How do you update your friends about all that has happened with your heart health if you haven’t seen them for a while?
I think an important part of healing my heart has been to keep in touch with the people I have come to know and love. Accordingly, as my chronic condition has become more stable, I have been reaching out to even more friends and colleagues.
Of course, they all remember I retired because I had some type of health issue. But I have not seen some of these folks for a while. When we do reconnect, they always want to know how I am doing. How does one answer that question with enough information to give a good answer but not so much detailed information that it freaks them out?
So I thought I might do a form letter – kind of like you see throughout the holiday season. But I must warn you that the following sample letter has a bit of a wacky spin to it.
I know it has been a while since I have been in touch. I hope all is going well in your life, and that your family is well. You probably wonder what has been happening with Melanie. Well, here the abridged version of my life over the last few years:
You may remember that I added a pacemaker to my family before I retired from my federal government job. Well I am pleased to announce that my pacemaker (I named her Penelope) has grown up to be a full-fledged defibrillator. She likes the additional responsibilities of not only pacing my heart, but making sure the excitement of being 60 will not cause my heart to beat too fast! There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that she has legally changed her name to Sparky.
I had a bit of a shock when I had to be evaluated to determine if I was a candidate for a heart transplant to replace my weak heart. Happily, my heart is strong enough that it does not look like a transplant is in my future. However, my doctors and I have agreed that it is prudent for me to replace the HVAC system in my condo.
I am doing well on my crusade to get into the Guinness Book of World Records for the lowest blood pressure reading. I do have concerns that the Guinness authorities may reject my entry because the heart medications I am on lower my blood pressure a bit. They might view these medications as artificial substance (like steroids?) that contribute to the low blood pressure. But in my defense, I have always had low blood pressure and I should be recognized for that. Plus, I should get bonus points for always keeping a level head and an even posture despite both the low blood pressure and the stiletto heels I wear!
Because I have heart failure, I have to follow a pretty restricted diet. Low fat, lots of fruits and vegetables, and low sodium. I also have to make sure that I don’t have too much potassium. Basically this means that the safest thing for me to eat is cardboard. But I have found that if you steam or broil the cardboard, and then toss with herbs and olive oil, it can be quite tasty.
I still struggle with a leaky mitral valve. I have reached out to the National Security Agency to see if they can determine whether any important personal information has been leaked to the Russians. When I was in St. Petersburg during a cruise last summer, they did seem to know a lot about me! Could there be a possible connection ?!??!!
I have this wonderful monitor by my bed that is responsible for checking periodically on my heart device. It also is connected to a scale that records my weight. All the information on my heart and weight is sent to a monitoring center. I get reports every few months to let me know that a doctor has checked the numbers and everything looks good. I am working on getting a software upgrade that will allow me to generate reports reminding me to buy birthday gifts, send cards, and pay bills.
In addition to the remote monitoring of my heart, I also have an appointment once a year with a representative from the company that makes my heart device. It is basically the same check that is done remotely, with maybe a few things added in. Plus, I get to ask questions because there is a real human in front of me.
For some reason, the heart device company refers to these checks (both remote and in person) as “interrogations.” The law enforcement lawyer just can’t get used to that terminology. I keep thinking that there should be a cop present who reads me my rights before they start to check the device! Especially with a valve that leaks at the drop of a hat – someone needs to warn my mitral valve that too much leaking could lead to legal jeopardy!
I have experienced an unfortunate increase in my obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) since my diagnosis of heart failure. I have been working really hard on this with my therapist, and I think I almost have it under control. Oh – hold on, I need to check and make sure I turned off my stove!
I am trying to convince a good buddy of mine to make an appointment with a heart failure doctor. He is a bit hesitant, mainly because his buddies are trying to convince him that he is fine. I’m so irritated! Those Whos in Whoville do not have his best interests at heart – they just want their future Christmases to go off without a hitch. But seriously, if the Grinch doesn’t get a handle on that too large heart, and get some serious beta blockers and diuretics – he’s toast!
Speaking of buddies, I continue to contact friends like you from my past life who I haven’t seen for a while. When we finally meet, I can see the confusion in their eyes because I look normal on the outside (the inside heart pictures of course would tell a different story). Some friends have said that they expected someone with heart failure to look frail. When I have a dizzy spell or a bout of fatigue, I do feel beat. But I doubt that frail is in my DNA. I keep up as much exercise as I can. In fact, if you saw me walking on the street or in the mall, I’d probably mow you down because I still move pretty fast!
Well, that is about all I have for now. I just beg each and every one of you who reads this to watch your diet, exercise regularly, keep on top of your blood pressure, and make sure you see your doctors annually and have them perform EKGs to make sure you heart is running well. Yes, I can hear you snicker. What good did all of this do for Melanie you might ask?
Well, I tell you what it did – if I hadn’t been in such good physical shape when the heart issues hit, I’d probably be six feet under. So even with heart failure, I sincerely believe that I have increased my life expectancy by engaging in good life habits and by being sensitive to any changes in my body or in my emotional well-being.
One last thing – you may wonder why I sometimes seem to make light of things related to my heat that are pretty serious. But if you can’t laugh at things, your perspective quickly dies. And so does your hope. It seems to me when perspective and hope starts to go, can the heart be far behind? I do not plan for that to happen and I intend to have a healthy heart and healthy hope to make up for any heart defects. In other words, I pledge to you that you will be hearing from me for many years to come.
Melanie discovered that she had heart failure in 2013. Since that time, she has been learning how to live with the condition, and how to achieve balance and personal growth.