Heart Health

In nursing school, they teach you everything about the body. They start system by system and then put it into context with how illness and disease present in our patients. No organ interested me more than the heart. The brain, the kidneys, the intestines - I knew what I should but it never really clicked the way the cardiovascular system did. The heart just made sense. Maybe it started when I was a child and I used to lay my head on my Dad's chest and listen to his heart beat. A steady, constant lub-dub sound is so soothing. I still think there is no more beautiful sound than a heartbeat. Or maybe my fascination with the heart started with my grandfather who died of a massive heart attack before I graduated from high school. He was in his early sixties and other than being diabetic he had no warning signs.  He was a dedicated police officer and died while standing in a court room. After nursing school, I went to work in a cardiovascular ICU. It was a post-surgical unit where I cared for patients that not only had typical heart surgery but, had heart transplants and lung transplants performed as well.

My favorite part of my day was letting a family member, usually a spouse or a child, listen to the sound of their loved ones heart beat after they woke up from surgery. Believe it or not, most spouses know what their partner's heart beat sounds like and the look on their face when they realize the sound has improved is priceless. It would bring me to tears sometimes. To the right is a picture of me in a room in my old ICU. A patient's son took it of me because they were amazed at the number of machines their father was on. He was very sick during his first days after surgery and had one machine for his lungs, one for his kidneys, and two for his heart - one for the left side and one for the right side.

So, when my husband and I moved to Alaska and I found a job in another department other than cardiology, it was only natural for me to gravitate back toward my first love. The Go Red for Women campaign from the American Heart Association prides itself on celebrating "the energy, passion and power we have as women to band together to wipe out heart disease and stroke." As a nurse, I know the dangerous effects of heart disease and stroke. I have witnessed first hand what people have to go through when they are effected with cardiovascular. As the #1 killer of women, heart disease takes the lives of 500,000 women a year. In fact, 1 in 30 women will die of cancer but 1 in 3 will die of heart disease. Many women do not have typical signs of heart disease so it is important to know your risks and understand signs and symptoms. I have also had two grandmother's who have had heart surgeries and if it wasn't for the fact that my aunt is a nurse, one of my grandmother's would have never made it to the hospital. My aunt knew the warning signs for women were different and she recognized them right away. She saved her life. That is the premise of the Go Red for Women movement. Women helping other women and increasing awareness of heart disease. 

So, it has been my pleasure to volunteer with this organization. This year, I had the pleasure of helping set up and host the Go Red for Women luncheon at the downtown Marriott. Our special guest this year was Star Jones, a heart health advocate who shared her story of her struggle and recovery from heart disease. During the luncheon I was presented with a Red Dress Award for my contributions to the Anchorage Heart Association. I am also excited to be on their Executive Leadership Team (ELT) for the Heart Walk in September (2012). For more information on this amazing campaign and your risk factors for heart disease please visit the Go Red For Women website.