Jaguars’ Josh Lambo to Wear Cleats for Heart Defects!

My Cause My Cleats 2018

 

 

NFL / #MyCauseMyCleats

Jaguars’ Josh Lambo to Wear Cleats for Heart Defects!

Jacksonville Jaguars Kicker and Pro Bowl contender, Josh Lambo, brings much needed attention to congenital heart disease with his My Cause My Cleats charity selection for 2018. This NFL tradition will place CHD in the national spotlight, this football season. Josh will wear his cleats, recognizing PCHA during games 13,14, and 15! By highlighting CHD, Josh and the Jaguars pay tribute to patients and families affected by the most common birth defect. 

My niece was born with a hole in her heart and is regularly challenged by her condition. The Pediatric Congenital Heart Association’s goal is to conquer heart disease and I strive to bring awareness to their mission in hopes that they can help my family and others overcome hardships in their health.

Click on the Instagram post below to see Josh’s video announcement where he shares about his niece Leah, who was born with a hole in her heart. “She had to have open heart surgery when she was three months old.”  He notes that it was a difficult time for his family, “it’s a stressful time in any one’s life.”   Josh shows his incredible compassion and his reason for supporting PCHA: “For any other families that have to go through that, I want to make sure that they are well taken care of.”  We are thrilled to hear that Leah is doing well now, loving life and doing great!!!

We thank the NFL, The Jacksonville Jaguars, and, especially, Josh Lambo for bringing awareness to congenital heart disease through their support of the Pediatric Congenital Heart Association. 

More coverage:
Jacksonville Jaguar News Release 
Bleacher Report Coverage

About Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) – CHD consists of problems with the heart’s structure or the way it works that are present at birth, including related lifelong consequences. CHD is the most common birth defect, affecting 1 in 100 babies born each year.  CHD is a lifelong disease requiring ongoing specialized care, there is no cure. There is an estimated 2.4 million people living with CHD. Twenty five percent of children born with CHD need heart surgery or other interventions to survive, yet as patients grow up, fewer than 10% of adults are receiving recommended care. Congenital Heart Disease is the #1 cause of birth defect related deaths,

About the Pediatric Congenital Heart Association –  The Pediatric Congenital Heart Association’s mission is to “Conquer Congenital Heart Disease.” We are accomplishing this through collaboration with patients, parents, providers, and partner organizations to improve quality and outcomes through CHD education, support, research and awareness. Visit our website at www.conqueringchd.org

For additional information, please contact our Director of Programs, Amy Basken, at abasken@conqueringchd.org.

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Congenital Heart Futures Act of 2017 (S.477/H.R.1222)


Revised Bill Language:
H.R.1222 – Congenital Heart Futures Reauthorization Act of 2017, Engrossed Amendment Senate (12/12/2018)

 

UPDATE, December 21, 2018: The Congenital Heart Futures Reauthorization Act was signed into law. 

We can all celebrate that a federal law was passed that will help shape the future for the CHD Community, across the lifespan, through robust funding of research and data collection.

Once, again, we’d like to thank all of our advocates who came to Washington, sent emails, made phone calls, engaged through social media. Your efforts made this possible.

And thank you to Senator Dick DurbinSenator Todd YoungRep. Gus Bilirakis, and Congressman Adam Schiff, for their passion and tireless efforts to make a difference in the lives of those living with the most common birth defect.

—–

UPDATE, December 19, 2018:   The Amended Congenital Heart Futures Reauthorization Act (CHFRA), H.R. 1222. overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives, with a vote of 355 – 7, showing strong bi-partisan support, once again!

The bill was presented by Greg Walden (R-OR), Paul D. Tonko (R-NY), Michael Burgess, and Rep. Gus Bilirakis all speaking passionately in favor. Rep. Bilirakis even called out several of PCHA’s amazing advocates, also thanking our leadership. 

The Congenital Heart Futures Reauthorization Act now heads to the desk of the President where it has 10 days to be signed into LAW.

Congratulations advocates, your hard work and dedication has paid off, and patients and families affected by CHD will benefit from it for years to come!

—–

UPDATE, December 13, 2018: Late, last night, the Senate unanimously passed the Congenital Heart Futures Reauthorization Act, under the leadership of Senators Durbin (IL) and Young (IN). Please, contact your Senators and thank them for their tremendous work!

Note: the Senate passed, under Unanimous Consent, an amended version of the House Bill. This means that the legislation is now sent back to the House so they can pass a version where the language is exactly the same.

—–

UPDATE, July 25, 2018: The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a mark-up of the CHFRA, subsequently passing it out of committee. This is an essential step toward bringing the bill to the Senate Floor for a vote.  The Congenital Heart Futures Reauthorization Act passed the House, this past February and is now making its way through the legislative process in the Senate.

—–

UPDATE, February 26, 2018: The Congenital Heart Futures Act passed in the House with bi-partisan support.  Please, contact your Representative and thank them for supporting this essential legislation.

Note: As part of the process in moving through the House, the wording of the legislation has been modified, removing some of the language that describes the specific actions that could be taken.

