The Editor’s Desk: Taking it to heart

It might be tempting to ignore worrisome health symptoms. The editor is glad she didn’t.

I don’t quite know what was scarier, while writing this week’s article about the telehealth home monitoring program for people diagnosed with heart failure: admitting I’m 54 years old, or admitting I’ve been diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

Yes, I am the Ashcroft resident who has been enrolled in the program since April, as a result of my diagnosis earlier this year. I didn’t know that that was what I had; I only knew, starting around Christmas 2017, that my feet were somewhat swollen. It didn’t become worrisome until mid-January, when I thought “There’s something really wrong here; my feet shouldn’t look like that.”

I went to see my GP at the Ashcroft clinic, setting off a several-weeks-long process whereby an impressively large number of people, utilizing an impressive range of modern tools, set out to discover what was wrong with me. That was, by far, the most difficult time. My body—not the greatest body in the world, but nevertheless a reliable engine for the better part of 54 years—was doing strange and frightening things that I didn’t understand, and no one could put their finger on what or why. That was: well, terrifying, to be quite honest. Not knowing what’s going on with your body, but suspecting it’s not good, isn’t conducive to a good night’s sleep.

I had retained so much water I looked several months pregnant, and just climbing the 14 steps from our front door to the kitchen left me gasping for breath. As someone who once completed 10k races and a half-marathon and lived to tell the tale, this was scary indeed. My legs looked and felt like sausages, and bending down was little short of agony. It was an act of will to get out of bed every morning.

When the diagnosis came, it was at once a blow and a relief. A blow, because hearing the words “congestive heart failure” in relation to one’s self is not what anyone wants to hear, but also a relief, because at least I had an answer. This was what was wrong with me; and, more importantly, there were things that could help.

Medication was a big first step, to help regulate the situation. The telehealth home monitoring program was another, so that I could keep a daily log of how things were going, and also know what to do to manage my health (goodbye, soy sauce; I love you, but low sodium is now the order of the day). Zoe and her colleagues have been great in answering my questions and encouraging me. I shed 40 pounds of water weight, my high blood pressure plummeted, and my health has improved dramatically: while I’m not ready to run 10 kilometres, I don’t get winded walking anywhere.

Studies show that those diagnosed with congestive heart failure have a 50 per cent chance, if their symptoms are not managed, of dying within five years of being diagnosed. Zoe told me that if I keep everything managed, I could have another 40 years. That I now have this possibility is thanks to the GPs at the Ashcroft medical clinic, specialists at Royal Inland Hospital, and modern medicine and technology.

The moral of this story? Listen to your body, and if you think something is wrong, get it checked out. You’ll be glad you did.

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