In 2011, I started feeling drained of energy. My legs and ankles were really swollen. I had gained weight. I couldn't walk and could barely breathe. I'd cough all night so I hardly ever got any sleep. I felt lousy.
It was then that I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. This happens when your heart can't pump enough blood. Because of this, parts of your body don't receive the blood and oxygen they need. This puts pressure on your blood vessels, which forces fluid into your body tissues and organs such as your lungs, legs and feet.
The causes of congestive heart failure include high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. Although it is more common among older people, it can affect people at any age. I was 61.
Lucky for me, I was referred to the Heart Failure Disease Management Clinic at Health Sciences North.
Right away, the staff gave me some medications that helped me shed about seven pounds of fluid from my body over three days. I felt 100% better.
But my treatment didn't stop there. I also received a lot of education from the Clinic's staff.
For example, they told me to avoid salt because it can make my condition worse. I thought that this just meant that I should put the salt shaker away. But they showed me how much salt is in a lot of the food we eat. It was a real eye opener. You've got to be really careful with all processed foods, because they're loaded with salt, which makes you retain water. I used to eat a lot of salt and sugar. Now I enjoy fish, chicken and turkey. And I love fruit.
The staff at the clinic also told me not to drink more than 6 cups of fluid in a day. That's not that much when you think about it. So I have to be really careful.
I also have been enrolled in Health Sciences North's cardiac rehabilitation program, where I exercise to strengthen my heart. Nurse practitioners monitor me to make sure everything is OK. Soon, I'll be able to do this at the YMCA and check my own heart rate, but there will always be a nurse on hand in case there is a problem.
In between my medical appointments at the Clinic, I receive automated phone calls from the hospital, reminding me of how I can take better care of myself.
I still get winded once in a while, but I'm really lucky that things are going as well as they are. Today, I can go for walks with my grandson and my dog. I might not be as fast as I used to be, but at least I can do it.
I can't say enough about the Heart Failure Disease Management Clinic. The doctors and staff there are great. I truly believe they're keeping me alive.