This is my 863rd blog post here on Heart Sisters. That’s a lot of articles. Almost all of them so far are about women’s heart disease, or translating emerging cardiac research into plain language, or what it’s like for women when we suddenly become heart patients, or when we’re mistakenly told that our heart disease is not heart disease.
Never in the 11 years that I’ve been writing this blog have I felt like I’d run out of All Things Cardiac to write about. Until today. . .
But this week, today, right now, all I want to write or think or talk about is the Corona virus (COVID19).
In between the pervasive 24/7 news coverage about this pandemic, however, we know that there are still women out there freshly-diagnosed with heart disease, who may be feeling – as I once was – like they’ve been hit by a very large bus.
I hope that these women do find Heart Sisters, and read some of the other 862 articles here that might help them figure out what the heck has just happened to them so that they don’t feel quite so alone.
Here they can learn about practical day to day issues (like this four-part series from cardiac psychologist Dr. Wayne Sotile for newly-diagnosed heart patients and their families, or my three-part series on cardiac pain, or my 8,000 word patient-friendly, jargon-free glossary of confusing terms and abbreviations you may have heard on the cardiac ward, or any of the Living With Heart Disease topics listed on this site.
But for today, I want to tell you something that needs saying:
This Corona virus is real.
It’s happening, it’s not a hoax, it’s not a conspiracy, and we need to ignore everything that non-experts are telling us about this very real health threat.
This is important because we now know that heart patients are particularly at risk – both for catching it, and worse, for becoming seriously ill if we do catch it. While about 80 per cent of all cases will be relatively mild, heart patients who become infected are more likely to be in that group who will be hospitalized in grave condition.
Despite those scary risks, I believe that heart patients (and most other chronically ill patients and their family members) already have one advantage over the general population who have never experienced a health crisis before now. As one of my Twitter friends explained recently:
“Patients already know a lot about being up-ended, about uncertainty, and about living with but not IN fear.”
To stay safe, we first need to ignore the avalanche of nonsense out there, like the preventive tricks you’ve seen on Facebook (gargling salt water, or aiming a hair dryer at your face, or eating raw garlic). Please stop forwarding these to your family and friends. Heart patients are already used to hearing every cure scam out there.
We need to ignore vitamin supplement ads or wellness gurus or unscrupulous chiropractors who try to convince you that spending money on their miracle supplements or treatments or neck adjustments will magically “boost” your immune system so you won’t catch this virus (some – even worse! – are claiming that they can “cure” the virus if you do test positive). This is false.
There is NO known cure, and if there were, Big Pharma would have already patented it and be making a fortune marketing The Cure. Heart patients are already used to hearing (and ignoring) scam promises that this (and only this!) particular product, person or prayer will cure our heart disease forever.
We also need to ignore uninformed politicians who issue official statements based on their “hunches”.
Sometimes, celebrities with the letters M.D. after their names need to be ignored, too. On March 9th, for example, Dr. Mehmet Oz (a cardiac surgeon-turned-embarrassing-TV-ratings huckster), pronounced confidently during an Access Daily interview that the apprehensive 88-year old actor William Shatner should indeed proceed with his plans for an international lecture tour, adding: “He can go anywhere he wants. Do not make decisions based on fear. We’ve gotta live our lives!” ) Mr. Shatner, meanwhile, wisely ignored that boneheaded advice; he announced on his Twitter account that he is now “on lockdown, at home.”) My general warning: ignore pretty well everything that Dr. Oz says.
Luckily, there are many experienced researchers who are trained experts in the highly specialized infectious disease field who know what they’re talking about because their entire careers have been dedicated to studying them. Please be a smart consumer and pay attention to what science is telling us. Follow those basic public health guidelines.
During this unprecedented time in our history, we also need to protect ourselves psychologically and mentally. The only thing I can actually control during this crisis, for example, is my own response – especially when I’m feeling scared or overwhelmed. I can take breaks from non-stop COVID-19 news coverage, for example. I can choose to voluntarily self-isolate at home, which is what I’m doing. For one hour each day, I leave home to walk our quiet neighbourhood streets (a safer choice than my usual seaside path, which started to look more like a crowded parade route than a safe distance place to get exercise and fresh air). I can watch our 4 1/2 year old granddaughter Everly Rose out riding her bike in the back lane behind her home, but I can’t hug or kiss her little face, or get closer than six feet from her. I do make a list of things, big or small, to look forward to each day, especially things that bring me joy (like baking muffins to drop off for elderly neighbours, phoning my family and friends, listening to beautiful music, or watching a funny movie).
Unlike our heart disease diagnoses, this virus will not last forever. Together, we’ve got this. . .
Stay safe, my heart sisters.
Mona Lisa image by Sumanley xul, Pixabay
NOTE FROM CAROLYN: I wrote more about how heart patients manage the inevitable changes brought on by health crises in my book, “A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease”. You can ask for it at your local bookshop, or order it online (paperback, hardcover or e-book) at Amazon, or order it directly from my publisher, Johns Hopkins University Press (use their code HTWN to save 20% off the list price).
Q: How are you deciding to spend your days at this time?
♥ Other COVID-19 resources I like:
♥–CardioSmart (from the American College of Cardiology)
♥–Health Canada 🇨🇦 (includes a COVID-19 self-assessment quiz)
♥–HealthLink BC 🇨🇦 (includes COVID-19 information in English and nine other languages)
♥–“Stress and Isolation“ is the name of a free one-hour webinar I watched online last week (along with 1,000 other women around the world), courtesy of Johns Hopkins University’s A Woman’s Journey program. Thank you, Dr. Karen Swartz!