Archives for posts with tag: heart attack

20171215_235435Several weeks ago, I crossed paths with Senator John McCain at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC). I was star-struck, and missed an opportunity to share an important message on behalf of Americans like me who rely on medical researchers and specialists in order to live a life worth living.

At the time I saw Senator McCain, I was distracted – for good reason. Earlier, in search of parking, I came across a space designated with a sign I’d never seen before. The space was reserved for surviving family members, in other words, Gold Star families. It knocked the wind out of me to know the car leaving the space was a family whose son or daughter, dad or mom had died in the line of duty. I slammed on my brakes. I hadn’t known this reserved spot existed and was embarrassed to be attempting to park there.

I drove up a level or two and parked, then walked back to the sign. It read: “RESERVED for Surviving Family Members. Please respect this spot and their sacrifice. Honoring our families of the fallen. Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC). Fleet, Fighter, Family.”

Thinking about the surviving families, I felt powerless. I had a bottle of water so dug around in my purse for a tissue to clean the placard. It was a very small gesture to pay my respects at the moment. I took a photo to show my sons to help them understand the way Americans revere our Gold Star families, in contrast to the poor example the president has shown. The year 2017 has been a difficult one to be the mom of two sons; so much ugliness to help them make sense of and endless lies to combat.

As I walked through Building 10, I grew angry. How was it possible that in one short year, so many of our country’s beliefs, institutions, values and integrity had become tarnished, if not completely destroyed? Never could I have imagined the abuse the Gold Star families of Capt. Humayun Khan and Sgt. La David Johnson endured. Never.

Waiting for the elevator, I tried to focus on all I needed to discuss with my mother’s doctors. She had a grapefruit size hematoma impeding her bowel, kidney and bladder function. We all were at a loss for answers. Our family tends to have “rare” health issues, so each crisis can be a perplexing unknown.

The elevator chime rang. On reflex, I stepped back to make way for wounded warriors and other patients. This morning, there was only one. In a red transport chair, wearing the same WRNMMC pajamas as my mother, sat Senator John McCain. My surprise must have been obvious! His sharp military aide, manning the wheelchair, smiled. Senator McCain gestured as if to say “after you,” so I scurried on the elevator not registering this wasn’t the elevator I wanted. As the doors closed, I peered out and for some inexplicable reason, gave him a thumbs-up. He graciously grinned, or grimaced. I was mortified.

When we got to the basement I grasped my error, and, of course, on the way up the doors opened. Voila! Senator John McCain. We all laughed. Our fellow passenger was a cafeteria worker who was heading up to collect trays. Clearly familiar with one another, they shook hands and exchanged warm hellos. Then Senator McCain kindly accepted our encouraging words and thanks. He did look good, albeit tired. We both appreciated his “thumbs down” on the skinny repeal of the Affordable Care Act. We meant it about needing his help. Hang in there, the man said. One day at a time, I said.

In hindsight, Senator McCain, I wish I’d had the chance to share with you what we have in common. Growing up in a career Navy family. Living at the United States Naval Academy. Surviving close calls. Supporting our armed services and Gold Star families. Battling rare disease. Working to serve others. Fighting for our own health. Relying on research. Pushing ahead, even when surrender might seem easier. Maybe my story would stay with you as you continue your work to honor this great nation you’ve helped create and protect.

In my heart, I believe you’ll remember those of us who will suffer if the current climate of self-interest, fraud and abuse of our democracy continues. I saw how genuinely you greeted the gentleman in the elevator, who earns his living feeding the sick and cleaning up for them. His words, softly spoken, speak for us all: “We’re counting on you, sir.”

There is still another day, Senator McCain. And the wish I wish for you tonight is peace.

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Art Linkletter thoroughly proved that kids do say the darndest things. But when it happens at your own dinner table, you definitely must take stock.

I realized tonight that despite my valiant efforts at “normalcy” (whatever that is), I really wasn’t fooling my 10-year-old. He stated right to my face that he’d had quite enough of my meanderings through the healthcare system.

In response to my explanation about an upcoming hospital stay, he didn’t miss a beat: “Is it life-threatening?”

This is the kid who cuts me no slack. He’s the one who looks for buttons to push, always finds them, and even creates new ones. Face of an angel, soul of a hurricane. So, his question was a good one. Because yes, without the hospital stay, it is life-threatening. But with it, we — as a family — have fewer worries.

So the challenge as a mom is to not take this personally and to inject some humor. Does he really care that I’ll be away overnight? Of course not! It means late bedtime and possible x-box. Does he love me? Of course he does! I’m his mom.

Would I have it any other way? Not on your life.

Why, yes … yes she has!

You know at gatherings, when people haven’t seen each other for a few years, generally some speculation ensues. Real or fake?  A lift or good genes? And in the most severe cases, who is that stranger?!

The Bionic Women (and friend)

Well, with great pride, the three of us pictured at our 30th high school reunion can state without a doubt, we definitely had some “work” done. Some serious work. From left to right: heart attack from spontaneous coronary artery dissection, repaired with double bypass surgery; an acoustic neuroma, successfully removed through brain surgery; and open heart surgery to graft an aortic aneurysm and perform a mechanical valve replacement. (No health issues for our lap man — he’s just a very funny accessory!)

It wasn’t by design, but we saved the shop talk until the very last. As people said good-byes and drifted out the door of the heartwarming gathering we’d enjoyed, the three of us found ourselves together. Like a last minute huddle, reliving the not-so-great highlights of our years since high school and gearing up for the time until our next reunion. By way of illness, we share a language and awareness you only gain through experience. We are well, at least for the moment, and that is truly all each of us ask. Because as we learned the hard way at an early age, things can always get worse. But day by day, they can get better too.

Thirty years have passed. It was enlivening to realize that within each of us, our 18-year-old selves still flourish. The bikini days may be gone, but I’m much happier being bionic!

[Correction: A Dose of Reality regrets our misstatement that “the bikini days” are over. Rock it, girl!]

 

I speak for those who can’t speak tonight. I speak for those who’ve been brushed under the rug by slight-of-hand. I speak for the dead.

We’d all like to believe that if we control our risk factors, listen to our bodies, and call for help when in need there would be no heart disease. No heart attack. No stroke. No death.

Yet we all know the truth, which is women do the right thing every day and die anyway.

Whether from congenital defect, unmanageable risk factors, or un-researched biological boogeyman, women die from heart disease every minute of every hour of every day because we haven’t devoted the attention, research dollars, or sweat equity to keep them alive.

Don’t insult my intelligence by telling me that awareness of heart disease will keep me alive. I literally could teach a course on Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD) to med students today and die of a second heart attack from SCAD tomorrow because the data hasn’t been funded to explain my disease or prevent my death from it.

Talk to me about answers. Show me cradle-to-grave assessment, risk management, and care. Act upon my crisis.

Women die every minute of every day because death from heart disease isn’t yet lucrative or sexy enough for our health care and research establishments to act.

I’m fighting hard until I Go Dead for Women.