she has an active social life. She inspires me and I hope that she does the same for you.

And here is Marjorie's Stitch Red story...

Marjorie (mom): Fighting heart disease is an important crusade. It educates people and saves lives. It lets people know that symptoms can be very different in men and women and that you have to make your doctor listen to you when you let him know how you feel. Heart disease is a killer and often can be treated successfully when diagnosed early. Diabetics are at greater risk and should be watched closely.

On September 11th I celebrated the 11th anniversary of my bypass surgery. I will certainly remember where I was on that terrible day in 2001. While people were dying in the Twin Towers, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania, I was lying on the operating table at Marquette General Hospital in Marquette, Michigan. I had three coronary artery bypasses done that morning. My youngest daughter, who happens to be a nurse, was in town while I was in the hospital and around midnight that night she got a call from my surgeon saying that my blood pressure had bottomed out and they had taken me back to surgery to check for a bleeder. The doctor felt bad and told my daughter he had checked for just that possibility before closing. He told my daughter that she should stay put and get some rest (at my apartment) and see me in the morning. Of course, I didn't remember any of this. 

My convalescence was uneventful. I spent about a week in the hospital with minimal pain - mostly soreness around the incision areas. And I hated putting those thigh-high anti-embolic stockings on every morning! My other two daughters were with me for the first week at home. I was waited on hand and foot. Of course, I was doing my deep breathing and walking as ordered on my discharge instructions. When I was on my own I continued to increase the distances of my walks. A few days before my return visit with my surgeon I noted that I had a little shortness of breath when walking up a slight incline. The chest x-ray I had done before seeing the doctor showed that I had some fluid around my lungs. So that meant another new experience, a thoracentesis. A long needle is inserted between the ribs and the fluid is aspirated. There was quite a bit. I must tell you, my surgeon was not that much for bedside manner, but that day he was pretty chatty while he was filling those bottles. I heard about his divorce, his wife's dogs, his kids, etc. Guess it was therapy for both of us. 

I also went to cardiac rehab for twelve weeks. This included exercise and dietary education. During the exercise portion our heart rate was monitored. The people working in the rehab department were great and made it fun to be there. When I talked to anyone who was going to have heart surgery, I always recommended that they go through rehab. I am a retired nurse and thought I knew a lot about heart disease, but there's always something new to learn. Symptoms may be different in men and women. Chest pain is the usual, but pain in the jaw or even behind the ear can occur. Before I had my surgery I was an active person - I walked, biked and did water aerobics. I tried to eat healthy and keep my weight within normal limits. During the winter I often did my walking in the facility where my husband lived for the last seven years of his life. He had Alzheimer's disease and the veteran's home had long halls and stairs that provided a great space.

I still walk most days and also use the pool at the apartment complex where I live. I will be 85 years old on September 24th. I feel good as well. I am grateful for every day and try to make the most of the time God has given me. I volunteer at the Veteran's home and at my church. I guess you might say that my passion is people. I love meeting new people and reconnecting with old friends. I have a loving man in my in my life who is kind, funny and caring and I have four children who love me as well. I am truly blessed. 

To Lynn and Marjorie - thank you for sharing your personal story with us! We wish you a happy (almost) birthday, Marjorie, and many more to come!

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