 

In February, 2017, the Congenital Heart Futures Act Reauthorization Bill was re-introduced in the Senate (S.477) and House (H.R.1222) by legislative champions:

  • Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)
  • Senator Bob Casey (D-PA)
  • Representative Gus Bilirakis (R-FL)
  • Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA)

Current Cosponsors (Updated 12/10/18)

Senate Cosponsors – Date Cosponsored
  • Whitehouse, Sheldon [D-RI] – 4/7/17
  • Stabenow, Debbie [D-MI] – 4/7/17
  • Klobuchar, Amy [D-MN] – 4/7/17
  • Baldwin, Tammy [D-WI] – 4/7/17
  • Coons, Christopher [D-DE] – 3/7/18
  • Nelson, Bill [D-FL] – 5/10/18
  • Brown, Sherrod [D-OH] – 6/26/18
  • Young, Todd C. [R-IN] – 8-01-18
  • Wicker, Roger F. [R-MS] – 11-15-18

House Cosponsors – Date Cosponsored
  • Pocan, Mark [D-WI] – 3/28/17
  • Connolly, Gerald [D-VA] – 3/28/17
  • Soto, Darren [D-FL] – 3/28/17
  • Evans, Dwight [D-PA] – 3/28/17
  • Holmes-Norton, Eleanor [D-DC] – 3/28/17
  • Murphy, Stephanie [D-FL] – 3/28/17
  • Swalwell, Eric [D-CA] – 3/28/17
  • Loebsack, Dave [D-IA] – 3/28/17
  • Stivers, Steve [R-OH] – 3/28/17
  • Webster, Daniel [R-FL] – 3/28/17
  • McMorris-Rodgers, Kathy [R-WA] – 3/28/17
  • Abraham, Ralph [R-LA] – 3/28/17
  • Guthrie, Brett [R-KY] – 3/28/17
  • Bost, Mike [R-IL] – 3/28/17
  • Mullin, Markwayne [R-OK] – 3/28/17
  • Nolan, Richard [D-MN] – 3/29/17
  • Fitzpatrick, Brian [R-PA] – 4/3/17
  • Collins, Chris [R-NY] – 4/4/17
  • Velazquez, Nydia [D-NY] – 4/6/17
  • Ros-Lehtinen, Ileana [R-FL] – 4/20/17
  • Sessions, Pete [R-TX] – 5/3/17
  • Griffith, Morgan [R-VA] – 5/19/17
  • Ellison, Keith [D-MN] – 5/23/17
  • Moulton, Seth [D-MA] – 6/26/17
  • Cardenas, Tony [D-CA] – 7/13/17
  • Walberg, Tim [R-MI] – 7/13/17
  • Meehan, Patrick [R-PA] – 9/5/17

Are your legislators on the list?

If not email them, today!!!


Here’s more information about the CHFRA:

Original Congenital Heart Futures Act

First passed into law in 2010, the bipartisan Congenital Heart Futures Act was groundbreaking legislation authorizing research and data collection specific to Congenital Heart Disease.  This law called for expanded infrastructure to track the epidemiology of CHD at the CDC and increased lifelong CHD research at the NIH.

Since the enactment of the Congenital Heart Futures Act, Congress has appropriated $11 million to the CDC for these activities. The Congenital Heart Futures Act also urged the NHLBI to continue its use of its multi-centered congenital heart research network, the Pediatric Heart Network (PHN) that help guide the care of children and adults with CHD. Together, these efforts have improved our understanding of CHD across the lifespan, the age-specific prevalence, and factors associated with dropping out of appropriate specialty care.

We are excited that the reauthorization of this important law will allow the CDC and NIH to build upon existing programs and focus on successful activities addressing this public health need.  First re-introduced in 2015, the CHRFA did not get passed during the 2015-2016 Congress.  It was reintroduced in February of 2017 with some changes to the language to help forward movement of the bill, but the basic intent of the legislation is the same.

Key Aspect of the new Reauthorization Bill

The CHFRA continues these important activities and builds on them by:

  • Assessing the current research needs and projects related to CHD across the lifespan at the NIH.The bill directs the NIH to assess its current research into CHD so that we can have a better understanding of the state of biomedical research as it relates to CHD
  • Expanding research into CHD. The bill directs the CDC to continue to build their public health research and surveillance programs. This will help us understand healthcare utilization, demographics, lead to evidence-based practices and guidelines for CHD.
  • Raising awareness of CHD through the lifespan. The bill allows for CDC to establish and implement a campaign to raise awareness of congenital heart disease. Those who have a CHD and their families need to understand their healthcare needs promote the need for pediatric, adolescent and adult individuals with CHD to seek and maintain lifelong, specialized care.

This comprehensive approach to CHD – the most prevalent birth defect – will address a necessary public health issue and lead to better quality of life and care for those with CHD.

Here is the complete text as introduced in the House on 11/5/15. There are differences between how the bill in the House and Senate are written, based on key factors in the political process for each.  This is anticipated to be reconciled later on in the bill passage process.

If you have any questions about this legislation, please contact our Director of Programs, Amy Basken, at abasken@conqueringchd.org.

If you are interested in becoming an advocate for this important issue, visit the advocacy section of our website which contains information about signing-up, as well as tools to help you be an amazing advocate.

Together, we will CONQUER CHD!


Sample email:

Send an email, today!
Sending an email is simple!!

