Brain Brawn & Body
Brain Brawn & Body blogs on health, nutrition/fitness, lifestyle, leisure and finances.
It's Real Simple
I’m excited and so thrilled that my husband Eric and I are able to bring Brain Brawn & Body to fruition. Helping African American men and the people who love them become active participants in their healthcare is critical. The result is they will live healthier lives.
Here’s why that’s important to me. Just over a year ago Eric had a second heart attack.
It happened on a snowy, Tuesday morning in January of 2012. I had been driving our Volkswagen Cabrio, because it was more economical. But on this day Eric thought the weather conditions weren’t safe enough to drive the Volkswagen. He thought I should take the truck but the tires looked a little low on air so, I called AAA.
I called my boss to let him know I would be late. This was about 7:00 a.m. At about 8:00 a.m., or so, Eric called me on a commercial break to say if I could wait until he gets finished with his radio show he would take me to work. I said okay. It’s funny because normally I would have said, “Hey, I’ve been living in Milwaukee all my life. I know how to drive in crazy weather. I’m driving the Rover. No worries, I’ll text you when I get to the office.”
However, this morning I said, “Okay.” Less than thirty minutes later I noticed his radio show was playing a best of version of ‘The Morning Magazine’, the show Eric has hosted for almost 20 years.
Hmmm, I thought. Then my cell phone rang. Eric was calling to say he didn’t feel well and he was headed to the VA. I told him I would meet him there. So, I put on my cold weather gear, grabbed my purse, my computer bag because I knew everything would be alright and I’d be off to work in no time.
Just as I was heading out of the door my cell phone rang - It was Eric saying he wasn’t going to make it to the VA; his co-worker who was taking him to the hospital was diverting to take him to St. Joseph’s Hospital. It was a little closer and given the weather, a safer bet to arrive without incident.
With that news, my temperament changed. Usually cool under pressure, I began to panic. AAA hadn’t arrived yet. So, I started to St. Joe’s in the VW. I wasn’t concerned about how well it would handle in the inclement weather. I would handle it.
I’m halfway there when I remember I don’t have his list of medications with me, (I had them listed in my phone, but that slipped my mind in the rush). So, I turned around and drove home, got the list and the bag of medications and headed back to the hospital.
Then I remember that my sister works at St. Joseph’s and so I call her. “Gina, Eric’s on his way to your emergency room. Can you look out for him?” “What’s wrong with him,” she asked. “I don’t know,” I say. It dawns on me that I really don’t know what is wrong. In the rush to get ready to go to the hospital I don’t recall if he said or if I even asked what the problem was. I just heard “hospital” and responded. I knew I needed to be there.
I tell Gina that I’m not sure. I’m worried because a couple weeks back we spent an entire Sunday at the VA. We went because he was complaining of a headache. Turns out his blood pressure was approaching stroke level. The doctors spent the afternoon working to get his blood pressure under control.
I tell Gina I’m almost at the hospital. She says she’ll be looking for me.
As I pull into a parking space my sister calls me back to ask how far I am from the hospital. I say, “I’m parking.” I begin what feels like the longest walk to the door of the hospital. There’s a security guard behind a Plexiglass shield in the lobby. I tell him who I am and why I’m there. He gives me the okay to come in. My sister is in the lobby. The lobby is full. Standing room only.
My sister says, “Did you know Magen is here too?” Magen is one of my nieces, who is living with Eric and me. I saw her last as she was leaving the house going to work.
Gina says, “She was bitten by a dog on her way to the bus stop. She’s getting stitches.”
We look at each other in disbelief. How could all of this be happening at the same time, on a morning like this, I think. Then Gina says, “Let me take you to Oscar.” That’s Gina’s nickname for Eric. Short for Oscar the Grouch and sometimes, though less often, Oscar Boo. He, in turn, calls her a bunch of names that I care not to repeat here. The two go at each other all the time just like brothers and sisters.
I was still unaware of the exact reason Eric came to the emergency room, that is until Gina says to me, “Faithe, did you know Eric had a heart attack?” I remember feeling like I was in a Spike Lee movie. You know when he uses that camera on a rail and it moves right at you making you feel like you’re in the movie?
The hospital hallway appears long and deep. I turn the corner and there’s my husband on a gurney, hooked up to all kinds of wires and tubes in a busy, bustling emergency room.
Oddly, he’s on his cell phone and I’m confused. Confused, but quiet and still. I need to understand and absorb quickly what I’m seeing. I’m trying to figure out what has happened; why it has happened and what the next steps are.
Eric’s on the phone arranging a fill-in host for his radio show for the rest of the week.
Okay, I think, get a grip. Eric looks at me and he looks fine to me. Not like someone who is having a heart attack. He looked better than I did. I know I looked worried and worn and it was just nine o’clock in the morning. It was about that time when he said to me, “Babe, don’t look so worried. I feel better. I just need some rest and to get the hell out of here! I want to go home.”
There’s a compartment in my mind yelling WHAT THE HECK KIND OF DAY IS THIS? Magen is on one side of the ER getting stitches from a dog bite and Eric’s on the other side of the ER having a heart attack and I’m watching all of this. It takes a double dose of strength and I call on my no-fear attitude to make it through this one.
