Dear Carolyn: “Adapting to adaptations?”

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters  March 10, 2019

People living with chronic illness often discover that they must adapt to changes in what occupational therapists like to call our activities of daily living (ADLs).  The basic ADLs typically include eating, bathing, dressing, grooming, toileting, and moving around independently (e.g. getting up off that couch). Even smaller changes occur: for example, I now wear a medical I.D. on my wrist all day. I never leave home without my nitro spray for chronic angina. I count out all my cardiac meds for the week in labeled pill organizers. These represent a few of the many adaptations I’ve learned to make since my cardiac diagnosis.
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Today, in this Dear Carolyn episode (our eighth in the occasional series featuring Heart Sisters readers sharing the experiences of becoming a heart patient), we’ll attempt to address a related reader question about adapting.

Continue reading “Dear Carolyn: “Adapting to adaptations?””

Hypervigilance: waiting for that second heart attack

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by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters    September 9, 2018

Until I had a heart attack, I didn’t know that one of the biggest risk factors for having a cardiac event like mine is having already had one. Heart disease, a chronic and progressive diagnosis, is the gift that keeps on giving. And as I wrote here, one of the Big Lessons for me has been that, although my doctors can “squish blockages, burn rogue electrical circuits, and implant lifesaving devices”, their heroic efforts do not address what originally caused this damage to my coronary arteries in the first place – likely decades before my heart attack struck.  See also: The Cure Myth

In fact, women are twice as likely to have a second heart attack in the six years following the first compared to our male counterparts.(1)  No wonder sobering stats like this can drive the freshly-diagnosed heart patient to an exhausting and fearful state of acute hypervigilance. Continue reading “Hypervigilance: waiting for that second heart attack”

Surviving the crisis: the first stage of heart attack recovery

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

How I wish I’d discovered Dr. Wayne Sotile’s wonderful book Thriving With Heart Disease while I was still a patient in our hospital’s Coronary Care Unit following my heart attack.

A large hint: if you or somebody you care about ever experiences a cardiac event, get your hands on a copy of this book before discharge from hospital.

The book’s second chapter is called The Four Stages of Heart Illness. Dr. Sotile, a cardiac psychologist, describes the heart patient’s journey through a series of four “separate, identifiable stages”.

These stages don’t always proceed neatly in sequences, but Dr. Sotile believes that your recovery will have fewer surprises if you are familiar with them and know what to expect.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be exploring each of these four stages along the cardiac journey.

Stage 1:  Surviving The Crisis:  Illness strikes, and patient and family begin the journey.   Continue reading “Surviving the crisis: the first stage of heart attack recovery”