You know you have heart disease when . . .

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Three years ago, I started this topic among my heart sisters over at Inspire’s WomenHeart online community.  My invitation to them was to complete this sentence: “You know you have heart disease when . . . “  It turned into one of the most popular posts on that site, drawing responses ranging from hilarious to poignant.

Here’s just a small sampling from these women who know how to walk the talk every day:

You know you have heart disease when . . .

  • …you’re not sure if your phone’s on vibrate or you’re in AFib
  • …while you are getting dressed in the morning, you consider which clothes you wouldn’t be too upset about having cut off you by the ER staff
  • …you bring a book with you to the ER, knowing you aren’t going home any time soon
  • …you know more paramedics on a first name basis than your husband does – who is a professional firefighter! True story!
  • … the cardiac nurses sit by your bed and get you caught up on their love lives and families by starting the sentence with: “Where did we leave off the last time?”
  • …your idea of matching lingerie is two matching hospital gowns so you can wear one backwards as a robe so your tushie isn’t hanging out
  • …you know how to hook up your own 12-lead EKG – and then interpret the results
  • …you can tell the person taking your blood where to place the tourniquet, then you tell the person taking your blood that the tourniquet isn’t tight enough
  • …you can’t remember your PIN number, but you can reel off every number from your blood test results
  • …you know that CABG isn’t a vegetable and LAD doesn’t mean the little boy next door
  • …you monopolize conversation at every dinner party with fascinating new facts you’ve learned about heart disease – and hardly notice when others’ eyes glaze over
  • …you check to see if your gym has a defibrillator unit prior to hitting the treadmill – and then you ask the staff if they know how to use it
  • …your husband carries a list of YOUR meds in his wallet “just in case”
  • …you only know what day it is because that’s what your pill box tells you
  • …you have so many bruises you look like a battered woman from taking your Plavix/aspirin combo
  • ….you have to tell the slightly alarmed aesthetician doing your pedicure not to mind the Plavix/aspirin bleeding from your cuticles
  • …you prepare meals before going in for a heart cath knowing you will be in the hospital for a few days and still come home to a kitchen that looks like a vandalized high school science lab
  • …your Mom buys you a treadmill for your 44th birthday instead of a book
  • …you now have a knowledge of biology and chemistry that would have served you well back in high school
  • …you tell your partner in the middle of lovemaking that you are having spasms and he knows that is NOT a good thing
  • …your husband asks if you want to run upstairs and make wild, passionate love  – and you ask which does he want because you can’t do both
  • …you quickly shave your legs and get out extra bowls of food/water for your pets at the first signs of possible heart problems – just in case
  • …a good nap ranks right up there with whatever ranks right up there for you
  • …you are the office expert in “How much salt (or fat, transfat, saturated fat, fibre, soluble fibre, insoluble fibre, calories) are in this?
  • …you grab your chest and joke: “This is the big one!” but no one laughs
  • …doing your nails makes you stop and wonder if they keep polish remover at the ER
  • …your mother updates you on every heart-related medical condition of anyone she has ever met
  • …you get together with your Dad and talk numbers – but not the financial ones
  • …it snows and you are the first one to say: “Sorry, I’d like to help, but I can’t shovel!”
  • …you take a shower and your last nitroglycerin patch is in the soap dish (it’s like leaving your nursing pads around when you had babies!!!)
  • …your nitro spray sleeps next to you on your bedside cabinet
  • …you have nitro spray and nitro tab bottles stashed here, there, and everywhere — just in case
  • …your child tells you:  “I had to go to the school nurse today, but everything was okay – my heart was not racing!”
  • …people ask you: “Did you know you parked in a handicapped person’s spot?”
  • …you’ve spent over an hour making your low-sodium, low-fat, low-cholesterol dinner, and you sit down to eat it – but you’re too fatigued to pick up the fork
  • …feeling really great in the morning just means you forgot to take your medications
  • …people say “You look good!” and they sound surprised
  • …you lift the hands of your family and friends up to your ICD incision site to feel how cool it is
  • …your daughter sends you flowers on your graduation day – from Cardiac Rehab
  • …you have a great day with absolutely no pain or symptoms and you realize what a gift it is to feel normal, and you didn’t think about mortality all that day
  • …you spend more on meds each month than shoes
  • …the dress with the plunging neckline now displays your bypass scar
  • …your jewelry box includes red dress pins and hearts of all kinds to remind people about heart disease, and your wardrobe of blues and purples is now being infiltrated with lots of red
  • …you see a woman wearing a red dress pin, and you hug her
  • …your friends and family get unnecessarily freaked out if you don’t return their phone calls IMMEDIATELY, imagining that you are: a) lying unconscious on the floor, b) already in hospital, or c) dead
  • …you remind yourself daily that you had better tell your family you love them


With love and many thanks to the generous women heart patients who really “get it”


Q: How would you complete this sentence?

“You know you have heart disease when . . . “

6 thoughts on “You know you have heart disease when . . .

  1. You know you have heart disease when . . . . . you know the names of your ambulance and E.R. “regulars” 😉


  2. . . . when you fantasize about the good ol’ days before your MI when you used to enjoy having second helpings of birthday cake and not feel one little bit guilty!


  3. Carolyn ~

    Once again your humor has lifted me up when I really needed it. I laughed the whole way through. It is supposed to be funny, isn’t it? 🙂

    I wish I could print this to post in my cubicle along with my other postings (WomenHeart brochures, large sign I typed up on how to call for emergency help at work since it’s not 911 internally, etc.) They are all even posted with red dress push pins.

    I couldn’t get it to print in a readable format – can you give me a tip?

    Reading these really made my day. I think it would be fun to have these printed for the women attending the WomenHeart/Mayo symposium. I also think you should be invited back as a speaker to share your story, how you benefitted from the symposium, etc. etc. I think each year they should consider inviting a past “graduate” to come and report on how it helped them, and how they in turn helped other women heart patients.

    Thanks again!!!


    1. Thanks so much for your note. I’m just waiting for that invite to arrive from Mayo….. 🙂

      I doublechecked with the WordPress ‘code boys’ re your printing question. Got a response from ‘Happiness Engineer Andrew’ (great job title, ay?) who says:
      “The print sharing button is the best way to make it easy for readers to print your content. That will use their browser’s built in printing tools to print the post.”

      PS: Red dress push pins? Where did you find THOSE?!


      1. Just stumbled across your Blog. . thank you for reminding us that there is humor in every situation! I printed and will post at my desk at work.

        I belong to 2 other heart “sites/blogs” . . nothing as good for the soul as this one. Thanks again!


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