Posts Tagged ‘sick’


November 3, 2010

Doctor: “What’s wrong with you?”  Patient: “Flu.”  Doctor: “Looks like you crashed!” – Old Joke

Ready for Cold and Flu Season?

Colds and Flu can be rough on someone living with a Congenital Heart Defect. We tend to heal slower than others, and with our less than perfect Circulatory Systems, chest colds can be a nightmare. Whenever I catch a cold, it’s usually going to hit me harder than the next guy. The same cold that will keep him in the bed for a day could keep me in the bed for several days. That is, if I can lie down. It is liable to clog me up to the point that when I lie down, I feel as if I am drowning. Often I wind up sleeping upright in the big recliner in the living room, tucked under a blanket.

Heart parents today have a yearly debate, trying to decide how to care for their child during the winter months. Some parents just bundle them up tighter than usual, others decide that the best thing to do is to go into lockdown, rarely coming out during the winter months. My parents were of the “bundle him up” group. Not because of any instructions from my Cardiologists, but rather the lack of instructions. I was born in 1966 and most of my childhood that I can remember occurred during the 1970’s. The ’70’s were “back then” as far as Congenital Cardiology was concerned – no Pediatric Cardiologist had a good answer for most of my parent’s questions because there weren’t that many Cardiac Kids around. The usual answer was “I don’t know!” or something close to it.

I had a Cardiologist who wasn’t much on the bedside manner – a visit to his office was almost like playing hockey and continually being slammed into the walls – but he was pretty smart. He told my parents that “If you want him to be a normal child, you have to treat him as close to normal as possible.” So my folks just let me go – with limits. During winter I had on so many clothes I felt like a turtle; if I fell over there was no way I could get up. I’d just lie there and roll around on the ground. If someone at church was sick I had better not sit near them, or move as soon as I realized that they were ill. I missed a few services over the years when several people had colds, and even missed a few days of school for the same reason (which highly irritated one teacher!) But I muddled through. I caught the occasional cold and suffered through it, but that is a normal part of childhood.

I can’t say this is what you should do, only your Cardiologist can advise you on what to do during Cold and Flu Season. And be sure to ask your Cardiologist – your Primary Care doctor will have good advice, but you have a heart defect. Ask the doctor who specializes in hearts, he or she will have a better answer.

Most of the time – not always – the Flu Vaccine will be recommended for us. If you are in doubt, again – ask your Cardiologist. As a general rule we’re told to get “dead virus” vaccinations. At the current time vaccinations in the United States can be either “dead virus” or “live virus”. Live virus vaccinations have actual, living virus cells in them – they are weakened, but they are living. With a dead virus vaccination the virus has been deactivated. Even deactivated, the body still realizes that a case of the Flu is present and starts building antibodies to stop it. As far as I know, only the FluMist vaccination is a live virus formula.  Be certain to inform the person giving the vaccine that you have a chronic health condition and need the dead virus formula.

While you should always be cautious, you should never be scared to live your life!

Once a Heart Mom…

April 8, 2010

Once a Heart Mom, always a Heart Mom.

Even after your Cardiac Kid survives that first surgery (or surgeries), stabilizes, and seems to be doing well, the Heart Mom gene never turns off. It goes into “Standby Mode” – not completely deactivated, but just below the surface. Your senses will always be heightened, always aware of any change in your child’s condition.

The doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital had told my parents that if I had any more problems caused by my heart, they would most likely happen in about ten years. Their prediction was almost perfect – I stated having trouble 10 years and one week after my first surgery.

I was 11 years old and in the 5th grade at school, on a cold February day. I was sitting with my back to the wall of the school (I had learned that the wall faced the sun so no matter the temperature, it would be warm!) drawing with my best friend. Neither one of us could draw a straight line – I still can’t – but we were certainly trying!

My stomach had been doing flip-flops all morning. I didn’t feel bad, other than my stomach. But something was really giving it a fit – finally it came to the point that I turned my head, leaned over and puked.

It was all blood.

My friend said that I might need to go to the office (Yeah! I think so, too!) so I did. They called the local Rescue Squad, then called my mom.

