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    Chris - Managing Stress and Keeping her Heart Healthy

    Chris -
    Chris - Managing Stress and Keeping her Heart Healthy

    Chris felt fine. Sometimes she would get short of breath when walking to her car, but after she sat in her car for a few minutes her chest would open up and she would feel normal again. Being a nurse, she felt she could take care of herself and continually brushed off her symptoms day after day.

    In March 2009 while walking up the stairs on her way to a meeting, Chris felt especially winded and had mild angina, also known as chest pain. After her meeting she called her primary care physician, James Garrett, M.D., to make an appointment.

    While trying to make an appointment she told the nurse her symptoms. She also explained to the nurse that she had availability for an appointment next week and would like to schedule her appointment then. The nurse immediately replied that Chris’s symptoms were considered very serious and she needed to be seen today.

    "Looking back on this moment is kind of funny," Chris said, "I really felt that my condition wasn’t very serious and that I had the leisure time to make my condition work with my schedule."

    At her appointment, Dr. Garrett performed an EKG - Electrocardiogram that resulted in normal findings. But because of her symptoms, Dr. Garrett felt additional testing was required and scheduled her for a stress test, which Chris failed miserably.

    Chris was then referred to cardiologist William Vetter, M.D. who reviewed Chris’ previous tests and scheduled her for an angiogram.

    "I was a bit scared to have the angiogram," Chris said, "but Dr. Vetter was kind and reassuring. He even woke me up during the procedure so that I could see just how serious my condition really was."

    The angiogram showed that Chris had one vessel that was 100 percent blocked and two vessels that were 80 percent blocked. This diagnosis meant Chris would need to be scheduled for triple bypass surgery.

    Chris was scheduled for major open-heart surgery the following week, but still had a few odds and ends to take care of before she could allow herself to be sick. First on her list was tying up the loose ends at work, but when Chris tried to use her badge to get into her office on the weekend it didn’t work. Unbeknownst to her, Chris’ husband had called her office and let them know about her leave, and her badge was deactivated. After that didn’t pan out Chris went on a little shopping trip to update her shabby wardrobe. She was concerned about everyone seeing her in her normal loungewear and wanted to make sure she had something a bit more put together.

    "At this time the severity of my condition still hadn’t sunk in," Chris said. "I remember my husband trying to get me to stay home and rest before surgery, but I was more concerned about my wardrobe and taking care of things at work then I was about my health."
    In April 2009 cardiovascular surgeon, Robert Kincade, M.D., performed a triple-bypass on Chris. The surgery was extremely successful and she only had to spend one week at Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento.

    "I clearly remember being in the ICU after surgery and was surprised to see the pastor from my church visiting patients," Chris said. "That was when it finally resonated how serious my condition really was. Sitting there starring at the `emergency kit’ of lip gloss and other toiletries I had packed while my pastor was visiting the sick and the dying. It all made me feel a bit silly."

    After surgery Chris was referred to Cardiac Rehabilitation for an eight-week course of monitored exercise, nutrition and therapy. There she learned that the culprit for her heart disease was stress. With no family history of heart disease and normal cholesterol levels, her high stress job was the only indicator left on the list. Chris was then prescribed counseling to help manage her stress.

    Now, a year later, Chris is healthier then ever. Since making good food choices, regularly exercising and keeping her stress down, she is actually keeping an eye out on her health much more than ever before.

    "As a nurse, mother and manager my job has always been to take care of other people without regard to my own well-being," Chris said. "Now that I realize just how precarious my life had been, I am taking more 'me-time' and it has really paid off."


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