Thursday, February 22, 2018

How About Your Heart?

by Debra DuPree Williams @DDuPreeWilliams

This month I’ve been talking about heart health with a strong emphasis on heart disease in women. I hope that as you read through these posts, you found something that made you stop and think or ask questions about your own heart health. At the very least, I hope that you know that women’s symptoms are different from men’s and that you will seek immediate help if you should experience any of the symptoms I mentioned.

Today, I have one final question for you about the state of your heart. How is it spiritually? In other words, is it right with God? Now, I am no Bible scholar, nor am I a minister of the Gospel. I am just a simple woman─wife, mother, grandmother, writer, follower of Christ.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Heart Disease--Some Risk Factors for Women

by Debra DuPree Williams @DDuPreeWilliams

Since February is Heart Health Month, I've centered my blogs around that subject. Today I talk about some of the risk factors for heart disease.

None of us wants to think that we might have heart disease. Believe me, I know. I’ve walked in those shoes. It is a scary proposition. But ignoring symptoms can lead to an early death. Today’s medical interventions and lifestyle changes can reverse heart disease in many people. But why not stop it before it starts?

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Heart Attacks--Women's Symptoms are Different

by Debra DuPree Williams @DDuPreeWilliams
Last week I told you the beginning episode of my heart issues. If you read that and you have any of the symptoms I shared with you, please see your physician. The photos I included were pretty dramatic. I must tell you, that looking at them used to scare me. This time when my husband pulled them out of my health-related files and handed them to me, I fell to my knees, tears pouring down my face, in praise to Almighty God for being The Great Physician.

My Christian faith got me through those scary days─the day of the procedure, the days afterwards as I learned to live with knowing I had a stent in my heart. I know that Jesus was right there with me. I could feel His presence as all I could do was say over and over, “Jesus, please don’t leave me.” Even though my precious husband had to return to our home, forty-five minutes away, to be with our thirteen-year-old son, I knew I was not alone. I was still scared, but I wasn’t alone.

I went home, only to have to return to the hospital for a second cath just two days later. I was having symptoms, and I knew that stents sometimes close. I don’t want to scare you, just inform you so that you know. It would be a very rare thing, and in my case, I’m convinced, almost fourteen years later, that I had had a panic attack. My stent had slightly collapsed, but it wasn’t anything out of normal ranges. I was fine.

You Call This Normal?
So, I spent that year trying to get back to normal. Each subsequent year brought forth the need for an annual treadmill test, with contrast photos, what they call a nuclear stress test. I am one of the unlucky ones who throws off false positives. After having two more caths as a result of this test, they finally determined that it was, indeed, false positives as my stent was clear and doing its job. But, I had three heart caths that were unnecessary. But, it is always better to err on the side of caution. Always.

After those three caths, they began doing a much easier test, the 64-Slice CT Scan. I did that for five years, then they stopped those as well as, by that time, it was determined that they put too much radiation into the body. This is a good test, but not so often.

In the subsequent years, we moved to a different county, one too far away for me to continue seeing my local cardiologist. For all of those years, 2004 to 2012, I was on a daily low-dose aspirin and a 75-milligram Plavix, daily. Once I switched cardiologists, she took me off the Plavix saying I had been kept on it about seven years too long. I had no clue. I trusted my doctor who just wanted to keep me in this world. I was very glad to be off that medicine. It did its job, but one of the side effects is that any time I was even slightly bumped by anything, I got huge blood clots where ever I received the bump. I was black and blue for years.

Educate Yourself
I’ve educated myself about heart health in the past fourteen years. I don’t know everything, but I do know much more than I did before. Would you know if you were having a heart attack? Do you know the symptoms? Do you know that they are or can be very different in women than in men?

I know my heart symptoms now. I don’t hesitate to get to the ER when I think I may be having an event. For me, sometimes I get what feels like indigestion. Now, I do have GERD, so it isn’t always easy to determine if it is heart or if it is gastro-related. To be safe, if in doubt, get to the ER.

My heart symptoms that I know for sure are heart and not gastro are heaviness in my stomach, about the area of my waist. I can only tell you it feels as if I’m carrying a heavy load of bricks in there. And I can’t breathe. I get very short of breath, making it difficult for me to do the slightest activity that requires any effort.

But yours could be very different from mine. Remember, you are not likely to present as a man does with that big-time pain in your chest.