  1. Find your legislator’s contact information.
    1. Visit  www.senate.gov or www.house.gov
    2. If this is your first time reaching out, use the contact form on the legislator’s website to send your email.
    3. If you have identified the Health LA, or had a previous contact with your member or a member of their staff, please feel free to use the direct email address you were given.
  2. Copy and paste the sample email, below, and personalize:
    1. Include your legislator’s name
    2. Add your own personal story where indicated
    3. Sign with your name, city, state and contact info
  3. Send it!

—— SAMPLE EMAIL —–

Dear Senator/Representative XYZ,

As you are working on appropriations requests for FY2018, I urge you to show your support for continued funding of essential congenital heart disease-related public health research and surveillance initiatives at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect and the leading cause of birth defect-related infant mortality. Nearly one third of children born with CHD will require life-saving medical intervention such as surgery or a heart catheterization procedure. With improved medical treatment options, survival rates are improving with a population of 2.4 million and growing. However, there is no cure. Children and adults with congenital heart disease require ongoing, costly, specialized cardiac care and face a lifelong risk of permanent disability and premature death. As a result, healthcare utilization among the congenital heart disease population is significantly higher than the general population.

As part of these ongoing public health surveillance and research efforts, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently published key findings that report hospital costs for congenital heart disease exceeded $6 billion in 2013.

Congenital Heart Disease is common and costly, and attention to the needs of this community is critical.

We urge Congress to cosponsor the Congenital Heart Futures Reauthorization Act (S.477/H.R.1222). To cosponsor this important legislation please contact Max Kanner (max_kanner@durbin.senate.gov) with Senator Durbin’s office or Shayne Woods (Shayne.Woods@mail.house.gov) with Congressman Bilirakis’ office.
This is important to me because: (ONE-TWO SENTENCES)
Share your story briefly, here.

Odds are, someone you know has been impacted by the most common birth defect.

Join us as together, we are #ConqueringCHD.

Sincerely,
Your Name
Address

Your Health vs. Your Career

This week we hear from Samantha Michaud, a CHD warrior, who speaks about how CHD has affected her career opportunities in life. And how your health ultimately has to come before your career. 

I was born a healthy (or so they thought) baby. I spent the first 2 months of my life slowly dying and no one knew what was wrong. It wasn’t until my 2 month check up that my family doctor heard something wrong with my heart. I was immediately sent to the hospital where they did an echocardiogram on my heart & saw something wasn’t right. I was then sent to Toronto Sick Kids via air ambulance. More tests were run. After a few days they decided to do a heart catheterization to confirm their suspicion. I was born with a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy Of Fallot. A few days after that I had full blown open heart surgery.

Overall, I had a rather normal childhood I was able to play hockey, volleyball and even flag football. I didn’t start having issues again until I was an adult. Later on in my adult years I kept complaining of fluttering in my chest. It was shoved off as anxiety. Then I got pregnant at 20 years old. My previous years tests results showed I was able to carry a pregnancy. Yay! When I was 24 weeks pregnant I had a halter monitor done due to the fact I blacked out one day at work and had to leave. It turns out that my blacking out episode was an episode of an arrhythmia called Ventricular Tachycardia. I was happy I finally had answers as to why I didn’t feel well sometimes and why I felt fluttering in my chest. But after one episode where I nearly fainted giving someone a shower, I knew my time had come. I knew I had to leave my job behind. You see, as someone with CHD being around heat makes me feel unwell. But having Ventricular Tachycardia secondary to my Tetralogy of Fallot just made that day all the more worse. My heart rate began to speed up, my heart began beating funny and I started to feel weak and faint. I got out of my clients house for fresh air, and called the office to go home. A week later I quit my job due to my health reasons.    

 

I was devastated that the stress from my job could cause so many issues that I would have to quit. My job requires me to deal with stress. Taking care of the sick, disabled & elderly was my calling in life, but due to the stress it caused me to deal with on the daily, I left my job. It was really hard to deal with as I loved my job and I loved what I did. But for my health I had too.

Leaving my job as a personal support worker has left me feeling helpless. It was a job I thoroughly enjoyed. I felt like I was giving back to healthcare, for what they have done for me. I helped people of all ages and created great therapeutic relationships with everyone I saw & their families. Leaving a job I really enjoyed was not the easiest decision to make. But I do see a bright future ahead of me. I have a beautiful, heart healthy, baby girl, and the opportunities are endless for the both of us.

Hello, my name is Samantha Michaud. I am 22 years old and have a 10 month old daughter. I am a personal support worker. I see a cardiologist once a year for my Tetralogy Of Fallot. I see an electrophysiologist every 3-4 months for my Ventricular Tachycardia.

Hidden Scars

At the start of the new year we often reflect on the year that has just passed, and for most of us, work and/or school is a large part of that reflection. We are kicking off the year with a series on how CHD affects patients, and families at school and work.  This post is written by an individual who wishes to remain anonymous, as they reflect back on their career and the role that CHD has played in their work. 

 

I remind myself that this time I will handle things differently.  I remind my myself that I am a grown 51 year old woman that has raised 2 kids and managed to maintain a marriage for 25 years.  This time, with this job, I will not just walk away when I can’t handle the outside stress in my life usually, brought on from my health.  This time I will communicate with my supervisor and explain to he or she what is going on in my life and have them help me find a solution, after all that is what a grown up does.

