Monthly Archives: July 2014

Tuna.

When I met with the dietician last week, I mentioned I had been eating canned tuna (as I have for my whole life – one of my fave foods). She said it actually was not good for me because of the sodium content. I was bummed. And then I found THIS!….

 

Although not cheap ($1.79 per can), this will be my new fave food. The fact that is says “very low sodium” on the can and not “low sodium” actually does make a difference. The “very low sodium” cans contain 35mg per serving. The “low sodium” cans were at least double that. And the ingredients are just white tuna and water. I found this at target, and since I have a red card with them, I save 5% off of every purchase.
Another great find today…

This was pricey at $4.99 (and that was on sale). But I couldn’t pass up the health benefits.  The dietician said to stay away from all processed meats, deli meats, and lunch meats because do the sodium content and the fact that they contain nitrites and nitrates. This package does not contain that!!  The sodium, on the other hand, is high. About 520 mg per serving. I figure as long as it’s in moderation, I should be ok. ??  When I was checking out, the cashier commented on this meat and said it tastes sooo good. That made me feel great about buying it and a little bit better for spending the money on it.

AHA Heart Walk

http://greaterorlandoheartwalk.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=1090256&lis=0&kntae1090256=BAB6F835CB0F4B84AAE94C1C31A59946

I WALK FOR JAG

I participated in the American Heart Association Heart Walk in 2013 in memory of my Uncle Edward who suddenly passed away of a massive heart attack a few months earlier.  This year, I walk as a survivor!  But I also walk in his memory and in support of my dad and the rest of his family who suffered from and are still living with heart disease.  

Cardiac Rehab.

I finally began Cardiac Rehab, which will help me determine my limitations.  The past few times I’ve gone walking in my neighborhood, I’ve had some pain in my chest and back when breathing.  Cardiac Rehab will allow my heart to get stronger and will hopefully increase my stamina.  I will start off with 18 sessions, and then they will reassess to see if I need an additional 18.  My insurance covers it, but my copay is $40 per session, which is way more than I can really afford, but it’s something I have to do.  I can do 2 or 3 1-hour sessions per week, so I’ve agreed to start out with 3, and then I’ll drop down to 2 per week for financial reasons.

My first session was over 2 hours long because the nurse wanted to go over my file with me, discuss my prescriptions, and review my cholesterol numbers.  Then, I got to try out some of the machines.  I wear a heart monitor and there are nurses and exercise physiologists in the room that monitor your heart rate and check your blood pressure.  I started out walking on the treadmill for 5 minutes at a pace of about 2.1.  I had no problems!  Then, I tried 5 minutes on an elliptical-type machine where you are sitting down.  Finally, I tried 5 minutes on a stationery bike.  Even though everything was done at a slow pace, I still worked up a sweat.  It really is a great feeling to know that if something happens, I’m surrounded by a team of medical professionals.

During my second session, they increased my time on the 3 machines to 7 minutes and increased the pace.  I had no pain and worked up more of a sweat.  My heart rate and blood pressure exactly what they should be for someone my age.  In fact, I even went back on the treadmill a 2nd time for 6 more minutes and felt fine.

My goals from Cardiac Rehab are to ensure my heart heals, build up my stamina, and eventually get to the point where I’m healthy to run again.  Years ago, I was a runner and would run 3-5 miles a day.  I competed in 5Ks, 10Ks, and even completed a half marathon.  I believe that running for so many years is the reason that my heart bounced back so quickly after the heart attack.  The doctors are still amazed that my heart went from 15% EF to 40-44% EF in a matter of a few days.  I attribute this to running for so many years.

Holter Monitor.

 

This monitor was smaller than one I had a few years ago.  It only had 3 leads on it, so I didn’t have to worry about too many wires that I had to tuck in or electrodes sticking out of my clothes.  They gave me a “journal” on which to record the time anytime I had any pain or palpitations.  I also could not take a shower or bath with it on, so the nurse was relieved when she knew I didn’t have to work or need to take a shower for the next 24 hours.  LOL.