Symptoms Common in Women
Here are some common symptoms in women:
·         Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back, or     abdominal pain
·         Shortness of breath
·         Pain in one or both arms
·         Nausea or vomiting
·         Sweating
·         Lightheadedness or dizziness
·         Unusual fatigue

These symptoms can occur when you are resting or even asleep. I don’t want to alarm you, just educate you. If you have experienced any of these, please get to the ER, or tell your physician. It could save your life.

Next week, I’ll share more of my experience. Have you had any of these symptoms? Share your story. What you have to say could save a life.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

February is American Heart Month-Is Yours Healthy?

by Debra DuPree Williams @DDuPreeWilliams
February is American Heart Month. And it isn’t just about Valentine’s Day with all those roses, and boxes of candy, and hearts. But it is about your heart and the health of your heart.

I can speak to heart disease from first-hand experience. It’s one of those things that happens to other people, not to us. You know I’m right. We never think it is going to darken our door . . . until one day─it does.

Fourteen years ago, we were eagerly awaiting the birth of our first grandchild. We made the decision to travel from our home in sunny, warm west-central Florida, to dead-of-winter, snow-on-the-ground, cold, cold northern Virginia. We packed our warmest clothing, baby gifts, and loaded up the car.

Now, traveling hasn’t ever been easy on me. My ankles always swell, and food on the road just never seems to agree with me. This trip was no exception. By the time we had spent two days on the road, my ankles looked like elephant feet. The food? Not any better. I was popping Rolaids like they were candy. Thing is, that’s when they had those soft, chewy, vanilla-flavored ones. Tasted good, but they didn’t begin to touch my indigestion.

It's a Girl--But I'm Dying!
In the hotel at night, I was up all night eating handfuls of those vanilla chews. One after another, after another. And when we arrived at the hospital for the big event, we discovered that there was a little ramp, about three feet long, leading up to the door. It was at a very slight incline, still, I was huffing and puffing every time I had to go in that door. I chalked it up to the cold weather. I couldn’t breathe.
Fast forward a couple of weeks. Our beautiful granddaughter arrived into this world with a hefty cry and a smile on her face. She was perfect. So we went back home to warm, sunny Florida.

But . . . I still had indigestion. And things that used to be easy, like walking from the boys’ side of our house to our side, were downright difficult. I had to stop and catch my breath halfway through the trip. Forget about doing laundry. Every time I bent to retrieve clothes from the dryer, I had pains shooting to the middle of my chest. What is this? My indigestion must be getting worse.
But It's Just Indigestion
So, I saw my primary physician. She immediately ordered me to see a cardiologist. What? For indigestion? I have to tell you, it seemed weird, but off I went. After hearing my story, he set me up with a treadmill test which I am sure I failed miserably. But when they asked me if I was having pain in my arm or chest, I smiled and said, very breathily, I assure you, No, I’m fine. WRONG! I was hurting so much, I thought I was going to die right there. But I was terrified of even the thought of cardiac intervention. When he took me into his office after the exam, he told me I needed to go to the hospital immediately for more testing and likely a catheterization. I was in shock. Refused to go. No. Not this girl. No. Sir. No. Way.

I went home and called a friend in my church who had just had such a procedure and had done very well. She didn’t do it locally but traveled to another county to a huge health clinic. I have to back up and tell you that a friend’s husband had had a very bad experience with the group that ran my first test. I knew I couldn’t let them do anything. And my mother had almost died from a heart cath in south Alabama when I was a newly-wed. I was scared. Period. So I made an appointment for late March with the group my church friend had used.

Get Me There . . . FAST
I didn’t make it to that appointment. On Saturday night, March 21, 2004, I began having trouble breathing. I propped up on about four pillows trying to make it better. I knew, I knew, I needed to go to the hospital, but I just couldn’t get past the fear. So I waited. By Sunday afternoon around three o’clock, I was blue around my lips. I finally told my husband, “If you don’t get me there fast, I’m going to die.” Still, I refused to go to our local hospital. He drove me forty-five minutes to the big hospital in the nearby county.

They took me in and immediately put an IV in, gave me four baby aspirin, and even a Plavix. They observed me overnight and scheduled me for a heart cath on Monday afternoon. Thus, I had to do the thing I dreaded the most. But . . . it saved my life.

