Jennifer Volland – You are Not Alone
Jennifer Volland lives in eastern Washington state and loves being a grandmother. She volunteers for the local American Heart Association as a Go Red for Women Ambassador.
It was just a normal Sunday morning – listening to the morning news, reading Facebook, drinking a chai tea. My arms started to hurt a little and there was a bit of pressure on my chest, but no pain. I stood up and got a little dizzy. It felt like everything was going haywire. Everything felt a little “off.” It never crossed my mind that at age 50 I was having a heart attack. I had no family history of heart disease or high blood pressure.
Even though I thought I was getting the flu, I felt this unexplainable need to get to the hospital, so I woke up my husband and said, “Come on we’ve got to go.” That decision helped save my life. I was having a heart attack and doctors had to perform double bypass surgery.
During my recovery, it was the emotional piece that took me completely by surprise. At the hospital I was watched constantly. But then I came home. At night when the house was quiet, and I would feel the slightest heart flutter, it would throw me into a panic. Three times that year I went to the ER just out of fear that it was happening again.
I went to the American Heart Association’s website and found the Online Support Network and posed a question to the group: is anyone else scared? I was overwhelmed by the number of responses: people who were at the same stage and I was, and others that were farther along in the journey. Their responses reassured me and made me feel like I wasn’t alone.
Cardiac rehab also helped me manage the physical part of recovery as well as the emotional side. I felt like a baby in the beginning, crying when they’d tell me to slow down (because I desperately wanted to be healthy). For a short time, my primary care doctor prescribed an antidepressant to support my healing, and my emotional state got better with time. It took me about six months to get over the depression, a lot longer than it took for my chest to heal.
If you’ve had a heart attack, I want you to know that you’re not alone. Although you’ve joined the ‘club’ you never wanted to join, there is support out there. When my heart attack happened, it really felt like I was the only person in the world. But at the hospital, I realized that there was a whole floor of people going through the same thing.
My best advice is to be your own best advocate. Educate yourself and make the changes you can to support your own health. I encourage you to reach out to the Online Support Network. The support I got was tremendous. The American Heart Association also has an app called My Cardiac Coach, which now has an Emotional Well-being section, and you may find it helpful in your physical and emotional recovery.
Tell us: How did you hear about the Support Network? Register for the Support Network and reply in the comments below.
Download the American Heart Association’s free My Cardiac Coach app for Apple and Android phones. My Cardiac Coach now includes an Emotional Well-being module, thanks to support from Premera Blue Cross.