Changing a Family’s Heart

Changing a Family’s Heart
By: Phyllis Mayo

As a child I thought I was being raised in a very healthy home. My parents had religious convictions against going to doctors. If my Mom couldn’t soothe our pains with a“wives tale concoction,” all seven kids,as well as my Dad, would suffer until we eventually got better.

This philosophy worked great for us until about fifteen years ago. Over a period of two weeks my Dad’s health began to decline rapidly.He couldn’t catch his breath, was constantly nauseated, and could barely walk across the room. After much pleading from the family, he finally conceded and went to the hospital. The physician’s report was only the beginning of my family quickly changing how it viewed the role of doctors in managing its heart health.

My Dad suffered a heart attack and tests confirmed that he had experienced others without his knowledge which had caused severe damage to his heart. The prognosis was congestive heart failure with a life expectancy of about two weeks. Sadly, the doctor was right and we laid my Dad to rest two weeks later.

This event set the wheels in motion for my family members to actively try to eliminate this problem. My mom began to experience spells of her “heart running away” with her. She was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure. The test showed that her heart was only functioning at 19%. She immediately received a pacemaker and began to take medicine to control the spells of atrial fibrillation.

Five years after the death of my Dad, my fifty-two year old brother had just finished playing a game of basketball one afternoon and as he walked back to the house he suddenly fell to the ground. He experienced a massive heart attack and never regained consciousness. This was the first time that I heard my siblings talk openly about heart health and how we should all consider going to get a heart checkup.

Unfortunately, my oldest brother procrastinated his check up thinking that he was a picture of health. One year later almost to the date of my brother’s death, he awoke with what he thought was severe indigestion or high blood pressure. He talked with his wife several times on the phone February 16, 2009, and discussed just how awful he was feeling. His wife arrived home around 5:30 p.m. with a blood pressure cuff and a bottle or Rolaids in hand only to find her husband dead on the floor of their new house. The autopsy confirmed he had suffered a major heart attack about an hour prior to her arrival.

Now the importance of being proactive in heart health managment for our family became more important than ever. The reality that our family now was prone to deadly heart conditions compelled the remaining five siblings to take action immediately. The first action was that we all began to take fish oil tablets. We then scheduled our checkup with a local heart doctor. My sister went first. Due to the family history the physician ordered a hearth cauterization. They discovered that she had one artery 99% blocked and an impending heart attack was looming. Thankfully because of this discovery, she was able to have a stint put in and made a full recovery. My oldest sister’scheckup showed that she had an excessive number of electrodes going to her heart which caused “run away” spells from time to time. After a simple out-patient procedure called Ablation, she is doing exceedingly well. As for me, all the heart tests showed that I was in excellent physical conditions and had no heart related issues at all.

The importance of heart health has impacted my family greatly. These last few years have been very stressful, but also very informative and an eye-opening experience for my family. Much good has come from our family’s tragedies. Because of these events one of my nieces hasbecome a doctor in holistic medicinewith an emphasis onheart health. She now provides heart health classes bi-weekly to patients. The overall the cooking habits of my family have improved greatly. We all try to eat less fatty foods and eat more healthy foods. Exercise has become a big part of our daily routine. What seemed like an incurable disease fifteen years ago, now seems manageable after my family changed its view on the role of doctors and the importance of maintaining a healthy heart.