Thankful to God
After I had received the stent and recovered sufficiently for the doctor to talk to us, he showed us before and after x-rays. By the grace of God alone, I had a tiny little blood vessel that had formed its own bypass around the clogged artery, the main one on the front of the heart, the Left Anterior Descending, the LAD, also known as the widow-maker. It was 99.9% blocked. But I was still alive!

This month, I’m going to share some things I’ve learned about heart disease and some of my experiences. I hope you will join me here as what I have to say just may save your life or the life of someone you love. From the bottom of my now-healthy heart, I wish you well and abundant blessings.

Have you had heart issues? Tell us about your symptoms and what you did. Your words could impact someone enough to make them act.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Success--A Team Effort

by Debra DuPree Williams @DDuPreeWilliams

Granddaughter, Second from Left, Middle Row, Group Novice, Kung Fu Fighting
This past weekend my hubby and I traveled to Ft. Myers, Florida, to see our elder granddaughter skate with her synchro team. Synchro ice-skating has been a major part of her life since she was about six years old. She will turn fourteen next month, so you do the math. That’s a lot of years of dedication.

I am happy to say that her team came in fourth place and will be going to nationals in Portland, Oregon, in just a few weeks. She could have chosen solo skating, but she likes being part of a team. They are fortunate to have one another to lean on. But it isn’t just leaning on one another, it is knowing that your teammate has done everything she could to be an asset to the team as a whole. It isn’t me-focused, it is we-focused. The motto I see associated with the DC EDGE program is  I can’t, but we can. I like that.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Change I Can Live With

by Debra DuPree Williams @DDuPreeWilliams
I don’t like change. Period. And what is life but one change followed by another and then another. Nothing ever stays the same.

When I was in college I took a psychology class in which we were given a test to determine certain aspects of our personalities. Don’t ask me what the test was called because that was a lifetime ago. But I do remember that on one question about change, I ranked in the ninety-nine percent of those who hate change. I could have told them that without the benefit of the test.

I’ve had a lot of changes in my life in the past four or five years. Some of the changes were by choice, but some were not. My husband and I are about to experience another pretty big change in our lives. We are moving for the fourth time in less than five years. That’s a lot of moving─ especially for people our age. I’m trying to look on the bright side and adjust to the change.

I know I will be happy with this move as we are going back to the mountains of western North Carolina. We love it up there, except for the cold of winter. I’m not very fond of that. One change I don’t mind is winter’s end and spring’s beginning. Even the weather down here in Florida has been a bit too cold for me this winter.


One of the perks of this move will be that rather than a two-day drive to see our granddaughters, we will have only an eight-hour drive. Now that’s a change I can embrace.

Another perk is getting to spend spring watching the rhododendron blooming along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The last time we lived up there, we drove up to Roan Mountain in Tennessee to see the rhododendron at their finest during the festival there. It was a sight to behold. All that color covering the mountains.

And there’s nothing quite like fall in the mountains. The leaves put on such a show that people come from every corner of the globe to see them. I’m rendered speechless by the magnitude of God’s artistic abilities. If you’ve never spent a fall in the mountains, do yourself a favor and plan that trip now. Hotels will be full, so plan early. If you are family or friend, make your reservations at our home now, too. We’d love to have you, but we need to know you’re coming.

I started this post saying I don’t like change. That’s true, I really don’t. If I could have kept my little boys just that, I’d be over the moon. But then, little boys are supposed to become men and each of mine has done that. For that, I am thankful.

Just a Part of  Life

Change is just a part of life. It’s how we learn and how we grow. Writing this post has helped me realize that it is through change that I have become the person I am today. I was blessed with the best parents I could have asked for. They were there guiding me as I changed from little girl to woman, to wife.

And my husband and I changed together as we went from the couple we were to the parents of our four sons. We changed as each of them left our nest for the world beyond the safety of our home. We changed as they married and brought daughters into our lives. We changed when one marriage ended and our hearts were broken for them and for us.

We changed when each of our granddaughters joined our family. Let me add that we had to change big time for that as we knew nothing about little girls. But boy oh boy! were we thrilled to finally have little girls. A most-welcome change.

At the end of this month we will walk hand-in-hand into our new home with all the changes that will bring. This change will bring with it opportunity for new friends, a new church family, new experiences.

Change isn’t easy for me, but I know that I’ll have my husband by my side and we will have our faith to get us through any rough spots we may encounter. I think I’ll just consider this a time to grow. That’s change I can live with and I need to remember Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

How do you deal with change? Are you as challenged as I’ve always been? Share your experiences with us below.