Zipperstrong Project

As we continue through heart month, one amazing program, called Zipperstrong, helps honor families affected by CHD and their stories. The work done by photographer SheRae Hunter helps remind us all that even our scars can be beautiful. 

 

 

 

“I am the mommy of a child who is different.   All I ever want and need is for others to understand. To understand my family, to understand my son, to understand the hours of therapy, the meltdowns, and the uncertainty that we live with daily. To listen and not judge, not offer advice, and not extend pity, but to try understand us,” SheRae Hunter explains.  With her work on the Zipperstrong Project, she helps  other families, families affected by CHD, accomplish this very thing.

 

Ainsley – 2 Years Old – 2 Ventricular Septal Defects closed with open heart surgery at 3 months. ​

 

On the first day of Congenital Heart Disease Awareness Week, the Pediatric Congenital Heart Association of Virginia (PCHA-VA), in partnership with the Zipperstrong Project, shared a set of powerful images capturing the strength, vitality, and hope of children fighting congenital heart disease (CHD), as well as the reality that many CHD warriors sadly lose this battle each year.

 

Blake – Two years on Earth. Forever in our hearts.Transposition of the Great Arteries, AV Canal Defect, Pulmonary Artesia, Heterotaxy

 

Every year, 40,000 infants are born in the United States with a congenital heart defect. It the most common birth defect, yet many people are unaware. Through Zipperstrong, Winchester, Virginia Photographer SheRae Hunter helps raise awareness of congenital heart disease by giving outsiders a glimpse into the CHD world. Hunter started Zipperstrong in 2015 after becoming intertwined in the lives local CHD families and wanting to make a difference.

 

Finn – 2 1/2 Years Old – Heterotaxy, Double Outlet Right Ventricle, Total Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Return and other cardiac issues.

 

“In my photography, I see these children’s personalities shine through, despite their physical and emotional scars. Their vitality and courage is something to be admired and that is what I hope to capture through the Zipperstrong Project. That is what I want the world to see!” says Hunter. “This year’s Zipperstrong class is truly special. Many of these kids have grown up before my eyes, while others I’ve met for the very first time. All of their stories are so deep and profound that I wish I could share every word. Year after year I am reminded of how extraordinary these kids are.”

The 2018 Zipperstrong Class includes children  from across the Commonwealth, from the Shenandoah Valley and neighboring West Virginia regions to Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Alexandria. Their ages  range from newborn to 11 years old. In all, 15 children were photographed and a handful participated for the first time this year. Most of the children have multiple heart defects, and many have gone through numerous surgeries, with more in their future.

 

Jade – 11 Years Old – 2 Ventricular Septal Defects & Double-Chambered Right Ventricle

 

“Through Zipperstrong, SheRae offers the perspective of an outsider and her own artistic vision to tell the story of children living with hearts that have complex structural or functional problems hidden in plain sight,” says PCHA-VA President Laura Carpenter. “Her Zipperstrong Project has moved and captivated all of us at PCHA-VA, and so many more who have never heard of CHD. She has done a great service to the CHD community and we are thrilled to have her as a partner.”

PCHA extends great affection and gratitude to Zipperstrong founder and photographer, SheRae Hunter. Her portraits capture the incredible strength of CHD Warriors in Virginia and allow us to share that with the world!

The Zipperstrong Project kicked off CHD Awareness Week 2018 in Virginia, and we are excited to announce Zipperstrong as a program of the Pediatric Congenital Heart Association!

View this year’s Zipperstrong Project photos at www.zipperstrong.org. The photos will be shared through social media throughout Heart Awareness Month and on display at various events across Virginia, including The Hope Marietta Foundation’s Casino Night in Washington, D.C., on February 24. Arrangements can be made to connect with certain Zipperstrong families and reproduce imagery by contacting PCHA-VA Communications Director Renée Lang at rlang@conqueringchd.org.

 

#CHDAware – Heart Month 2018

CHD Awareness Week has come to a close but there are still a few key ways to help us raise awareness through heart month and all year long!


