My Little Heart

This heart of mine has been with me my entire life.  It beat for me before I even had

awareness, while my brain was only a rudimentary organ with

 little, but the basic body functions. It raced the day I was born and drew my first

breath. It swelled when I saw my mother leaning over my crib. It beat

strong and steady as I played and grew.

It fell in love and was broken as a teenager and was filled to capacity

as I held my baby son in my arms. My heart was there, every second of my life.

It did its job and allowed me to do mine. I rarely even thought about it.
Then one day, it began to fail. It would race, it would skip and it would

flutter uselessly as my vision dimmed and the world tilted precariously. I could

no longer keep up with the schedule I set for myself. It was letting me

down and I was angry. I didn’t like it very much. It was like an old friend

that betrays your confidence and you can never trust them again.
There were hospitalizations, there were too many doctor visits to count,

yet still my heart continued to let me down at such a wonderful point in my life.

The medical field was baffled and it seemed they were insinuating that

this was somehow all my fault, like I didn’t WANT to get well. Oh, but I did. I

would look at my husband and son sleeping at night and pry that I would

be there in the morning to see them awake just one more time. My heart

and I were losing hope.
Finally, after many trial and errors with medications, some of

which left me vomiting for hours or unable to find the energy

to pull up my socks, they

implanted a pacemaker/defibrillator. I remember wakening from

the surgery, feeling like they had stuffed something the size of a Chevrolet

under the skin just below my shoulder. It hurt to move, but I turned my

head to see my husband sitting beside my bed. The pain etched in his face

was so much greater than any pain I felt from the surgery. I suddenly

realized what a toll all this had taken on him. I blamed my heart and

hated it for what it had done.

We went home the next day and I tried to pick up the scrambled pieces

of my life. I still felt terrible and each time the pacemaker corrected, I

retched to the point of vomiting. If I rode in the car and the road was

bumpy, my heart raced uncontrollably. I couldn’t listen to my hard

rock music too loud or the pacemaker kept tune with the beat.

Was this the improvement I was hoping for?

When I went back for the 6 week check on my ICD, they finally realized

that something was wrong. Two of the wires had not implanted properly.

One was coiled next to a valve and the other had slipped so it was

triggering my diaphragm along with my heart.
Back into surgery I went. I was really angry now, not at the doctors, not at

the situation, but at my heart. I didn’t sleep at all that night for the anger

that I felt within me. Morning came and as soon as I walked down the hall,

I knew this was different. I actually did feel better. With several adjustments

over the next few months, I began to feel like I was going to live. More


 I WANTED to live.
I call February 11, my rebirthday, that is the day that they implanted

the ICD, but my true rebirthday came weeks later when I decided that

the rest of my life was going to be different than before. I chose to get

everything I could out of every day. Carpe Dieum doesn’t even come close

to what I do every morning. Not only did I start living my life to the fullest,

but dragged everyone else with me. Some weren’t very willing, some even

dropped by the wayside, but I was too busy living to go back and sit with them.
What started with cardiac rehabilitation, moved through aerobics,

hula hoops, belly dance, tai chi, and now kung Fu and Karate. I never sit still.

I don’t have time.

I’m absolutely, irrevocably in love with life.

For the most part, my heart lets me do pretty much what I want.

It reminds me that it is there and not exactly able to do all the things I want.

There are times, it actually lets me down, like when we were running relays in

Kenpo class and I passed out. Oh I was really pissed at my heart that night.

It has humiliated me.

There are days when I just don’t have the energy I’d like to. I just can

do everything I want. That’s when I really hate my heart. I blame it for holding

me back, like the albatross around my neck.

In the past year or so, I have embarked on a new journey of introspection.

I became a Buddhist and began meditating. I started searching out other ways

of managing my health in addition to Western medicine and exercise.

Acupuncture was probably the biggest surprise. I went for treatment on my

shoulder, hoping to delay surgery on the bone spurs in my joint.

My practicitioner was vaguely aware of my heart problem and placed a few needles

that she thought might be beneficial. I’m not sure it did a lot for my shoulder,

but as I lay on the table listening to soft flute music, I realized that my

pacemaker had gone into sleep mode. Good heavens,

it doesn’t even do that when I’m ASLEEP!
I felt wonderful, I felt relaxed. I went to Kung Fu that night and felt

as if I could do anything. (unfortunately, I discovered that I STILL was

unable to do the flying butterfly kick, but I’m working on it).

I knew that for me, acupuncture was going to be a routine

part of my self-care.
One thing with acupuncture, when you are laying there, feeling like

a pincushion and staring at the cieling, you have a lot of time to think.

And think I did. I would meditate while lying on the table. It was warm,

it was cozy, my mind would drift and thoughts and emotions would drift

through my head. I would dutifully address each of them and let them go.

Then one day that gentle little meditative voice whispered in my ear.”

How can you show compassion to others if you cannot feel it for yourself?”
Whoa, that thought wasn’t even addressed, the notion was tossed out like

an old cat food can. The next week it was back. “You have to love yourself, to

love others”
“Nope! Get out of my head please. I don’t want to think about that.”
“Forgive yourself. Forgive your body. Fill yourself with love.”
Each time, I angrily pulsed away the thoughts. I really didn’t want

to love my body. It wasn’t what I wanted. Elle McPherson’s body?

