It was 10 a.m. sharp when I walked into the gym where my cardiac rehabilitation classes were about to begin. The group’s coordinator was a friendly former cardiac nurse who now spent her mornings with freshly-diagnosed heart patients in the rehab program. She greeted me warmly, and toured me around the facility, introducing me to my fellow cardiac rehab buddies. And “fellow” was the apt word: it turned out that in that particular class, I was the only female heart patient in a gym filled with men. Old men. Old men who all happened to be golfers – which I would soon learn was the sole topic of their conversations. My initial reaction was: “Do I belong here?” . . Continue reading ““Do I belong here?” Unintended barriers to cardiac rehabilitation”
In the game of poker, zero sum game theory suggests that the sum of the amounts won by some players equals the combined losses of the others. So if one player wins big, then other players must lose big.
It struck me recently that it’s possible our healthcare system functions as if it were a zero sum game, too.
Continue reading “Women’s heart health: why it’s NOT a zero sum game”
When California sociologist Dr. Kathy Charmaz studied the subject of suffering among those living with chronic illness, she identified an element of suffering that is often overlooked by health care providers.(1) As she explained her findings:
“A fundamental form of that suffering is the loss of self in chronically ill persons who observe their former self-images crumbling away without the simultaneous development of equally valued new ones.
“The experiences and meanings upon which these ill persons had built former positive self-images are no longer available to them.”
Dr. Charmaz also found that this profound sense of having lost the “self” you used to be before being diagnosed is generally the result of both external and internal influences on how we view ourselves. Continue reading “Two big factors that can impact a patient’s loss of ‘self’”
I opened an email recently from one of my Mayo heart sisters. She had dropped me a note because she was concerned about a woman (a recent heart attack survivor) who had told her she really wanted to attend their community’s next support group meeting for women living with heart disease (this one was a monthly meeting held from 3-4:30 p.m.). But this woman claimed that she couldn’t go to the meeting – because she “had to be home to cook dinner for her husband.” Although her hubby was retired and at home all day long, the heart attack survivor explained that “he expects to have dinner ready at the regular time that I have had it for him all the years he was working.”
My initial reaction (after checking the calendar just to make sure it’s not still 1950): I need to go have a wee lie-down to recuperate from reading this story. Continue reading ““Can’t go to my support group meeting because my husband’s expecting dinner””
Cardiologist Dr. Sharonne Hayes, founder of the Mayo Women’s Heart Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, has this important advice for all heart patients:
“If your doctor recommends cardiac rehabilitation, go.
“If you’re not referred, ask.
“And if you ask, and are told ‘You don’t need it’ – find a new cardiologist!”
Based on what we already know about the shockingly low rates of physician referral to this life-saving treatment (as low as 20% of all eligible heart patients) we might expect a flurry of doctor dumping if heart patients follow Dr. Sharonne’s advice to seek out physicians who are more appropriately informed. Continue reading “The surprising reasons heart patients don’t go to cardiac rehab”
Once discharged from hospital following my heart attack, I was gobsmacked by how physically frail I felt. Simply taking a shower meant a 20-minute lie down to recover. Just walking to the corner with my son, Ben, required me to clutch his arm for support. But it wasn’t only this new weakness that alarmed me. As a former distance runner, I felt suddenly afraid of any exertion that might bring on the horrific heart attack symptoms I’d so recently endured. That’s where cardiac rehabilitation (a 2-4 month supervised exercise and education program for heart patients) literally saved me. Continue reading “Do we need to change the name of cardiac rehab?”