The volunteer Rescue Squad building was only 2 miles away, but the members were spread out all over my hometown. They were pretty quick; just a year or two earlier they had won an award for being the best small Rescue Squad unit in the state, but they were still all volunteer. Once you dialed the emergency number – and this was 1977, before 9-1-1 was in use – whomever was on duty had to take the information and then press the big red button on the radio. That caused all the beepers carried by Rescue Squad members to go off. They would then leave their jobs and hurry to the Rescue Squad building, get the ambulance, and speed off. It was usually ten to fifteen minutes from the time you placed the call until you first heard the ambulance siren.

My mom got the call at work, twenty-five miles away. Suddenly her Heart Mom gene flipped to ON and she barely remembers what happened next.

What happened was she ran to the car – an older AMC Ambassador – and put her foot on the floor. Pedal to the metal with the engine screaming, the best cars and drivers that NASCAR has to offer could not have beat momma that day. She drove that AMC Ambassador twenty five miles in a little more than twenty minutes, arriving just behind the ambulance. The ambulance parked in the parking spot nearest the door, but momma skidded to a stop with two wheels on the sidewalk!

Daddy hadn’t arrived yet when I left in the ambulance, but momma was going with me and there was no question about it. She jumped into the ambulance as  they loaded me in, and soon we were moving. The last view I had before they shut the doors was of our car, still sitting there with two wheels on the sidewalk.

How are they going to load the buses? When you are 11 years old these questions are important.

That ambulance ride ended at our community hospital, but my journey would continue to a larger hospital and from there to the University of Alabama at Birmingham for my second heart operation. Mom and Dad were there every step of the way. I’m doing well now, and Momma’s Heart Mom instincts usually don’t come into play. I can still set them off – just let me forget to set my alarm clock and not get up at my usual time!

Once you are a Heart Mom, you’ll always be a Heart Mom. No matter how old your Cardiac Kid (or Heart Warrior) is!

It ain’t over just yet!

March 25, 2010

Guess who’s back in town?

Guess who never really left?

H1N1 is on the upswing again in the state of Georgia, reaching their highest level since September 2009. The good news (if there is any good news to be found in H1N1) is that while hospitalizations are up, there has only been one H1N1 related death in the past week. This follows reports of regional and localized H1N1 activity in eleven States and Puerto Rico.

What do you do with a sick kid?

March 8, 2010

Zeb Update: There has been a jailbreak! It is my understanding that Zeb was last seen running down the hall clutching his discharge papers, with half a dozen doctors and nurses (and a few billing clerks!) in hot pursuit!

Actually Zeb was released late in the day, and since he lives about four hours from the hospital, he and his parents are staying in a local hotel overnight. They will head for home in the morning.

And now onto tonight’s post:

I had just shook my pastor’s hand yesterday morning when someone asked him where his wife was.

“She’s at home,” he said. “The kids have a bug.”

Bug? I thought. Ut-oh!

As I read the web pages of other families fighting heart defects, I can’t help but notice their strategies for avoiding illness: A good number of families almost went on full lockdown this winter. Perhaps that tactic has been in reaction to the H1N1 Flu that has been prevalent this year, or perhaps it is a yearly strategy.

One thing a Cardiac Kid doesn’t need is a cold or the flu, but I didn’t take any unusual precautions when I was growing up. Of course I followed my parents rules about not hanging around with people who were obviously ill, and I remember missing the occasional church service or high school basketball game because there was something going around.

I’m not saying that I’m right and everyone else is wrong – Knowledge about Heart Defects has really grown since I was a child; back then most of our questions was answered with the phrase “I don’t know.” And since no one knew, it seemed that the best thing to do was to carry on as usual – until something changed. (We did take my doctor’s advice, after my second operation in 1977 I didn’t leave the house for at least a month. And I am told that after my 1967 operation it was quite a while before my parents took me to church – and as soon as the Pastor said the final “Amen!” Momma picked me up and sprinted for the car!)