Participate in our Social Media campaign! 

Use your social media talents to shine and join the #CHDAware social media storm

February 7-14, the entire community comes together to help others understand how common congenital heart defects are, the need for research, and access to quality care. At PCHA, our programs serve to educate parents, physicians, and lawmakers spreading awareness all year long, but we love to join in the February Fun as we strive to educate those who may not be as familiar with CHD.

In the know – Help others understand the impact of CHD and what the Pediatric Congenital Heart Association is doing about it by liking and sharing our statistic infographics. We have a lot to share, this year, so look out for these graphics all month long!

Make it personal – Using the hashtag #CHDAware, add details about your story, your experience, and be sure to Include a message about an aspect of CHD of importance to you. Examples: the need for research funding, advocacy, or support for fellow families. This is all about sharing how Congenital Heart Disease impacts patients and families and how we, together, can turn awareness into action. Don’t forget to tag us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

Facebook frame – As patients, parents, bereaved families, and providers we are all #CHDAware. Show your support for heart month and CHD Awareness week by adding this effect to your profile picture or video!

Invite others – we can do the work for you – simply guide them to our social media pages.  Ask them to like and follow us. We’ll make sure they STAY engaged! Click on an icon to find us:

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Month-long #CHDAware Challenge 

Join the fun: become a fundraiser and earn great prizes!

This is our only social media fundraiser for 2018 and we need your help!

Our Goal: $20,000 to support our essential programs offering care packages, hospital trainings, patient and family resources and so much more.

Thanks to all your hard work!  YOU are making a difference. We’re just halfway through the month with over 90 registered fundraisers! It’s not too late to join and win some amazing prizes!

Click here to for more information about the challenges, prizes or simply how to set up your fundraising page.

Keep up the great work! Together, we are #ConqueringCHD!


Where in the World is Echo? 

We spy with our #CHDWise eyes…..ECHO!

Echo has been traveling the globe giving knowledge and hope to new CHD families and providers. He’s been spotted in some pretty amazing places! This month, we are going to be featuring some of the fantastic places Echo has been to as he blazes a #CHDWise trail everywhere he goes!

Submit your picture of Echo on your adventures to Echo@conqueringchd.org and we may feature it on our social media pages with the hashtag #ISpyEcho


Success!!

 

We brought back two fan favorites for the first half of heart month and because of you we we sold a total of 126 that raised $1,090 that will directly support the lives of CHD patients and families through our great programs like transparency and public reporting, the guided questions tool, conquering CHD care packages, and the legislative conference.

Shirts will be delivered 2-3 weeks AFTER the campaign closes (feb.14th).

 

 


Gear Up to support heart families!

Check out our online store for #ConqueringCHD apparel, bags, buttons, and morel!

Don’t forget to pick up your very own Echo the Owl! The heart on Echo’s chest represents the community’s efforts to conquer congenital heart disease, making this a must for everyone you know who is touched by CHD.

Order your very own Echo the Owl, today, and we will also add one to a care package to be given to someone hospitalized due to CHD. Echo can be Purchased in our online store HERE!

 


Turn Awareness into Action!

Each one of us has a story to tell. These stories make a great impact when told the right way to the right people. Share your story with your representatives.  Ask them to join you in #ConqueringCHD by becoming cosponsor of the Congenital Heart Futures Reauthorization Act (CHFRA).  Click here to learn more and see if your lawmaker has already signed-on.  If they have, be sure to thank them for #ConqueringCHD!!

 

 

 

 

Then, on February 27th, from the comfort of your own home, you can support the effort of 190 advocates who will be visiting their lawmakers on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. to discuss CHD research funding and this legislation  Stay tuned for ways that you can get involved “off the hill.”


Recap – Patient Engagement Tools

Take a look back at our Patient Engagement Tool posts.

