Godspeed Sweet Sadie

I was going to publish my blog on why I love the article The Science of Simplicity: Why Successful People Wear The Same Thing Every Day and how it relates to heart disease and clean eating this week but it will have to wait. I’ve been sitting on this blog for a week not entirely sure how to write it.  You see, last week we lost one of our heart sisters.  Sweet Sadie passed away after too much rejection and failure of her donor heart.  Thirty one years old with two very young boys.

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I first met Sadie through the American Heart Association in Kansas City.  We volunteered and advocated together.  I really got to spend time with her in May of 2015 at the Kansas City Heart Walk.  Back then, she was hauling around an LVAD that was keeping her alive until they could find a donor heart.  She certainly didn’t let it slow her down and we had  a great day.  What she was going through was sudden onset and I do believe she was happy to be with women who all had heart disease.  Her smile was gorgeous and contagious and so full of life.

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#LifeIsWhy

 

 

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Sadie with Dontari Poe of the Kansas City Chiefs

As May turned into June in 2015, my daughters and I flew to New York City.  I can remember being in the NBC building when the news came that they had found Sadie a heart.  I remember being so happy and elated for her and yet incredibly sad.  What an odd conundrum to hope that someone gets a new heart for it means that someone else has to die.

Sadie continued to volunteer and became one of our heart sisters, one of the survivors; survivors of heart failure, stroke, heart attack and congenital heart disease. My heart sisters are an amazing group of women that I became a part of after my widow maker heart attack at 42 (although recently a cardiologist told me by the looks of all of my records I actually suffered SCAD).  I really think her favorite event was Girls Night Out at the K.  The Kansas City Royals sponsor a great fundraising event every year.  She loved going out on the field with the survivors and running in the ketchup, mustard and relish race with our heart sister Debbie.  She’d just gotten her new heart and there she is dragging that hot dog costume around on the field.  I personally missed that one but the story is Epic among the heart sisters!

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Sadie at her first GNO on the right as ketchup

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Sadie at the 2017 GNO with her mom and boys

She was striving to be well enough to go to GNO at the K this coming Friday.  Instead, two days ago we gathered to say goodbye. I gathered with the other amazing survivors that have supported me and inspired me on my journey.  It was a beautiful service and the church was packed and we laughed, cried and spent the day reminiscing.

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As we gathered to spend the day and say goodbye, the underlying feeling of mortality was palpable between all of us.  We have all survived events that are the number one killer of women.

The harsh reality is that the number one predictor of having a cardiac event is already having had one so we are all at super high risk. Heart disease is a chronic and progressive diagnosis and as much as we try to get back to normal life, that notion is always in the back of our heads.  Most of us have done an excellent job of recovering and returning not to our old normal but to a new normal.  I have spent significant time trying to make sure heart disease does not define me.  On a day like Sadie’s funeral, I wonder if that has been the right path.

Maybe that path has led me to not make it a priority just one month short of 7 years post STEMI.  The newness has worn off and I survived it.  Losing my heart sister and knowing that this my fate too at some point is sobering.  I get farther away and less compliant and my  pre-event lifestyle starts to creep back in.  I’m sure there is a happy medium somewhere between hypervigilance and totally ignoring the fact that I am a survivor of a heart attack. I am trying to find that right now.  Moving my way back to plant-based and getting up off the couch is a good start.  It is a struggle to find the happy medium.  In the meantime,  I am going to move back to the camp of being proud that heart disease defines me.  It is the better option.

As I am traveling this road back to skinny bitch, I need something from all of you.  In honor of Sadie I need you to become and organ donor if you are not already.  You can register here and make sure it is on your drivers license.  Also make sure your family knows your wishes.  Even though it may not sound like a long time to you, those three years that Sadie got with her family were precious minutes to them.  You can’t take them with you when you leave but there are countless people who need organs to save their lives and experience priceless extra time with those that love them.

Godspeed sweet Sadie,  Cheers to you.

Until next time — Jodi

 

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My Domestically Challenged Life

I’m still not completely plant based — some days I struggle.  Like yesterday I ate a frozen pizza because this last weekend I food prepped and it turns out everything I made sucked.  The bean soup is bland and so is the marinara sauce.  Sometimes things go like that for me. If you have followed me for long you know I might be a wee bit domestically challenged.  I do things like burn plastic  to the top of the stove.  When I was on blood thinners I would cut myself and my kitchen looked like a crime scene.  Are you getting the picture?