For the most part, the 24 hours with the heart monitor was uneventful.  I did go walking for exercise to see if I got any of the pain I had experienced before.  I did.  I made sure to record the time(s) I felt any pain.  I remembered the times in my head and logged them on the journal when I returned home.  It was difficult to record anything within the first few hours because the tightness in my chest and some of the pain seemed so constant.  I kept the journal close to me at all times in case I needed to log something while sitting on the couch and watching TV.  They had also asked me to log the time I lay down for bed and the time that I wake up.  They didn’t care about me logging any bathroom breaks in the middle of the night that interrupted my sleep.  I kind of wish I had logged more, but I have a few times on there.  I think they will use those times as markers on where to check the EKG, and they’ll obviously let me know if they see anything abnormal.  Otherwise, I will ask for my results at my next appoint in a week and a half.  

The heart monitor was very easy to remove.  I removed the 3 electrodes, peeled the tape and the round disc off of the wire (and threw them away), and placed the monitor and the journal back into a little ziploc bag they gave me.  I then drive back to the Dr.’s office and turn it in.  Very simple.  

 

First Appointment With My Cardiologist.

The first appointment with my Dr. went as well as it could.  Everyone is so nice.  First, I met with a nurse who took my bp on both arms and did an EKG on me.  Next, I met a PA (Physician’s Assistant) who talked to me more about the tightness I’ve been experiencing in my chest and to go over other details of symptoms and side effects I’ve been having.  I explained all of the pain I’ve been experiencing (back, chest, arm) and let her know that I’ve still been very tired and worn down, especially when trying to walk for exercise.  I asked her how my EKG reading looked, and she said it was beautiful.  That felt great to hear!!  Then, I met with my Dr.  

I explained in detail everything I experienced over the weekend and anything I was still experiencing.  He said he will have to talk to a cholesterol expert to see what they recommend because I have to be on a cholesterol medicine.  In the meantime, he asked me to no longer take the Crestor and start taking 2 Advil every 8 hours to see if that helps.  He thinks the pain and tightness could be from the sac around my heart and wasn’t sure if the feeling was musculoskeletal or not.  He also wants me to start cardiac rehab, so I can learn my limitations.  Once again, he reminded me that he saved my life!  🙂 And he told some of the story again.  My dad came with me to my appointment (so he could make his own appointment with my Dr.) but waited outside.  The Dr. asked about my parents, and I let him know my dad was here, so the Dr. called him in so he could listen to everything he said to me.  It was good to have 2 sets of ears to remember everything.  I wish I could bring a voice recorder into my appointments so I remember everything.  

I had my list of questions ready, and before the Dr. left, I let him know I had a few more questions.  He said I can’t do roller coasters or go running 3 miles or do anything that would quickly increase my heart rate for a couple of months at least.  That is fair.  I also asked for clarification on the foods that he originally told me to remove from my diet.  Again, he said NO fried foods, NO egg yolks, and NO cheese.  I asked if that meant forever…he said I could have cheese on a rare occasion.  I told him I was trying the vegan route (but eating fish/seafood), and he told me he never said I couldn’t have meat.  I knew that, but I was taking it a step further.  He said his wife is a vegetarian and because vegetarians can’t eat meat, they supplement with a lot of cheese in most of their dishes.  As a result, his wife’s cholesterol is higher than his!  So, it didn’t sound like he was forcing me into the vegan lifestyle, which I’ve found very difficult.  I took that as my queue to relax a bit on the strict diet I was on.  Plus, I haven’t lost any weight.  

He decided to put me on a Holter Monitor for 24 hours, which I picked up a few days later.  I’m so glad he did that so he can see if everything is normal when I’m not at the Dr.’s office.  And he wants to see me again in a few weeks.  

It’s been a few days, and I haven’t heard from his office yet regarding the new cholesterol medicine.  They also haven’t contacted me about setting up my next appointment with him or Cardiac Rehab, so I will follow up with them tomorrow.  

Meds.