 

Call me lucky, but four fulfilling careers later, I am still working a great job that holds my interest, and I am surrounded by wonderful co-workers.  I know that there will be another health emergency in the future, that is just the way life is for a person with CHD.  I tell myself, when the next health incident happens, I will not give 5 days notice to an employer, like I did with the last job.  I will not just close down the doors on a business I worked so hard to build, like I did two careers ago. And I definitely will not walk away from an amazing career as an FBI analyst (a dream I had since I was young) like I did after I landed my first job out of college.

 

My parents taught me from a young age to find a job with health benefits.  They thought I should be a teacher, after all, as a teacher you will have summers off and “the rest during the summer will be good for you.” I understood the message, they really meant “be good for your heart.” Maybe that is why I leaned towards a job with government, the need for health benefits has been ingrained since I was young.

 

When I was growing up the environment was different, you hid your scars, you hid your health issues.  I remember applying for my first job it was with the FBI.  I filled out the 30 page background check form and stopped when I got to the medical section.  How do I spin this?  Do I put down congenital heart disease?  Do I write down Tetralogy of Fallot?  What if I write, “Hole in the heart – corrected 1972.”  That is not a lie I thought to myself, so I went with that explanation, they could ask for more information if they needed it.  Of course my education helped me land that first job, but I am still convinced that things would be different if I had fully disclosed my medical history.

 

No one ever taught me how to communicate my health issues with my employer.  I have been taught how to write a resume and how to interview. I have an excellent work ethic.  However, I am 51 and still don’t know how, or when, to talk to an employer about my health.  I know my future holds a pacemaker battery replacements, pulmonary valve replacements, and much time in the cath lab.  When should you discuss your health with your employer? Should you be upfront from the beginning or should you wait until an emergency and try to explain why you won’t be in for a week or two?  I know the best option lies in the middle.  However, I am at a loss as to where that balance is.  I guess you need to factor in the employer, job, personalities, and work environment.  I wish there was some magical formula one could use to decide at what point disclosure is best.

 

I look back with my career history with regret on how I choose not to be upfront regarding my health history.  I tell myself, this time I will handle things differently, but I know I will probably continue on my current path of non-disclosure.

The Gifts that Life Brings

Hello PCHA! I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season. In the spirit of giving, here are a few short anecdotes on the most memorable gifts that life has brought us. Happy Holidays!!! 

The best Christmas present I received in recent years was family abandoning our usual Christmas traditions and coming to visit me after I was re-admitted to the hospital. My Mom having brought Christmas dinner to the hospital, gifts from my family, neurosurgeon and nurses alike and still being able to watch Christmas Eve service on TV. I was just grateful to have family and a good medical team.

– Erica Thiel; MPS I Hurler Scheie Syndrome w/aortic valve stenosis and insufficiency and Mitral valve stenosis and insufficiency, 35 years old.

One of the best gifts I have ever received came in a small blue paper bag with handles.  The contents escape me, except for the full bag of chocolate candies. What this gift represented was a reminder that I was not alone. That in one of the most challenging series of events in my entire life – placing my newborn baby first into a helicopter, then into the hands of doctor to perform life saving heart surgery – when all of my being was being poured into my baby, someone was thinking of me.  That is a gift I pay forward every single moment that I can.

– Amy Basken; mom to Nicholas, almost 14 years old, now.

The best Christmas gift my husband and I ever received was our baby twins coming home from the hospital. One has a CHD and the other is heart healthy but because of both the CHD and other complications, odds weren’t great for survival. They were born in mid October. One came home in late November and the other came home a couple of weeks before Christmas and we were finally all home together. The road ahead was/is still long, but it was magical.

– Meredith Rasmussen Atkinson; mom to Mirabel and Sofia Atkinson, 14 years old, now.

The best gift I have ever received was a Newfoundland puppy. I was in the hospital after my fourth open heart surgery, and my parent’s friends, who were breeding Newfoundlands, just had a litter of puppies. They told me that I would get to bring home a puppy when I got out of the hospital. Just knowing that when I got home I would have a brand new puppy, kept my spirits high, and provided a huge distraction from my current situation. I am forever grateful to that family for gifting me such a beautiful dog, and ultimately, a great friend. 

– Lauren Wells; Ebstein’s Anomaly, 24 years old.

 

 

 

November Recap – Grateful Hearts

Throughout the month of November, we took a look at everything we have to be grateful for, through the hard times and the good. And we discovered that we have so much to be grateful for in this crazy thing called life! 

I just want to make a quick note to the PCHA community, next week you won’t find our usual PCHA blog. Keep an eye out for something special this December and be sure to check back. In the mean time, we are posting tons of great material, so be sure to stay up to date! 

 

A Journey Shared – Joseph Burns

The Gift of Life – Sara Engstrom

Angels in Scrubs

Always Enough – Rebeka Acosta

#GivingTuesday: Give Knowledge. Give a Voice. Give Hope.


Here are a few key ways to make an impact on #GivingTuesday:

 

Donate or Create a #GIVINGTUESDAY Facebook Fundraiser

Make every dollar matter when you give to PCHA by helping us put essential resources into the hands of hospitalized patients and families. Whether two days old, or twenty years young, having knowledge, a voice and hope is essential, particularly when in the hospital. Every dollar donated on today supports our care bags containing nationally respected educational resources and soul soothing comfort items.