We weren’t following the rulebook because there really wasn’t a rulebook to follow. One of the funnier moments occurred when my dad asked a cardiologist what over the counter cold remedies I could take that would not affect my medication. “Kleenex,” the doctor replied.)

I’ve been lucky, I somehow manage to avoid most winter illnesses, or else have a “mild” case of it. I may have a mild case but it really does a number on my system if I catch it! The best thing to do then is just STOP – it’s going to run its course, so I try not to get in the way. I get my doctor approved Kleenex, settle down on the couch, and start looking for good movies on the TV.

Am I healthier today because I was out and about and have developed a little immunity to the various coughs and colds that go around? Or is keeping your Cardiac Kid on a tight rein during the winter the right idea? I don’t know, and I don’t think we’ll ever know. This is probably a time when the best thing to do is to trust your doctor and your parental instincts.

Swine Flu Update: June 24

June 24, 2009

The current Swine Flu – A/H1N1 – situation can be summarized in two words:

We’re rollin’!

To say that it is all over the place is putting it mildly. Right here at home, The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) has decided to shut down its summer camps for the season, and 25% of the Swine Flu deaths have occurred in New York State. Trinidad and Tobago have given cruise ship vacationers check-ups at the dock (and found several cases of H1N1) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled all of his meetings one day. Even the Saudi Arabians are worried, they fear that the flu will visit Mecca along with one of the faithful.

Remember when I told you that the flu would go dormant in the Northern Hemisphere as Summer began but intensify in the Southern Hemisphere? That turned out to only be partially true – it is going pretty strong in the Southern Hemisphere but it is also active in the Northern Hemisphere, well into summer. Canada’s Aboriginal populations, known as the First Nations, is taking a hard hit from the Swine Flu. Revere over at the blog Effect Measure has been studying a chart from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that shows there have been two flu seasons this year:  The “normal” flu strains have almost all gone away, the only thing left is H1N1.

On the good side, we’ve been able to learn a few things from our first encounter with this beast. We also have a new flu tracking resource from NewsNow. This one is good, it monitors web based news sites for any reference to Swine Flu and updates every five minutes. And since it is based in the United Kingdom, NewsNow monitors sources that Americans may not be aware of. But it can generate a lot of information, so don’t let it scare you.

Getting that flu shot (if it is recommended for you) this fall will be imperative.


February 24, 2009

I’m back, but still not fully participating yet. It’s one of those inconveniences of a Heart Defect, recovery time is always a bit longer. A cold, flu, or even mild food poisoning really throws you for a loop… and that is if you are healthy!

There are a lot of “ifs” and “buts” involved, too. For example, I’m on a diet designed to combat Congestive Heart Failure (CHF); one of the unbreakable guidelines is not to drink more than 2000 milliliters of liquid. BUT… I shouldn’t get dehydrated. So I am allowed to break that rule, gently. Drink as much as I need, but monitor myself for swelling. If I’m getting puffy, back off a bit.

Never, ever drink Gatorade or any other sports drink, because you don’t need all the salt and potassium they deliver. It’ll throw your system out of whack. BUT now that you are losing so much because of diarrhea, Gatorade is not only OK but is recommended. If you lose too many electrolytes without replacing them, you could start having skipped beats. I was asked which flavor of Gatorade I wanted and I didn’t even know that it was available in different flavors! The last time I drank Gatorade, all they had was the light green formula. And again, monitor your intake, because too much isn’t good for you.

I do have a good way to monitor my fluid/sodium intake, and I discovered it quite by accident. All I do is slide my MedicAlert bracelet until it is over the bone located behind my thumb, then turn it in a complete circle. If it moves easily, everything is cool. If not, I need to rein myself in. This works best when you don’t take the bracelet off – which I don’t do. I was in the ER once and the nurses insisted; it would interfere with an IV they planned to start. It took forever to get used to the new “setting” once I was able to put it back on!

Life gets complicated for someone with a Congenital Heart Defect at times, and it is the simplest things that make it complicated. But you can’t let it get to you. If you let every little thing ruin your plans, you’ll sit at home all day and the world will go on without you… and you’ll miss all the fun!