I did not have a great weekend or 39th birthday, for that matter.  I called the Heart Center nurse 3 times!!  On Friday and Saturday, I began feeling a mild tightness in my chest (on the left side).  This was unsettling.  I waited until Saturday night to call when I realized it just wasn’t going away.  The nurse said he didn’t want to alarm me but that I should keep my nitroglycerin pills close by and use them, if needed, if the pain got worse.  Luckily, it never got worse, so I didn’t use them; but it was scary.  I was on high alert all weekend.  The nurse also said I should call my cardiologist on Monday to let him know what was going on even though I already have an appointment scheduled for Wednesday.
On Sunday night, things got worse (but no pain).  I felt dizzy, lightheaded, and very weak late that evening.  I hadn’t felt great all day, and my face was extremely pale (maybe jaundiced).  I took my night meds around 10pm, and around 11pm I started to feel not well at all.  I felt like I might get arm pain or break out into a sweat, but I didn’t.  I just had a weird feeling when I was getting ready for bed. The dizziness, lightheadedness, and weakness are so severe so quickly that I decided I needed to call someone.  Although, most of it went away while lying in my bed.  I called my mom to see if she would come stay with me for the night in case something happened.  When she got to my house, she called the Heart Center nurse.  We all agreed that it could be the Crestor causing these reactions.  The nurse advised that I should not take the Crestor the next night but to still call her at the same time to let her know how I was feeling.  She also explained that the doctors PAY THEM to be on call throughout the night and on weekends, so to always call if I needed them…that’s what they’re there for.  That relaxed me knowing that I have this lifeline that is a phone call away.
The next day (Monday) was my 39th birthday.  This is the birthday I’ve been most thankful for yet I was unable to celebrate at all.  I felt nauseous the entire day and very weak.  I spent the day checking my Facebook messages on the couch.  Happy Birthday to me!  Later on that evening, I felt a little better.  I had read that Crestor has a half-life of 19 hours, so I’m sure that’s why I was feeling better as the night went on.  Today is Tuesday, and I feel SO MUCH better!  I have a little color back in my face and have no nausea.  Hooray!  I am bothered by the fact, though, that my brother saw me last night and said I was pale – like yellow-y skin – like jaundiced.  This is a side effect of Crestor, so I plan to share this with my doctor on Wednesday.

One fun new ritual I got to do this weekend was filling my pill container!  How fun this is!?  It is not as

easy as some may think.  I do need to organize all of my pill bottles and all the paperwork that comes with the medicines.

I plan on putting together a large binder that holds all of my paperwork, including the pill descriptions, so I can take this binder to all of my appointments.  Since I am daily tracking my hr, bp, and weight, I’m thinking a monthly calendar page may help so I can list all of this date as well as any side effects I’m experiencing.  This will be a super easy reference for the nurses and doctors, I think, if I can just show them this at each appointment.  Why don’t they still make Trapper Keepers?

I need to put together my list of questions for the cardiologist tomorrow.  Doctors’ appointments are now like Christmas to me!  I’ll post later about my appointment.  Wish me luck!

2 Weeks Post-MI.

MI stands for Myocardial Infarction (scientific name for Heart Attack), so you may hear medical staff refer to it as “MI”.  

I had my first appointment today with the Heart Clinic.  It wasn’t with any of the doctors who saved my life; this was with nurses from the Clinic to follow up and gather all of my information/medical history. This first appointment took a while, but they said it was because they needed to gather so much information at the initial appointment.  Everyone was extremely nice and only had great things to say about the cardiologists that worked on me in the hospital.  

I came in with a list of questions (as usual), but I hardly slept the night before because this appointment was like Christmas to me!  I couldn’t wait for this follow-up so I could ask questions that I hadn’t yet asked and talk about side effects, prognosis, etc.  They had a lot of questions for me, too.  First, they needed to get my medical history, then my family’s medical history (mainly my dad’s and my Uncle Edward’s).  Due to my strong family history of heart disease, the clinic will be watching me closely so I don’t have another MI.  My dad had a quadruple by-pass (it was an emergency open heart surgery when he went in for a routine appointment) when he was about 53.  He is still alive.  My Uncle (dad’s older brother by 2 years) had a quadruple by-pass (emergency open heart surgery when he was in surgery for stomach cancer).  He had also suffered a heart attack during the surgery for his stomach, which is how they caught his problem.  He was about 43.  He survived but went on to have another minor heart attack a few years later and then a massive heart attack, which killed him, when he was 60. I believe all of my dad’s siblings and both parents have had open heart surgery (multiple bypasses).  Only one Uncle is left (everyone else succumbed to ailments other than heart failure), and as a result of hearing of my “episode” and the symptoms I had leading up to it, decided to pay his doctor a visit the next week because he was having similar symptoms.  Turns out, he has a blockage (not an emergency) and will be getting another stent placed next week.  