 

The Care Partnership Pyramid

It is often difficult for parents and loved ones to know what to do in caring for their child during hospital stays, and it can often be a difficult topic to discuss. Christine Martinenza, RN, has implemented this month’s Patient Engagement Tool, The Care Partnership Pyramid, at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, which aims to help foster conversation and understanding in how to best allow for parents and medical staff to work as a team.

 

Transition Top 10 to Remember

As the seasons change, new milestones come and go.  This can be an especially trying time in the life of an adolescent with congenital heart disease, especially as they are undergoing the major transition of leaving the nest and going off to college, joining the workforce, or just moving far from home.  Dr. Aaron Kay, Director of the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program at Indiana University Health, has the following Top Ten list to help ease the transition.

 

 

Comprehensive Single Ventricle Road Map

When a family learns their child will be born with a Single Ventricle CHD, they are thrust into a world of uncertainty. It is sure to be a daunting and overwhelming experience. The plan for care of these patients has not typically been clear. As outcomes have improved, providers have been able to imrove their plans of action. In PCHA’s first Patient Engagement Tools Series post, Michelle Steltzer, Nurse Practitioner from Lurie Children’s Chicago, shares their Single Ventricle Roadmap.

 

Be #CHDWise and be a part of our Give a HOOT about CHD Campaign!

Here are a few key ways to join the movement:


Hello Echo!

We enlisted your help to name our cute, cuddly, and wise owl and boy did you deliver! With over 70% of the votes – we officially have a winner! With your overwhelming support, the name of the official mascot of The Pediatric Congenital Heart Association is hereby named Echo and we love him – Thank you for your participation!

 

 

 


Purchase an Owl

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. We will also be adding these owls to our existing care package program through our state chapters so they will included in select kits we provide to patients and families impacted by CHD.

Comfort a loved one, spread awareness, or simply show that you “Give a Hoot About CHD!” Echo can fly right to your doorstep by purchasing him from our online store or directly from the voting page!

 

Color with Echo

Break out the crayons, markers, colored pencils, or paint! Add color to the page and bring Echo to life! Now available, a printable coloring page to print out for the whole family to color as they wish.

Click the image or click here to Color with Echo!

Want to submit your finished masterpieces to be featured on our Instagram? Great! Just upload a picture of your finished coloring page and email to Echo at Echo@conqueringchd.org


Success!

 

Our Give a HOOT booster campaign has ended but because of your amazing support we were able to sell 159 shirts to raise $1810 to directly impact the lives of CHD patients and families through our programs like public reporting, the guided questions tool, care packages, and the legislative conference. Shirts will be delivered 2-3 weeks AFTER the campaign closed on 11-15-17

CLICK HERE to check out the shirts and view the supporters

 


Use your Social Media talents as we work to reach new families!

It’s your month to shine and show your friends and family what it means to be #CHDWise!

This year has been a great year and our social media following has grown exponentially, allowing us to reach more families than ever before. We’re currently at 16,000 likes on our facebook page and we would love to be sitting at at least 16,500 followers by the end of the year! The more patients and families our message can reach, the greater the impact that we can have.

Join the Social Media Storm

During the month of November, you helped us cover social media with CHD facts and faces. Like, share, comment and tag using the hashtag #CHDWise.

KEEP IT GOING!

In the know – Help others understand the impact of CHD and what the Pediatric Congenital Heart Association is doing about it by sharing our memes.

Make it personal – Using the hashtag #CHDWise, share stories and photos about about how you and your family are #ConqueringCHD. This is all about sharing how Congenital Heart Disease impacts patients and families and how we, together, can educate everyone to be #CHDWise. Don’t forget to tag us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

Invite others – we can do the work for you – simply guide them to our media pages.  Ask them to like or follow us.  We’ll make sure they STAY engaged!  Click on an icon to find us:

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Encourage your Members of Congress to be #CHDWise

Tell your representatives why they should give a hoot about CHD!  Ask them to join you in #ConqueringCHD by becoming cosponsor of the Congenital Heart Futures Reauthorization Act (CHFRA).  Click here to learn more and see if your lawmaker has already signed-on.  If they have, be sure to thank them for #ConqueringCHD!!