I am busy with a full time corporate job, I am domestically challenged and I know plant based works for me.  The only way for me to make it work is to food prep.  This is like an out of body experience for someone who uses her smoke detector as an oven timer.  You think I kid?  My good friends tag me in this meme on Facebook every time it makes the rounds. They see it and automatically think of me. Seriously…..

It has been a challenge in patience.  I never know if a recipe really sucks. Does it really suck or did I screw up the spice math in my head when I was tripling the recipe ? I should never do math in my head so I am not sure why I feel emboldened to do it with something like cayenne pepper or turmeric.  Last week I worked from home a day because I was sick and I was making white bean chili.  I accidentally put in 2 tbs of cayenne pepper when it was supposed to be cumin. Imagine my surprise when I tasted that disaster!  Friends, that kind of hot will cure what ails you!

Why do I share? I share because it is ok to fail.  I think sometimes we feel all this pressure to live a perfect social media life.  I look at all these cooking sites and it is so perfectly presented and the authors are probably fabulous cooks.  If you are a super busy, domestically challenged person as I am, the reality is that maybe your dish doesn’t look like theirs after you make it.  Maybe it doesn’t taste like the picture makes it seem like it should taste.  And listen, it doesn’t matter if you are busy because you are a stay at home mom of a two year old and six week old and haven’t been in the shower for two days or if you are busy because you are the CEO of a multi million dollar company.  Busy is busy and this is a judgement free zone.  I am slowly getting a library of recipes together that are easy for my friends like me.  They have passed my give myself a high five because that actually doesn’t suck test.  Some days I do manage to impress myself!

I do truly believe that you can follow any nutrition plan you want.  Find one that works for you.  It doesn’t have to be plant based.  The secret to success is food prep and meal planning.  It works every time.

That is it for today. Next time I’m going to tell you why I love this article and how  relates to getting healthy!

Until next time, cheers!  Jodi

The Whole Food Plant Based Journey

Untitled design (4)It has been a long, long time since I blogged. Somehow I thought I didn’t need to. I’ve realized I need to.  Blogging keeps me accountable.  I’m not entirely sure who I need to be accountable to other than myself so maybe if nothing else it keeps me accountable to myself.

I started this blog back after my heart attack in 2011.  I needed to keep people up to date on how I was doing and I needed to work through the PTSD that comes with such a life changing event.  It really worked for me for a while. I was on the right track and writing about it was key.

I tired of writing and as I stopped, I stopped being accountable to myself.  I have gained 100 pounds as I stopped being accountable.  Over the last five years, 100 lbs.  It is 20 lbs a year.  I stopped eating plant based and plunged back into my sugar addiction.  Later on we can get into what the health ramifications are but for now let’s just say that sugar  is just as addictive as cocaine.

I always wondered how people let themselves get as heavy as I am right now.  I used to think I would never let myself get that heavy.  You know the saying about karma, right?  Yeah, she’s a bitch.

So now I am back on my journey to being whole food plant based. It works for me and it is good for my cardiac health. In fact, it is the only thing that does work for me.  I am an all or nothing person.

So here we go again.  Back to plant based and back to heart health and advocacy.  I invite you to follow along on my domestically challenged kitchen adventures as I settle back in!

Until next time, cheers!  Jodi

 

A Little Christmas Cardiac Reality Check

 

Having passed the 5 year anniversary of my heart attack on October 13 and having turned 48 in November, I was celebrating the fading of the presence of heart disease in my life. Want to know what I got for Christmas this year?  I got a little reality check that I do indeed have heart disease.

Three nights ago I was minding my own business, having settled into bed for the evening when shortly after midnight I was awakened by violent vomiting.  Sweet–I had the really and I mean really nasty gastrointestinal flu that is going around here, or did I? About 3 am after 3 hours of the stomach flu, I started to feel my heart rate racing.  Between bouts of vomiting I hurried and got my blood pressure cuff.  I took my blood pressure and although it was okay–110/75 , my heart rate was a little concerning at a resting 95.  I figured it was just because I was sick and went back to having every bit of liquid exit my body.  At about 5 am, my heart was racing so fast that I was dizzy and couldn’t catch my breath.  Another blood pressure check revealed that my blood pressure was still okay but the lowest heart rate I could get was a resting 130.  At that point the blood pressure cuff makes all kinds of noises and flashes indicating I should probably get my ass to the hospital.