Donate to our Giving Tuesday Facebook campaign HERE

Stretch your dollar – Create your own Giving Tuesday Campaign for PCHA on Facebook and challenge your friends and family to give, too!!

Not on Facebook? No worries, you can still donate through our website.



Echo the Owl Holiday Sale!

Due to popular demand we are extending our Black Friday Echo sale! Purchase by December 10th to receive your Echo in time for a holiday gift, and help us Conquer CHD! Get 25% off your purchase of Echo the Owl and we’ll also give one to a patient hospitalized due to Congenital Heart Disease.

Use promo code: ECHO25

when you head to our online store.

This adorable plush owl stands 8 inches tall. His fur is soft enough to melt anyone’s heart. The heart on his chest represents the community’s efforts to conquer congenital heart disease, making this a must for everyone you know who is touched by CHD.

 

 


Join PCHA in Washington D.C.!

Registration is open for the 2019 Legislative Conference in Washington D.C.! Join us as we unite our voices with The Children’s Heart Foundation and Adult Congenital Heart Association to educate our members of Congress about Congenital Heart Disease!

When you attend this conference you will:
– Learn about current CHD activities in Washington D.C.
– Learn how to effectively tell your story.
– Connect with other CHD patients and professionals.
– Share your story with your members of Congress.
– Inform your legislators about the need for research and data collection.
– Make a difference on behalf of those living with CHD!

Your voice matters and together, we are #ConqueringCHD  

REGISTER HERE


 

Connect with your Local State Chapter

Help improve the lives of those with congenital heart disease and their families through direct support and education – meeting families where they are.  Through local activities like peer-to-peer support, care package distribution and educational materials, we are working directly with patients, families and medical professionals impacting one life at a time. Get


Finally, Celebrate all we are doing, together, to Conquer CHD!

Always Enough – Rebeka Acosta

In our last post on the series of gratitude, we hear from Rebeka Acosta. Rebeka recognizes how there are so many people to be grateful for, and how those people form a community and help you through the frustrations of life. 

Gratitude turns what we have into enough. -Unknown

At the end of any given day, when the dragons have been slayed, I crash into a puddle of physical and emotional exhaustion. Special needs parenting is hard work and it is terribly easy to let it swallow you whole. There are far more places to hide and wallow than there are rainbows to jump through.

And that is precisely why it has to be enough.

Oh, let me be a part of the narrative

In the story they will write someday

Let this moment be the first chapter.

Where you decide to stay

And I could be enough

And we could be enough

That would be enough

-Hamilton the Musical

It took me a few years to truly welcome the joys and pains of parenting special kiddos. I suppose it is easy enough to find gratitude in the things that make life easier, but as the child of a social worker and teacher, I am always drawn to my fellow humans. No matter how quick the moments come and go, I’m always trying to find the bright spot.

Every year as the holiday season begins, I love addressing cards to friends and family. As I sat at the kitchen table late one night last week, with the dogs curled at my feet, one of the boys appeared in tears. My initial internal reaction was frustration. Everyone was finally in bed. It had been a long day. Couldn’t I get just one hour of peace to address these cards?!

I took a deep breath. Ten minutes is enough, I thought. It will just have to be enough.

He crawled into my lap even though he had far outgrown it. He whispered quietly and asked who the cards were for. We spent the next hour talking about each person and adding a few to the list. This morning I revisited the pile of cards and sitting on top were the five my kiddo had requested, with a sticky note telling me why they were important.

Dr. K: for being my first doctor and teaching Mommy to take care of me

Dr. Becky: for saving Kato’s life (his dog)

The Apple Store: for cheering for me and teaching me to code

Dr. J and my Boston team: you helped me live

Inspirada (our neighborhood): for being my home

May you each find gratitude in the connections you forge and mountains you summit. May you slow down and find the bright spots in the simple moments. And may it always be enough.

 

Rebeka Acosta lives outside Las Vegas with her husband, two heart warriors and
two Great Danes. A researcher by nature and healthcare finance coordinator by
training, she enjoys keeping up with congenital cardiac literature and always
reviews insurance claims line by line. She recently passed the national exam to
become Nevada’s first Board Certified Patient Advocate.
Before relocating to Nevada, Rebeka was a founding member of the Washington
chapter of PCHA. She now volunteers on the National Steering Committee and
enjoys attending the annual legislative conference and transparency summit. She
is especially invested in advocacy for adopted patients and patients of color.
Rebeka welcomes connections at racosta@conqueringchd.org.

Angels in Scrubs

In times of hardships, it can often be difficult to maintain gratitude. This week, Heather Speakman shares with PCHA how hardships can often teach us the most about gratitude.

It’s the Eve of Thanksgiving and I can’t help but feel overwhelming gratitude to the team of people that take care of our sweet Madison. I know that there are a few hundred stories and posts of a very similar sentiment but I’ve never been one to let someone else tell my story. So here’s my version

To all of the Doctors, NP’s, and PA’s, I see you.