Check out what’s happening in your neck of the woods

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 connected to a chapter near you.

 

 


A Great #CHDWise #GivingTuesday

 

#GivingTuesday is a day that the world recognizes the importance of giving back.

This global day of giving follows Black Friday and Cyber Monday and encourages communities to contribute to their favorite nonprofits and help kick off the giving season!

It’s a great way for us to reach new audiences who may not be familiar with our mission. Our goal was to raise $6000 so we can give 1000 Echo Owls to patients and families who have been hospitalized due to Congenital Heart Disease and WE DID IT! And it’s all because of YOU! Between the generous #GivingTuesday donations and the recent “Buy One. Give One.” Owl purchases we have reached our goal of funding 1000 owls to give to patients with CHD – IN JUST ONE DAY!

There’s still time to help us send even more owls – your donation matters. Your Buy One. Give One. matters.

Donate here: https://app.mobilecause.com/form/D_3qgg?

Owls available for purchase here: https://pediatric-congenital-heart-association.myshopify.com/products/owl


Finally, Celebrate how #CHDWise you are and all we are doing, together, to Conquer CHD! Don’t forget to use the hashtag #CHDWise when you share your stories and pictures 

Teen Topics – Q&A: Your Questions Answered

Back in September, patients and families submitted the questions they most wanted answered. We caught up with members of PCHA’s Medical Advisory Board, at last month’s Transparency Summit, to ask those questions. Check out the videos below, featuring Dr. Marino, Dr. Madsen, Dr. Gurvitz, and Dr. Sood’s answers on teen and young adult topics.

 

 

Dr. Brad Marino – Transition, Staying in Care, Protecting Your Health

Dr. Marino is an attending cardiac intensivist at Lurie Children’s Hospital. He is a Professor of Pediatrics and Medical Social Sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, also serving as the Director of the Center for Cardiovascular Innovation in the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute.

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Nicolas Madsen – Activity, Drugs & Alcohol, Related Conditions, Staying in Care

Nicolas L. Madsen, MD, MPH joined the Heart Institute at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in July 2012. He is the Vice Chair of PCHA’s Medical Advisory Board.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Michelle Gurvitz –  College, Tattoos, Contraception, and Transition.

Dr. Gurvitz is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a staff cardiologist with the Boston Adult Congenital Heart program at Children’s Hospital Boston and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Erica Sood – Behavioral Health Topics/School Resources

 

Dr. Sood is a pediatric psychologist in the Nemours Cardiac Center and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University.

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you, Dr. Marino, Dr. Madsen, Dr. Gurvitz, and Dr. Sood, for your willingness to share your knowledge and experience!

 

Happy Birthday PCHA – #ConqueringCHD Week!

Here are a few ways to

celebrate our 4th Birthday with us!


Use your Social Media talents as we work to reach 450,000 people and get 15,000 page likes!

It’s your week to shine as a PCHA #ConqueringCHD social media ambassador!

In February, our education efforts had a total weekly reach of 344,000 people for our #CHDAware campaign.  Wow – that is more than double the previous year’s CHD week!  That is a huge impact!

We’re also currently at 14,798 likes on our facebook page and we would love to get 15,000 followers by the end of the week!

Join the Social Media Blitz 

During this help us cover social media with facts and faces. Like, share, comment and tag using the hashtag #ConqueringCHD.

In the know – Help others understand the impact of CHD and what the Pediatric Congenital Heart Association is doing about it by sharing our memes throughout the week.

Make it personal – Using the hashtag #ConqueringCHD, share stories and photos about those in your lives who are Conquering CHD. Tag us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Whether it is conquering CHD at the doctors office, at school, on the playing field, welcoming a rainbow baby, helping others, advocating, or celebrating a birthday of your own, during #ConqueringCHD week, we want to celebrate with you!!

