In 2001, Karlyne Tribble had a health scare, which brought her to Saint Joseph’s Hospital for care. Years later, Karlyne, an active member of our Cardiac Rehab program, has lots to be thankful for during this holiday season. Her advice to people reading this blog: “know your family history in order to pursue genetic testing. Berkeley Heart Lab provides an acid test that is affordable and telling.” So this Thanksgiving, give the people who love you something to be thankful for: take Karlyne’s advice and make sure you are in heart healthy shape.
Bastille Day, July 14, 2001, began my extraordinary journey toward heart health. I had a major heart attack at 2:00 in the afternoon in a doctor’s office that was already closed. Paramedics were 5 minutes away. The hospital was 10 minutes away. The blood clot in my LAD was to be burst… in 2 hours!! To this day I am amazed that I survived and frequently ask myself, who has that many blessings in one day? At the time, I was 52 years old and had retired from 30 years of teaching 5 weeks prior. Though my father had “hardening of the arteries” and died on a volleyball court at age 50, it never occurred to me that the Buick-like pressure on my chest for 3 hours was a heart attack. I had been a health enthusiast in my 20s and 30s and an athlete.
Around 1992, I began to gain weight -50 pounds- because I was always so fatigued. I blamed the fatigue on menopause and did not feel it was important to share this issue with my doctor. Over the span of nine years, rarely did I feel well on any given day. That’s a long time to feel lousy. From time to time I would experience a terrible pain in my heart that would hit me hard and stop me in my tracks. A diagnosis of mitral valve prolapse was made, and I didn’t worry too much about the episodes after that. Little did I know a clot was lurking. The pain I felt during my heart attack was identical to the pain in the episodes, only this time it didn’t stop.
After my heart attack, one of the nurses from the Saint Joseph’s Cardiac Rehab called me on behalf of Eileen Ruban. Eileen and I had known each other at church for 10 years and she wanted to set up a rehabilitation schedule for me. I wasn’t interested, so my quip to her nurse was that I would be attending cardiac rehab close to my home. Well the joke was on me! Within an hour Eileen herself called me to inquire as to where I’d be rehabilitating since she and I live in the same area and she knew there was no such facility. Eileen informed me that I was to get my “beast of burden” to Saint Joseph’s within the week! Thus began an odyssey of wellness leading to my relationship with the Saint Joseph’s Cardiac Rehab program.
A bit of a respite from working out took place October 10, 2007, when I had a double bypass skillfully performed by Dr. David Langford. After the first 24 hours, my stay at Saint Joseph’s was like a spa! Nurses with the tenacity similar to the rehab nurses I’d been working with prior to my surgery had me up and walking the next day. Dr. Laura Gonzalez, my cardiologist, watched over me like a best girlfriend. And her PA, Regan, was at my bedside every morning with orders and encouragement. And, of course, Eileen!!! She was in recovery when I opened my eyes after double bypass surgery. To be honest, when I first saw her I was afraid that she was going to pull out a portable treadmill for the bedridden!
A while after my return to cardiac rehab, I integrated the Berkeley Heart Lab program into my wellness regime. Erin Jerger led me through the loss of 50 pounds, which gave me instant increased energy. She and the rehab nurses offered compassionate understanding during the months my husband had cancer surgery and was in the hospital. This compassion; however, did not mean a “hall pass” from the program that was making me healthy. During those rough few months, it was the rehab program that kept me from experiencing unhealthy responses to fear and exhaustion.
Today, Lynda Maschek assists me as I continue my journey towards good health. In fact, she and I recently celebrated the fact that I lowered my Lpa from 116 to 37. My life is a joy! I feel better now than I did 25 years ago thanks to the Saint Joseph’s Cardiac Rehab program. And a special thank you goes out to Eileen Ruban, whom following my heart attack told me my life would never be the same. Thank God it’s not.