The doctor comes in and tells us Eric’s tests haven’t come back yet and they want to do a few more. So he will need to stay overnight. I agree with the doctor and Eric tells him that he needs to be at the VA. That’s where his insurance is. The doctor says he’ll transfer him there via ambulance if they have a bed available. Of course Eric wants to drive…Man Madness! He doesn’t want to take an ambulance…more Man Madness!
The doctor says he’ll check and let us know.
There was no available bed at the VA. The hospital social workers will have to work out the details and square away the insurance concerns. They admit Eric to his own little private room. He’s going to be there until they get him right.
It’s a good thing he knew to take an aspirin when he started feeling the symptoms of a heart attack. Things could have been a lot worse. Later that evening the tests came back and confirmed that he did suffer a heart attack. But they described it as “minor”.
But what does “minor” mean? In my mind, anything having to do with the heart is major. Really? How severe was his attack? How much damage did his heart sustain?
My background in communications and public relations makes me skeptical. I always wonder just how much “spin” someone is putting on a story. It was no different with this situation. “Minor.” Was the doctor sugar coating his explanation to me to make it easier for me?
The answers came in spurts as information came to me from the doctors treating him. They made their decisions about treatment plans and next steps. The test results and all other signs indicated that he’d need to have a procedure the next morning to repair some damage. They would insert three stents to open arteries that had collapsed. The plan called for him to go in for the procedure early in the morning and provided that everything went well he’d be going home the next day.
SLOW DOWN SLOW DOWN LISTEN FAITHE. PRAY. PRAY RIGHT NOW
SLOW DOWN SLOW DOWN LISTEN FAITHE. PRAY. PRAY RIGHT NOW
SLOW DOWN SLOW DOWN LISTEN FAITHE. PRAY. PRAY RIGHT NOW
This was the message running through my mind as the doctor was talking. It had an almost digital quality to it.
Eric was calm. I tried to be calm, but I was anything but. I was trying to understand why everyone was acting so normal at such an abnormal moment.
I kept thinking if only I’d known more about heart disease or even knew I needed to know more. I could have helped remind him to get his heart checked.
I kept thinking was he doing all he knew he should be doing to prevent another heart attack. If only I had known I could have helped remember to get his heart checked.
I didn’t even know when he visited his internist or one of the specialists he saw that he should have been seeing a cardiologist too to check on his heart. That should have been routine since he had suffered a heart attack at the age of 48, six years earlier.
When you don’t know, you don’t know. There’s nothing blissful about ignorance.
Now, I know better. I’ve made it a point to learn all I can about helping him and helping him to be more proactive. I don’t take for granted that he’s doing what he’s supposed to do. We communicate about his health. I ask him pointedly how he feels. I don’t take charge, but we work on his health together.
Publishing Brain Brawn & Body has been part of my on-going self therapy and a journey for me to gain an understanding of the importance of the critical need to get information to African American men about their health and living healthier lifestyles.
Eric underwent the procedure he needed after his heart attack; inserting four stents was the plan, but he received only three. The fourth was to have been inserted behind his heart, but it was too difficult to get to. So for over a year, he’s been living with an untreated artery that we’re keeping a watchful eye on.
He’s on a number of medications and now that I’ve gone through a heart attack – a major health matter – I’m all over this situation.
There’s so much more I’ve learned to help my husband help himself live a healthier life. Including, living healthier myself. He’s big on eating vegetables and he doesn’t eat a lot of fried foods. I love everything fried and I’m trying to do better.
We watch what we eat more closely than before. I’ve spent the better part of a year insisting that his heart be monitored because of the untreated artery. I’m a bit obsessive about communicating my concerns about his health. I go to appointments with him and keep a diary of all the comments Eric makes about any aches and pains he mentions. I’ve made myself the manager of his meds, setting them out for the week in a pill box and advising him when it’s time to reorder. I open all mail from the VA only (lolololol) to stay on top of his doctors’ appointments.
Together we are managing and monitoring his health and mine. His health is no longer his personal and private affairs. It is ours.
He’s helped me to understand his chronic illness better and how it plays into his overall energy and pain management. Although he doesn’t look or sound like he has a chronic illness, he lives with one. Polymyositis is a chronic illness for which there is no cure. Plus, he has high blood pressure, a family history of heart disease and he has lived through two heart attacks.
My husband lives with some level of pain everyday. I forget because he looks so good and healthy and normal to me and others. However, the realty is my husband never expected to live to be 50. He’s 55. He’ll be 56 this year we’re committed to doing our part to keep rolling in the years!
That’s my story. Thank you for allowing me to share it with you. Feel free to share your story with us at Brain Brawn & Body. Who knows who you might help.
Spread the word to visit www.brainbrawnbody.com and help reshape the way health and healthy lifestyle information is shared with the tall, dark and good looking man in your life.
It’s real simple.
Faithe Colas is an expert in public and community relations. She is a partner in Von Communications, a public relations firm and is co-publisher and marketing director of Brain Brawn & Body.