Invite others – we can do the work for you – simply guide them to our media pages.  Ask them to like or follow us.  We’ll make sure they STAY engaged!  Click on an icon to find us:

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Write your Members of Congress

Tell them it is #ConqueringCHD Week.  Ask them to join you in #ConqueringCHD by becoming cosponsor of the Congenital Heart Futures Reauthorization Act (CHFRA).  Click here to learn more and see if your lawmaker has already signed-on.  If they have, be sure to thank them for #ConqueringCHD!!


Gear Up!

Check out our online store for #ConqueringCHD apparel, bags, buttons, and more!  Don’t miss our great strawberry smelling pens, too!! 

 


Attend an Event

The party goes on after #ConqueringCHD Week.  Consider joining us for one of our great Congenital Heart Galas:

Third Annual Congenital Heart Gala on September 16th, 2017 at the Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee Wisconsin.

Inaugural Congenital Heart Gala on September 9th, 2017 at the Four Seasons Downtown, Denver, Colorado.

And check out events happening in your area by connecting with one of our local state chapters HERE:


Finally, Celebrate all you are doing as, together, we are #ConqueringCHD!

Support PCHA in the Final Hours of Macy’s Shop for a Cause Charity Challenge!

PCHA is involved in the Macy’s Shop for a Cause Charity Challenge, a friendly fundraising competition raising money for causes like ours. We’ve got just over a few hours to go before our campaign ends. As of this morning we are sitting in 11th place sitting at $13,300 raised. When you add in the generous $3,000 from one of our Medical Advisory Board members as a Challenge Grant and the additional $2,000 from Macy’s we won during Bonus Challenge #1 that brings us to $18,300!! That’s amazing work and brings us almost to our goal of raising $25,000.

It’s not too late to help us Conquer CHD!

We are moving Mountains:

  • Hosting 2 national conferences in 2017 about patient empowerment through public reporting of hospital outcome information.
  • Received national coverage of our efforts on this issue in U.S. News and World report
  • Co-hosted a congenital heart legislative conference discussing public health policy, research and data for congenital heart disease.
  • Presently have a congenital heart disease research law working it’s way through Congress
We are touching lives:
  • In the first 6 months of 2017, we distributed more than 3000 Conquering CHD care packages providing essential resources and support directly to patients and their families
  • Shared more than 5000 copies of our Guided Questions Tool to help patients and family have important conversations with their doctors.
  • Reach between 50,000-200,000 people each week on social media with our education, support, research and awareness messaging.
PCHA is the resounding voice of the congenital heart community. Our voice is strengthened by the involvement of all of those who share our mission. 
Help us reach our goal of raising $25,000 to further that mission. 
  • $5 Provides a family with an educational resource card
  • $50 Allows us to provide a Conquering CHD care package of educational materials and Comfort items to a family whose child is in the hospital
  • $100 Helps us reach 20,000 people through social media
  • $250 Helps support an educational hospital site visit.
  • $500 Sponsors a parent or patient to attend our Legislative Conference in Washington D.C., and advocate for all those impacted by CHD by educating our members of Congress about congenital heart disease on Capital Hill.
 

 

 To Learn more & Donate CLICK HERE

Mental Health – Beyond Survival, The Struggle with Anxiety and Depression

PCHA continues its series on Mental Health with a piece by nurse and PCHA -VA Board Member, Sydney Taylor. Here, Sydney discusses contributing factors and prevalence of Anxiety and Depression in patients and parents affected by Congenital Heart Disease. 

 

 

 

For the first time ever, there are more adults living with a congenital heart defect than children. This is all thanks to improved medical technology, amazing advancements, and increased knowledge and awareness in treating CHD. While this is certainly incredible news, there are new – and unanticipated – aspects of treating survivors that we must now focus on.

When the field of pediatric cardiology was born, the main goal was to keep patients alive. The beginning

of this delicate science was unfortunately wrought with struggles in patient survival rates. However, as time went on and improvements and advancements in the field were made, patients started living to reach adulthood. But still, the main focus was to simply get these patients to see age 18. On the whole, aspects of everyday life patients may struggle with were – and sometimes continue to be – unaddressed by providers simply due to a lack of research and knowledge.