Image result for gratitudeYou’ve explained procedure after procedure, making sure I understand what’s going to happen. You’ve stopped what you’re doing to comfort me when my daughter’s heart rate dropped to 50, assuring me why it happened and how you’re going to fix it. I’ve gotten update after update and I see the look on your face when you wish it was better news. I see the hope in your eyes that she will get better and that you will get her in my arms no matter what. I see how tired you are but no matter how busy it is you make sure everyone is taken care of, often hopping from room to room with coffee in hand. I see that you’re up all night and you still greet me with a smile and ask how I’m doing. I’ve heard your voice on the phone in the middle of the night asking for consent, I know it can’t be easy to ask for permission in a time like this but thank you for being kind. I’ve heard you say, “Are you coming in soon?” knowing that you have to sit me down and have a really hard conversation about what another blood clot could do to my daughter. You’ve greeted me at the door because you couldn’t wait to tell me the good news that she’s going to come off Ecmo. I’ve high-fived you in rounds because we made it over a huge bump in the road. You’ve made it easy to report back to family what the plan is for the day and what it means so I can remember it easily. You’ve looked me in the eyes and promised that you will tell me when it’s too much because I didn’t want to be that mom who put her baby through unnecessary procedures if the result was going to be the same. You’ve also given me the look that says you’re up for the fight and you’ll do everything in your power to save her.

I’ve had to call your name quickly before you left her room to tell you that I think it’s time, she’s tired. With tears in your eyes, your hand holding mine you slowed your breath and regrettably agreed. My heart wasn’t the only one breaking, yours was too. You’ve come to visit, paying your respects and giving your condolences, telling us that she fought and fought hard. You’ve empowered me, reminding me that this is OUR journey with Madison, no one else’s.Image result for gratitude

To the CICU nurses, I see you.

No matter how many times that pump goes off or the monitor beeps you’re there. You’re always asking me if I’m okay, even if you’re not our nurse that day. You’ve seen our baby post op and assured me that there will be ups and downs in the next 24 hours. You’ve let us in the room even when you weren’t ready because you knew we could handle it. You’ve kicked us out so we can get lunch and promised to call if anything changes. I’ve seen you on your hands and knees checking chest tube drainage, making sure she’s not too sleepy or not too agitated on her pain meds, changing countless dressings on her lines. You’ve been able to get IV’s in places like her head, and feet. You’ve hugged me and told me to go home after a surprise phone call in the middle of the night. Telling me that you’ll take good care of her. I’ve seen you try not to laugh when we’re being goofy and super inappropriate and eventually you break down and participate. I hope you know that we love it when you talk to us and ask questions about our life outside of the hospital. It makes me feel like there WILL be a life outside. I love that you talk out loud when you’re trying to figure out why she doesn’t look right, it gives me comfort to know that you’re not afraid to tell us when something is “off”. Although I must say, you have pretty good poker faces. There have been times where you come to us with a problem but you never come without a plan. I’ve seen the look on your face when you have to come in after the doctor just gave us bad news. Even still, you ask if you can get us anything. I wish you could see the look on your face when I ask for vodka and Xanax, I never said it was for me ;0). You’ve told me to get my kisses and love in before each surgery or procedure. You’ve celebrated victories with me, big and small. I love that you come to say hi, even if you’re busy. You’ve greeted me with a smile and a full report if I missed rounds. I’ve laughed with you until my cheeks hurt.  You let me hold my baby girl after 28 days on the ventilator because you knew I needed it. I’ve seen you work hard in other rooms when it wasn’t an easy day and cover each others lunches sometimes jumping from one room to another.

You’ve talked to us about Madi’s prognosis and helped us ask the hard questions. I’ve seen you love on her like a proud auntie or fairy godmother. You’ve protected our privacy fiercely, drawing curtains and adding a sign to the door. You’ve done some impressive acrobatics hopping up and down from counters so Erik and I could switch spots, despite the ventilator and a few dozen lines in the way. I’ve seen you check on me from your desk, making sure I was comfortable as I held my baby girl in the middle of the night for the last time. You assured me that it’s no trouble at all to put her back in bed if I needed to rest.

You volunteered to be her nurse on the hardest day of my life, one of the many reasons why I think about you every day. You brought clothes from home because you didn’t know if I had anything to change her into. You’ve granted me every wish on my sweet girl’s last day on Earth, minus the Xanax and vodka. You’ve laughed with me and let me cuss like a sailor, giving countless hugs and allowing me to be whatever I needed in that moment. I’ve seen the tears in your eyes as you placed Madi into Erik’s arms so we could say goodbye to our brave, strong girl.

To the “Special Teams” I see you.

I’ve seen you talk to my daughter in your baby voice and call her peanut.  You’ve checked setting after setting on her ventilator, rooting for her every step of the way. You ask me how she’s doing, even though you already know she’s having a great day. You always smile and say hi when you’re walking down the hall or offer a wave from a distance. You’ve done trial after trial to make sure she’s ready to be off the vent.

You gave Madi her first and only Christmas tree, decorated with bells and Beads of Courage, it will stay up year long at our house. No matter how many times we had to switch places to hold her, you were always there with a smile and saying “no problem at all.”