I digress…so back to my Heart Clinic visit…

I mentioned to the nurses that I had what I thought were heart palpitations 2 days ago, along with a low blood pressure reading (80 something over 50 something).  They said that I should have contacted them right away so they could assess the problem.  I told them that I also have anxiety and wasn’t sure if it was actual palpitations or the fluttery anxious feeling I get when I’m stressed or nervous (nervous about my health!).  They said that palpitations could be brought on by low blood pressure and if it happens again to drink a lot of water (however, I cannot drink more than 2 liters of liquid in a 24 hour period) and to call them.  What I didn’t realize, and much to my RELIEF, is that the Clinic is 24 hours – rather, they have a night nurse.  So I can call at any time, day or night, and a nurse can assist me…unless I’m having a known emergency and then I should call 911.  They would rather treat me as an outpatient rather than put me in the hospital again.  I now need to program these #s into my phone.

They suggested that I could purchase a sphygmomanometer (fancy word for blood pressure cuff) online that could sync to my iPhone.  They also suggested that I get my current one calibrated (I’m using my dad’s) at the fire department as the readings seem to be low.  How exciting!

I also addressed the allergic reaction to my statin.  Last week, I broke out with a rash all over my torso.  I’ve never had a rash before.  I was told to stop taking my statin and to take Benadryl until my appointment today.  The rash has cleared up.  Although the nurses today didn’t really think the statin caused me to break out, they have changed my medicine to Crestor* (from Atorvastatin).  

During the appointment, the nurses were looking through my hospital records and discussed my ultrasound results with me.  The ejection fraction of my heart the night of my heart attack was about 15-20%…it should be at least 50%.  However, they were missing the results of the 2nd ultrasound that I had 3 days later.  Those results showed the ejection fraction to be about 45%, which shows my heart is healing and getting stronger; but it is still not strong enough.  The nurse had to call my Cardiologist to get this info, and my Cardiologist asked to say hello to me on the phone!  So the nurse handed her cell phone to me so I could speak with my Cardiologist!  What great and personalized service!  He did remind me that he saved my life and had it not been for him, I would not be alive.  I am forever grateful!!  He said he would like to see me next week in his office and he’d like for me to have a follow up with the nurses in 3 weeks.  This is great!  I want to see my doctors as much as possible so we can learn from each other, and so they can take every step to get me healthy again and track my heart’s progress.  

I asked about exercise to see what I can and can’t do and what I am capable of doing safely.  They recommended that I walk for 30 mins everyday.  Of course, I can build up to that with 10 mins a day to start.  They would like to see me gain my independence back.  And on that note, I moved back to my home today (was staying with my parents after the hospital).  

The nurses did give me homework until the next appointment; and although I’m not in school, I welcomed this homework with open arms!  I need to track my blood pressure, heart rate, and weight every single day.  This will help them gauge how well my meds are working and how my heart is responding to them.  They will also have a dietitian and a pharmacist meet with me on my next appointment so all of my diet and drug interaction questions can be answered.  For example, the doctor said I cannot eat dairy or fried foods anymore – does that mean forever??  It is so hard being a pescetarian vegan.  I want cheese SO BAD!  But let me take this moment to remind myself that CHEESE may be the reason that I had the heart attack!!

All in all, the visit to the Heart Clinic was great.  I look forward to my next appointment.  

*Crestor – the new statin they’ve prescribed me – is a brand name drug and was going to cost $48 with my insurance!  I paid $66 for all of my cardiac meds combined when I left the hospital!  Thankfully, I searched online and found a coupon from Crestor’s website for a free 30 day trial.  I took this to the pharmacy.  They were not able to process that 30 day free trial (for whatever reason), but they found another coupon for Crestor that brought my co-pay down to $18!  I would hate if I paid $48 for this and find out I am allergic to it, too.  It pays to do a little research, and it’s great to have a pharmacy that is patient with me.  🙂

I went to the fire department tonight hoping to meet a hot firefighter who could calibrate my blood pressure cuff.  Disappointment!!!  I was told that fire stations do not calibrate blood pressure cuffs!!  However, they were super nice and researched it online and called the cuff company to find out how to get it calibrated.  Turns out, it is cheaper for me to just buy a new one.  I will look into the ones that sync up to iPhone.  I wonder if my insurance will pay for it…


I apologize for not making this all so much more inviting and interesting with photos and such, but I just got a new iPhone today, so I will be sure to experiment with the camera function.