One of the biggest (and most prevalent) concerns facing CHD survivors is anxiety and/ or depression. Frequent and lengthy hospitalizations, painful procedures, and traumatic surgeries in childhood often lead to profound psychosocial impacts on patients. These impacts can range from minor to life-altering. For example, I can always feel myself becoming anxious when I smell rubbing alcohol or “hospital smell.” I remember this anxiety from childhood, but it had typically been isolated to healthcare-related environments. However, it made the beginning of nursing school and working in the clinical setting very difficult. Other patients may avoid seeking medical attention due to this anxiety, turn to substance abuse to cope with depression, or experience any number of ineffective coping strategies due to a lack of recognition of their unique needs in the medical community.

In a particular study done in adults with CHD, researchers selected patients who appeared to be “well-adjusted”; that is, did not outwardly exhibit signs and symptoms of depression or anxiety. Despite their appearances, 36.4% were found to have a “diagnosable psychiatric disorder, with anxiety or depressive symptoms being prominent [1].” Another study revealed that 18.3% of adolescents (age 12-18) with a heart defect suffer from depressive symptoms, compared with 3.3% of the healthy control group. Additionally, 30% of the adolescent CHD patients displayed anxiety, compared to 10% of the healthy control group [2].

Patients are not the only ones to suffer psychological distress related to their heart defect and treatment experience. Parents of CHD patients are also at risk, and possibly experience greater distress than their children. In a recent study done by the American Heart Association, an estimated 25%-50% of parents experience symptoms of depression and/ or anxiety, “and 30% to 80% reported experiencing severe psychological distress [3].”

There are more factors at play in the development of depression and/ or anxiety in the CHD population than you might think. Patients with more complex defects seem to be at a higher risk of developing anxiety and depression, and interestingly, those who undergo more cardiac catheterizations than others [2]. It has also been theorized that separation from parents due to early life-saving interventions shortly after birth may contribute to psychosocial abnormalities. Other researchers have postulated that early exposure to traumatic events (such as open-heart surgery) contribute to the development of ineffective coping mechanisms later in life. Most intriguing is recent evidence suggesting higher rates of cerebral insult secondary to cardiac dysfunction in CHD patients: in one study, 24% of infants had abnormal brain scans prior to surgery, and a staggering 67% had abnormal brain scans after surgery [4]. Literature is even more scant regarding parental anxiety and depression, but older parents and unemployed parents seem to have a higher incidence of depression [4].

If you or a loved one are struggling with anxiety or depression, it is important to speak with a healthcare provider. Now that heart patients are surviving, we need help in thriving. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone you trust. You are not alone, and you matter.

 

For an additional guide on symptoms, tips, and when to seek help, please visit PCHA’s Educational Resource on Mental Health. Although this guide addresses parents in particular, the guidance it provides can be applied to patients experiencing difficulty with andxiety, depression, and post traumatic stress, as well. 

 

 

References:

1. Bromberg, J.I., Beasley, P.J., D’Angelo, E.J., Landzberg, M., DeMaso DR. (2003). Depression and anxiety in adults with congenital heart disease: a pilot study. Heart Lung, 32(105–110).

2. Awaad, M. & Darahim, K.(2015). Depression and anxiety in adolescents with congenital heart disease. European Psychiatry, 30(1), 28-31. doi 10.1016/S0924-9338(15)31916-7.

3. Woolf-King, S.E., Anger, A., Arnold, E.A., Weiss, S. J., Teitel, D. (2017). Mental health among parents of children with critical congenital heart defects: A systematic review. Journal of the American Heart Association, 6(2). doi 10.1161/JAHA.116.004862.

4. Pauliks, L. B. (2013). Depression in adults with congenital heart disease-public health challenge in a rapidly expanding new patient population. World Journal of Cardiology, 5(6), 186-195. doi 10.4330/wjc.v5.i6.186.