You come and chat with me to let me forget about how tough this can be. I get to tell you the dumb thing I did that week. You’ve listened to me happy or sad and remind me that it’s okay to not be okay. You ask if we’re eating and sleeping. You’ve offered meal vouchers on nights when we didn’t want to leave. I’ve seen you after a rough weekend and distract me with a funny story. You promise that if you come visit it’s not because someone called you to check on me.

You’ve allowed me to speak freely and openly without judgement. I’ve told you how hard this has been financially. You’ve provided resources and help when I was ashamed and embarrassed, assuring me that something like this can cripple a hundred thousand dollar savings account. You’ve called us to tell us someone adopted us for Christmas, I was so relieved.

You were there when I had to tell my thirteen year old daughter that her sister wasn’t going to come home, you listened as I apologized to her for what’s to come. I’ve seen you make Madi’s hand and foot prints, asking Tristyn if she wanted to help.

You’ve given me the power to be an advocate for my daughter, helping me make some really tough decisions. You’ve rallied the troops and packed her hospital room so I could read this very blog to all of you, that moment was incredibly special and I’ll cherish it always.

We’ve prayed together after our sweet angel gained her wings. You’ve helped usher my family and I out of her room, telling me we could stay as long as we wanted but you knew I couldn’t take it anymore. You’ve promised to stay with her until she had to go.

I’ve heard your voice on the intercom so I can come back to see my baby. You’ve given me a red sticker everyday and make sure I’m not full of icky germs. The occasional chocolate is a really good plus. You’ve stocked carts and given me bottles and labels galore.

I know that there are many more angels in scrubs and business casual gear that we don’t see but we appreciate you and everything you do to make sure our daughter is taken care of.

I am constantly telling my friends and family how amazing you all are. Sometimes they even ask for you by name. We pray for you everyday. Being in the cardiac ICU is rough and I hope you know that we appreciate and love you. You’ve become a special part of our extended family and made this journey that much easier.

I expected to grieve the loss of my amazing daughter but what I wasn’t expecting was grieving the loss of her amazing medical team. We miss you all so much.

Thank you doesn’t even begin to cover it but this thankful, grateful mama is going to tell everyone.

Heather Speakman has been married to her high school sweetheart Erik for 13 years and has 4 children, Tristyn Gage, Hayden and Madison. Madison was born with a heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome with heterotaxy and 3 other defects. She lived for 41 days before she succumbed to complications of her heart defects and passed away on November 30th, 2017. Since Madi’s passing Heather has helped raise awareness for congenital heart defects. Heather is an avid blogger, and blogs as a way to help cope with her grief and shares her feelings in the hopes that people will know they’re not alone.

Over the Counter Medications

As patients with pre-existing conditions, who may be on a list of prescription medications, it’s important to know which over-the-counter (OTC) medications are safe for CHD patients  Recently at an Adult Congenital Heart Disease Conference, Justina Damiani, Inpatient Cardiology Pharmacist at Lurie Children’s, shared her recommendations for OTC meds, for those everyday illnesses or aches and pains.
*Please be sure to also consult your own doctor and pharmacist before starting or ending any medication.

General OTC Medication Tips

Always look at the active ingredient.
  –  Some brand name products may contain medications that are harmful.
  – Also, watch out for multi-ingredient preparations. Many cough/cold medications contain pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine which, are not recommended.
  – Avoid medications with a “D” at the end of the name.
Always check the appropriate dose
Always check the maximum daily dosage

 

 

OTC Cough and Cold Products

Pseudoephedrine:

Similar to phenylephrine, pseudoephedrine is also commonly used to treat nasal congestion. These products are stored behind the counter at your local pharmacy and require an ID for purchase. If pseudoephedrine is in a combination product it is usually identified as the “D,” for example Mucinex D ® or Claritin D®. The reason the we recommend to avoid use is that pseudoephedrine commonly causes increases in blood pressure, heart palpitations, increases in heart rate and potentially cardiac arrhythmias.

Phenylephrine:

Phenylephrine is commonly used to treat nasal congestion during the common cold. This can be purchased as a single ingredient product or in combination with other medications. If it is a combination product there is usually a “PE” on the label. While this is very effective in treating nasal congestion, it also can cause unsafe increases in blood pressure. Although rare, it can also worsen heart failure or induce cardiac arrhythmias.

 

Ibuprofen (Motrin)/Naproxen (Naprosyn):

Ibuprofen can be safe to use in certain people. Definitely talk to your provider if you are interested in using this for yourself, or your patient. Ibuprofen is often used for pain control and to treat fevers. This drug can be very helpful for both of those indications. The reason it can be considered unsafe is that it can hurt the kidneys. This is more of a concern in patients who already have underlying kidney issues.  This medication is commonly used in patients with cardiac disease unless you have baseline kidney issues or you were told to avoid it by your doctor.

 

 

Heart Safe Cold/Flu Products

 

Coricidin HBP (High Blood Pressure) is recommended for anyone greater than 12 years old.

 

 

 

 

 

The below chart lists the Coricidin HBP products available for  various Cold and Flu symptoms, as well as products suitable for day or nighttime.

 

 

Often, heart patients experience symptoms outside of cold and flu, such as gastrointestinal irritation. Below are some tips on OTC medications for these issues.