All I can think of is all the stories of nausea and vomiting being an indication of a heart attack and I am trying to determine through my dizziness and shortness of breath if I am having cardiac symptoms caused by the stomach flu or if I am having a heart attack with nausea and vomiting as the symptom.  It is the first time in almost five years that I had felt like I was actually having a second heart attack in my 40’s.  I could hear my early rising husband milling around downstairs so I called him on his cell phone because I was too dizzy just to go downstairs. He didn’t answer but instead yelled up the stairs at me.  I said I have to go to the hospital. He was trying to find my shoes for me and I was just yelling that we have to go right now or call an ambulance. I headed out the door in the cold with no shoes on. I’d rather freeze my feet off than die.

My husband was running stop signs and passing people to get us to the ER and even as I was struggling to breathe, I still managed to tell him how to drive! In my mind I was thinking of my dear friend and heart sister Julie who had just been in an American Heart Association Blog about holiday heart attacks. How did I not see this coming?

We arrived at the ER and somehow mentioning that I am a STEMI survivor, I have 5 stents in my LAD and I can’t breathe got me right in.  It turns out that I was severely dehydrated and that caused the spike in my heart rate which was actually over 140 when I was standing. The 130 was when I was laying down.  After about 6 hours of laying in the ER and my heart rate still being 115, they decided better safe than sorry and admitted me.

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They gave me a total of 5 bags of fluid by yesterday morning. The very nice hospitalist decided that my heart rate had come down enough that I could go home when she came by to see me.

When I got home, it was clear to me that they weren’t 100% convinced it wasn’t a heart attack either.  They handed me about 5 pages of lab tests and results to give to my primary care physician. Right there in the middle were multiple tests run for my cardiac enzymes which measure for myocardial injury. It was a better safe than sorry thing because they were normal but it was nice to see in print that I truly didn’t have a heart attack. Still today I am a little queasy and I probably overdid it a bit today (I’m heading to bed as soon as I publish this) but I’m glad I went to the hospital. Nothing like a scare to bring heart disease back to the forefront of my life!

I always tell people to get to the hospital if they are having cardiac symptoms. I have been twice to the ER for this–once I was having a heart attack and once I wasn’t.  I don’t feel bad about this time when I wasn’t.  It turned out either way that the hospital was really where I needed to be. For those of you that are people who “just don’t go to the doctor”, let me tell you that there are no trophies for the number of times you should have gone to the doctor and didn’t. In fact, it can cost you your life and the only trophies for that are a coffin and broken-hearted friends and family. The number one thing I hear from people and more often from women is, “I would be embarrassed if it was nothing.”  Well, better embarrassed than dead!

Take care of yourselves this holiday season and pay attention to your health!  Here’s to a happy and cardiac event free 2017–cheers!

 

 

 

Five Years Post STEMI

In 11 days on October 13, 2016, I will  mark the five-year anniversary of my STEMI.  Five years since my reality of healthy privilege was shattered.  Honestly, as I was laying in the hospital five years ago, my world as I knew it imploded and I didn’t think I’d actually live another five years.  At the time, the diagnosis of STEMI and heart disease felt like a death sentence.  I was only 42, how was this all possible?

The mistake I made at the time was trying to look five years out and not looking at today for today.  It was the way I was used to living–always living in the future and not stopping for today.  As I started to live one day at a time, heart disease became manageable.  I did the things I needed to do to make sure I lived one more day each day.

As I am farther and farther away from the heart attack, it is less scary and I do less of the things that are good for me.  As a result, I weigh 30 pounds more than I did when I had my heart attack.  It is the last hurdle to really good health.  As the five-year anniversary has approached,  I have realized the importance of coming back into the mindset of doing the things I need to do day by day and not looking at it in a long-term light.  What do I need to do today?  When I do that, the results are immediate.  I am down 5 pounds in the last two weeks.  I have 68 more pounds to go which seems like a lot but not  a lot when you look at each day as its own.

This last year, as you can tell by my limited number of blog posts, I have come to a point in my life where STEMI does not define me.  Being a heart attack survivor defined me in the beginning and that was a good thing.  I took it and spoke publicly on women and heart disease and I shared my story.  I worked with the American Heart Association and Go Red for Women educating  women.  It is important work and I spent a lot of time doing it.  I developed some friendships I will always have with other survivors of heart disease and stroke.  I cherish those.  I honestly can’t imagine what my life would be like without them.

I have educated my friends and family and get Facebook messages often when someone is in the ER. They were having chest pain or jaw pain and thought of me so they sought medical attention.  I want my friends and family to always seek medical attention and I am happy that I am the reason.  Being open about my experience and reminding people at least once a week on Facebook is still important to me. They Go Red with me on National Wear Red Day every year and it is quickly coming up again!