 

 

 

Sydney Taylor is a congenital complete heart block survivor, registered nurse, and is the Adult CHD Board Director for PCHA-Virginia. She has required pacemaker therapy since she was 15 hours old. She enjoys coffee and a good book, hiking and kayaking in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley area, visiting national parks, and making friends with any and all dogs.

 

American Stroke Awareness Month – Terese’s Story

For the month of May, PCHA has been focusing on American Stroke Awareness Month. In the 4th week of our series, Terese Quarino shares her experience with stroke.

 

I remember the day, like it was yesterday…. The Wednesday before Labor day weekend, I called my cardiologist to say I felt some funny beats in my heart, but no other symptoms.  He said he would send me a holtor monitor overnight to wear for 24 hours. I did exactly what he told me to do, and when I received a call from him late on a Saturday night, a holiday weekend, I knew something was up!  He told me to pick up two medications at the pharmacy that night, start taking it, and that if I have any fast heart rates, go straight to the ER.  I agreed.  If I didn’t see him in the ER, I would see him first thing Tuesday morning in his office.  He explained everything  to me on the phone, but it came out of the phone like Charlie Brown talking  (Mwa-Mwa-Mwa sound).  I hung up the phone and didn’t tell my parents anything, except that I needed to pick up the medications and be at my doctors office Tuesday morning.The rest of the weekend went fine and we went to my cardiologist office Tuesday morning.

As soon as I arrived, I had an EKG, an echo, and blood work done.  It was determined that I was in heart failure. My heart rate was at about 300 beats per minute.  I met with an electrophysiologist and my cardiologist to determine what would be the best course of treatment.  We decide cardiversion would be the best route. Since I had already eaten breakfast that morning, we would have to wait until the next day.

Wednesday morning, my doctors started with a TEE (Trans-Esophageal Echocardiogram) to see if there are any blood clots that they could see before they performed the cardioversion.  When they didn’t find anything, they moved forward with the cardioversion. After the procedure I was feeling great.  The doctors decided to keep me overnight, until my Coumadin was at a therapeutic level. One of my parents always stays with me after any procedure or surgery.  I told my parents I was fine, and they could go home. Twelve hours after my procedure I had  stroke.

My nurse was in the room, checking on me, and I could not speak. Then my arm started to bend, and it went behind and arched my back. Next, I could not feel anything in my hands or feet.  The nurse left the room, and I remember thinking to myself, “why is she leaving me?” But looking back, I realized she pushed a button before she left. Seconds later, a rush of doctors and nurses came to my rescue.   If it was not for their quick response, the lingering symptoms from my stroke may have been worse.

After my stroke, I had cognitive, physical,and speech therapy, which I’m truly thankful for. I will be honest, I struggled with it! But, step by step, I got through it! I still struggle with how my stroke impacted my everyday life. My handwriting is horrible, it’s significantly worse than before my stroke.  I also have a hard time with recall. At work, when I need to speak at a meeting, I would jot down notes to prepare. Now, if I just write it down, I may not remember what I need to say, so instead I type ord for word in the note section of my phone, so I can read it.  All these issues add up to big issues.

Having a stroke has changed my outlook on life. It has taught me to live everyday to the fullest! My experience with stroke was quite a scary time for me, and I will never forget  how it felt!

 

 

 

Terese was born with Tetralogy of Fallot in 1973, which was repaired in 1974 at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, IL. In 1992, she had her second open heart surgery, and mitral valve replacement. Terese’s other medical conditions include a lumpectomy in 1990, and multiple treated aneurysms. She also started dealing with rhythm issues, and still is to this day, which required a cardioversion in 2007. Twelve hours after her cardioversion, Terese suffered a stroke. She has also had two ablations, and had a pacemaker implanted in September 2014.  Since then, Terese’s medical history has been further complicated, in recent years, by being diagnosed with Lupus (SLE) in 2013 and Shrinking Lung Syndrome in 2015. In her free time, Terese loves spending time with her family, friends, and her puppy, Payton. She also enjoys swimming and listening to great music.  She lives each day to the fullest!