That I could love.

And what the hell did I have to forgive anyway?

What had I ever done to my body or it to me?
Then one particular day, when I went in for an extra treatment because my

heart was not behaving in the manner I thought it should. (In other words,

it wasn’t operating on a 20 year old athlete level) An new voice chimed in.
“I’m trying. I’m doing the best that I can.” I know this sounds insane and

could get me committed in at least 4 countries, but I knew it was my heart

talking to me. It was attempting to tell me that it was trying to meet my

expectations. It wasn’t the traitor that I viewed it as. It loved me and was doing

its damndest to keep up with me.
To say I was flooded with emotion is an understatement. Tears rolled down

my cheeks and soaked the pillow as I realized what I had been expecting of my

body. My heart had gotten sick and was broken and fixed the best it could be.

Even with its limitations, it pumped and pushed and beat every second of

every day. It kept me alive to run , to play, to love and I treated it with distain.

My heart had not failed me. I had failed it.                                                                                                                                                                
That day, I embraced my heart. I saw it as this wonderful brave ally,

who stood by me in sickness and in health. I saw how hard it worked

to allow me to see my dreams. I thanked it for allowing me to have

these extra years, to see my son married, to kiss my husband under

the stars, to learn to live again.

I loved it for its courage and perseverance. I gave it peace.
We came out of that room a team, that day. It, promising to do its best

and I, promising to listen more closely to what it needed. Just like any couple,

we have our little disagreements, like that skydiving thing, but we’re

working on it.
How many of us, as heart survivors, have forgiven our hearts?

Who among us still carries the anger and resentment of failure?

Who treats our hearts as a mere organ and not the center of our beings?

I live because my heart beats. I love because my heart beats. I hold all the

compassion for the world, because I now have compassion for myself.

I love this little heart of mine.

Palpitations May Signal Future Heart Rhythm Problem

Palpitations are common following a heart event, they can be dangerous if they are due to atrial fibrillation.

Here are  AFib symptoms:

A fluttering feeling in the chest
Chest pain or pressure
Feeling out of breath
Feeling weak or tired
Dizziness and sweating
Feeling faint or lightheaded

How Can Atrial Fibrillation Be Prevented?

Following a healthy lifestyle and taking steps to lower your risk for heart disease may help you prevent atrial fibrillation (AF). These steps include:

  • Following a heart healthy diet that’s low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. A healthy diet includes a variety of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables daily.
  • Not smoking.
  • Being physically active.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight.

If you already have heart disease or other AF risk factors, work with your doctor to manage your condition. In addition to adopting the healthy habits above, which can help control heart disease, your doctor may advise you to:

  • Follow the Dash diet to help lower your blood pressure.
  • Keep your choleesterol and triglycerides at healthy levels with dietary changes and medicines (if prescribed).
  • Limit or avoid alcohol.
  • Control your blood sugar level if you have diabetes.
  • Get ongoing medical care and take your medicines as prescribed.

Many things can trigger palpitations, including:

  • Strong emotions
  • Vigorous physical activity
  • Medicines such as diet pills and decongestants
  • Caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and illegal drugs
  • Certain medical conditions, such as thyroid disease or anemia

Palpitations May Signal Future Heart Rhythm Problem.

Exercise Slows Muscle Wasting from Age and Heart Failure

You will continue to see more and more studies that show the efficacy of exercise in a subset of heart failure patients. It would be ideal if they were covered by Medicare to cardiac rehabilitation programs.

Cooking with Kathy Man

Exercise can counteract muscle breakdown, increase strength and reduce inflammation caused by aging and heart failure , according to new research in Circulation, an American Heart Association journal.

The benefits for heart failure patients are similar to those for anyone who exercises: there’s less muscle-wasting, and their bodies become conditioned to handle more exercise.

Age of the patients didn’t matter, either, researchers found.

“Many physicians – and insurance companies – still believe that cardiac rehabilitation does not really help in old age. This study clearly falsifies this belief,” said Stephan Gielen, M.D., lead co-author and Deputy Director of Cardiology at the University Hospital, Martin-Luther-University of Halle, Germany.

Between 2005 and 2008, researchers recruited 60 heart-failure patients and 60 healthy volunteers. Half of each group was 55 years and younger and the other half, 65 years and older, resulting in an average age difference of 20 years between the groups. Half…

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Asking about price is an essential part of a patient’s responsibility

Easy to report, but hard to do. When in the hospital it’s not like you can ask the cost of each item as you need it, but bringing medications with you to hospital helps a little. Ask the cost versus the benefit for each test. Is there a less costly test that might provide the same results.

Asking about price is an essential part of a patient’s responsibility.

Books worth reading

Thriving with Heart Disease by Wayne and Robin Sotile

Take a Load Off Your Heart by Joe Piscatella and Barry Franklin

Prevent, Halt and Reverse Heart Disease by Barry Franklin, PhD and Joe Piscatella

Positive Mind, Healthy Heart by Joe Piscatella

Anger Kills by Redford and Virginia Williams

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Gary Sapolsky

The Heart Speaks by Mimi Guarneri, MD

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson

Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat Zinn Ph.D

The Heart’s Code by Paul Pearsall, Ph.D

Reversing Heart Disease by Dean Ornish, MD

Love and Survival by Dean Ornish, MD