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It is an important mission, it is just not quite as important that I am on the front line of the fight anymore.  I have made changes to my life such as stepping out of the corporate world.  I miss it though.  I find that the five-year anniversary makes me feel like I am going to live.  I find that it is time to re-asses some of the changes I have made and redirect again.  I feel hopeful and feel like although this is something that is still a part of my life, it isn’t going to get me any time soon!  With that feeling I can look forward to growing older and celebrating each birthday.  I never feel bad about getting older, I always feel happy to have the chance to have another birthday.  I get the chance to attend 30 year high school reunions for both Blue Valley and Shawnee Mission South next summer.  I look forward to those things and cherish them.

My friends, take care of yourselves.  Make sure you know the signs and symptoms of heart attack, heart failure and stroke. Go to the doctor and know your numbers–cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure.  Do this in celebration of the five-year anniversary of my STEMI and do this so that I get to cherish my friendship with you for a long time to come!

Cheers!

Julie’s Battle With Saying Heart Attack

I want to write tonight and tell you the story of my friendship with my heart sister Julie.

In the spring of 2013, I attended the Go Red For Women luncheon put on by the American Heart Association in Kansas City.  I was sitting at a table with new volunteers and I met Julie and her sister Jamie.  After the luncheon, Julie wanted to know more about my story so we talked for sometime and I told her to read my blog.  I asked her about her story and all she could say is she had an event.  Of course, I am thinking to myself what the hell is an event? Being me, I asked outright if she had a heart attack.  She hummed an hoed and said she had a stent.  Still not having an answer to the heart attack question I said heart attack or no?  She responded with a little heart attack.  She also went on to explain that her heart attack was in 2010 and she had never told anyone outside of her immediate family.  What?  This was so foreign to me.  We were so opposite.  Me? I was posting to Facebook from the CCU the day after my STEMI.  I couldn’t believe it and I guess I needed to know that other people couldn’t believe it either.

An odd pairing, Julie and I became fast friends.  We did the Color Run that year:

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We started being concert buddies and our first together was Styx and Foreigner at my favorite venue, Starlight:

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We have done heart walks:

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After this heart walk in 2014, I put together a video and I had to tag her as Heart Disease Survivor instead of Heart Attack Survivor.  She still hadn’t told anyone!  I didn’t say anything though, it wasn’t my place.  I felt like she could do so much education if she would say heart attack in public.  It wasn’t my decision though.

Then, all of a sudden the next fall, she was ready and in American Heart month 2015 she did live local TV!  I cried when I watched her.  The only other person that truly understood how far she had come was probably her sister.  I went to Heart and Stroke Ball with the new-found heart attack survivor and then the 2015 Go Red For Women Luncheon:

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Then, this last fall, she was named a National Spokeswoman for the American Heart Association!  I was so proud of my friend!  I knew if she would just say the words she would have so much to offer and could change the face of heart disease education.  I was right!

AHA-458-Julie Her AHA story here.

Tonight, another moment that made me so proud of my friend.  She sent me a text this afternoon to tell me she would be on the NBC Nightly News (click for video.).
Oh my gosh!  My friend that couldn’t say heart attack in April of 2013 was telling her story to the whole nation tonight!  My heart bursts with happiness for her!

Julie and I were an unlikely pair in the beginning but we were more alike than we knew.  I am forever thankful for my heart attack because it has brought me to women like Julie!  Our friendship continues and we bond over other things like our love of 80’s music–in just a few short weeks we kick off the summer concert season at Starlight with Boston and Paul Simon in the same week!  I know we will have a lifetime friendship and I look forward to it!

As stated on the NBC Nightly News story tonight, silent heart attacks are becoming not so out of the norm and they are deadly!  Heart attack and stroke do not discriminate– please learn the symptoms and never, ever ignore them!

May is American Stroke month.

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In an it’s a really small world news story this week, a post from Strike Out Stroke popped up in my Facebook news feed that proves that heart attacks and stroke do not discriminate.  One of the doctors that worked with a practice I billed for in my former corporate life (My Decision to Leave) had a stroke.  I tell you this because I preach it.  Heart disease and stroke DO NOT discriminate.  It affects nurses who are primary stroke coordinators (See Teri’s Story-Stroke in Her 40’s) and it happens to doctors who are usually the caregivers and not the sick ones in our minds. (See Survivor to throw out first pitch for Strike Out Stroke night at Reds game.) If it can happen to nurses and doctors in their 40’s, it can happen to any of you! As American Stroke Month winds down, know the signs and symptoms and know how to act F.A.S.T.

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