Take care of yourself. Sounds simple, but as women and mothers, too often our focus is on others and we don’t take time to take care of ourselves. Whether it’s a well-child exam or physical, we make appointments for our family members while neglecting our own health. We feel fine, so what’s the point? Does this sound familiar? For Lynne Rahilly at 62-years-old, that was exactly the case until severe nausea sent her to the Emergency Department at Helen Newberry Joy Hospital. What she thought were gastrointestinal issues ended up being a heart attack. That medical event would not only change her life but the lives of those around her.
Last August, Lynne did what she normally did and went to work in her family’s store, Rahilly’s IGA. She wasn’t feeling great, but not bad enough to stay home. As the day progressed, her symptoms worsened until she could only describe the pain as a “constant knot in the gut.” At that point, she decided to go home and laid down for the rest of the afternoon. When her husband Joe returned home later that day, Lynne knew something wasn’t right and asked to be taken to the ER. Within moments of being seen, she was diagnosed with a heart attack. With every second counting, Lynne was rushed by ambulance to UP Health System Marquette where she was immediately admitted into surgery to have a stent put in. A stent is a tiny wire mesh tube that props open an artery that has been narrowed by a buildup of fatty deposits called plaque. When plaque builds up, it can reduce blood flow to the heart causing a heart attack.
Fortunately, her heart suffered only minor damage because she sought medical attention quickly. She spent three nights in the hospital and six-weeks later had quadruple bypass surgery. Lynne is currently a patient in Helen Newberry Joy Hospital’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program. Cardiac Rehab is an individualized and personalized treatment plan, including evaluation and instruction on physical activity, nutrition, stress management, and other health-related areas. Most of all, Cardiac Rehab offers patients a support system they can rely upon as they work to improve their heart condition. Sue Holbrook, RN, CCRP, and Coordinator of the HNJH Cardiac Rehabilitation Program explains, “It’s a team effort. We are here to help you take charge of the choices, lifestyle, and habits that affect your heart. By participating in a cardiac rehab program you are significantly reducing your chances of having another cardiac event or requiring another procedure.” In fact, according to the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation recent scientific studies have shown that people who complete a cardiac rehabilitation program can increase their life expectancy by up to five years.
“Take every minute,” says Rahilly, “you never know when it’s going to be your last.” This experience has not only changed Lynne’s life, as she was also diagnosed with diabetes and has adopted a healthier lifestyle, but it has impacted the lives of those around her. “We are definitely a tighter knit family because of my experience. My husband has slowed down more and we have all changed our diets to begin living healthier lives.”
Heart disease is the number one killer of women, causing one in three deaths each year, killing more women than all forms of cancer combined. It doesn’t affect all women the same, and the warning signs for women are very different than men. As women, it is time to slow down, take care of ourselves, make our health a priority, and take every minute.