1/13/2014 9:03 AM
By Jennifer Gooden
As adult congenital heart patients we often learn early to “listen to our bodies.” Not listening can have dire consequences. We learn when our bodies are giving us the yellow light to slow down and take things easy. For me it’s more of the red light – stop, something is wrong – that I have a hard time with. What can I say? I am a bit hard-headed!
But being an ACHD patient, I sometimes have to slow down and listen to my body. I have to pay attention and notice when my ankles swell a little more than usual, or when I have more difficulty catching my breath. I learned to “pump the breaks,” so to speak. During the flu time of year, though, I often find it a little more difficult to listen to my body. I often want to chalk things up to a cold or runny nose and pretend that it has little to no effect on my body/heart.
I especially have a hard time distinguishing my symptoms between “heart problems” and “winter problems.” So to help myself (and maybe you, too) I have come up with a list of do’s and don’ts this winter:
- I wash or sanitize my hands often—the best way to prevent infection is keeping my hands clean!
- I don’t ignore symptoms! If I am coughing a bit more, having a hard time catching my breath, or blowing my nose like nuts – I don’t ignore it. I take notes! When did it start? When is it worse? Does anything (a hot shower?) help? I write it down (or put it in my phone) so I can remember.
- I see my primary care physician (PCP) instead of visiting a walk-in clinic. I have a good relationship with my PCP who knows me better then a clinic doc and can point out new things!
- I don’t randomly take over the counter medications (OTC) without checking with my cardiologist, PCP, pharmacist or some other healthcare professional. Some OTC meds interact with heart meds – especially Coumadin! I make sure I know what is safe for me.
- I check in with my cardiologist if in my gut something just “isn’t right.” I advocate for myself because I know my body best. Even if everything checks out OK at least I will have piece of mind and the right medications to battle those winter germs.
I hope my tips help you to remain happy and healthy this new year!
Jennifer Gooden was born with transposition of the great arteries and tricuspid atresia. After four heart surgeries, she is proud of her single ventricle. To give back to medical community, Jennifer became a nurse. She now works as a cardiac ICU nurse at the same medical center where she had her four surgeries.
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