 

OTC GI Medications

• Abdominal bloating/gas
– Simethicone
• Constipation
– Miralax
– Senna
– Docusate
– Bisacodyl
• Nausea
– Calcium carbonate (Tums)
– Do not use Pepto-Bismol or any product with bismuth subsalicylate

 

Herbal Products

Another option to give careful consideration is the use of Herbal products. While the category name may sound safe, the product may not always be so.

• What supplements or herbal products should I avoid?
– List may change based on daily prescribed medications
– Ask your physician/advanced nurse practitioner/pharmacist before
starting any herbal products or supplements

 

Medication Optimization Tips

Get to know your pharmacist!
– Is there a local pharmacy that has “down” time or a counseling room?
– Do not be afraid to ask them questions
Use the same pharmacy to fill all your medications
– Occasionally a specialty pharmacy will need to be used
Request refills for prescriptions about 7 days in advance
Remember the new year
– Insurances often change
– Co-pays renew in January
Can you get a 3 month supply near the end of December?
– Prior authorizations may need to be renewed around this time!
Medication storage
– Keep away from direct heat or humidity
• Store OUTSIDE of bathroom
• Away from direct sunlight
– Avoid extreme cold temperatures
– Store in an easy to remember location
– Store medications away from children – locked up?
• Remembering to take your medications
– Take medications same time everyday
– Use pill boxes
– Use an APP on your phone
Medisafe – Pill & Med Reminder
CareZone – App

 

Additional Notes: Tips in case of Medication Changes by Other Providers: 

Keep an updated medication list with you at all times
Ask your pharmacist for counseling on all new medications
Ask your pharmacist to verify or double check your medications if
they look different when you pick them up
Call physician/advanced nurse practitioner for any changes in
cardiac medications by outside providers

 

Final Thoughts

Try to use single-ingredient over-the-counter products
– Ask about proper dose, including maximum dose per day allowed
Ask your pharmacist/physician/nurse practitioner about any new
herbal products
Use medication reminders for taking and reordering
Know when to call physician/nurse practitioners
Get to know your pharmacist!

 

Recommendations courtesy of : Justina Damiani, PharmD, BCPS

Justina Damiani is a clinical pharmacist at Lurie Children’s Hospital and primarily works in the cardiac intensive care unit. She received her PharmD from Purdue University. She completed two years of residency, the first at the University of Georgia followed by a pediatric pharmacy residency the University of Michigan. She enjoys running, yoga, and spending time in warm weather.

 

 

 

 

The Gift of Life – Sara Engstrom

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we are continuing our series on gratitude. This week we hear from Sara, a CHD warrior who shares how gratitude has played a role in her life. 

At six months old, I was diagnosed with Shone’s complex, a myriad of heart defects that impacts each patient differently. My defects include a bicuspid aortic valve, parachute mitral valve, persistent left superior vena cava, and an aortic coarctation. When I was 8 months old, I had a closed heart surgery to repair the coarctation.  I am grateful for my pediatrician, who could not feel the pulses in my feet and was immediately alarmed. Without her, I do not know how long it would have been until the coarctation was discovered. Each year since my surgery, I have followed with a cardiologist who specializes in CHD in order to keep tabs on my valve function and stability. My first cardiologist made the largest impact on me in my childhood, sparking an interest in medicine at a young age. Being exposed to the hospital environment all my life, I have decided to pursue a career as a pediatric cardiologist, something that I would have never considered if it weren’t for my CHD.

I have struggled with having a heart defect from time to time and it has taken a toll on my mental health. During the dark times, I must rely on my family and friends to pull me through. I am indebted to them for all of the support that they have given me. Some have been standing by my side since my surgery over two decades ago, and others more new to my life who have been the most understanding and patient friends I could ask for. My family members have stood by me, speaking for me when I was an infant, making sure I was getting the best care I could receive. It’s definitely not something I think about every day, but my livelihood and future were in the hands of my parents, grandparents, godparents, aunts, and uncles and because of them, I am where I am today, healthy and thriving. I don’t thank them all for the loads of support that I have received over the years. When times get hard and I’m feeling lonely, I know that I can count on the wonderful people in my life to keep me grounded.

Throughout my life, I have not met many others with the same defect as me, making me feel isolated in this battle. Last year, I wrote an article talking about my CHD. A few months later, I received a message from a stranger about her struggle with Shone’s complex! This was the first time I have ever been in contact with someone with Shone’s complex. I befriended her immediately. We got to talking and I realized we have so much in common. We both love to travel, try new things, and are pursuing careers in the medical field. I am beyond thankful that she reached out to me. My relationship with her has helped me realize that it is very important to not only share your story with others but also share similar experiences and stories with people who have been through the same.

Having a congenital heart defect has given me more gifts than I can count. I am grateful for my love of medicine that aroused as a result of CHD. I am thankful for the people who have supported me and held me up through my battle, and I am grateful for the opportunities and friendships that have been given to me throughout this journey.

Sara Engstrom is a senior at Wayne State University studying biomedical physics. She plans on applying to medical school in the future to pursue her dreams of becoming a pediatric cardiologist. She lives with Shone’s Complex and is dedicated to telling her story. She loves advocating for CHD. In her free time, she likes to play the clarinet, catch up on the latest TV shows, play with her German shepherd, and spend time with her family and friends.