I can’t believe it has been 22 years since I went through major surgery on my neck where my neurologist had no choice but to do a cervical fusion on my C5-C6 discs, fusing them together after removing one that was being strangled beyond repair.
The only reason I bring this up is I’m reminded that when I was lying dosed up on morphine in hospital figuring out if I needed the operation, my mother who was staying close by in my apartment, walked up quite a steep hill every morning to come see me before she went to work.
After a week with no improvement and the decision made I was going under the knife, mum casually whispers that she was getting sharp pains in the chest every time she tackled the hill. I’m like…”What??? Do something!!” Sure enough, one word to the doctors at St Luke’s, she’s booked in for an immediate stress test and within hours admitted to St Vincent’s Hospital for a major triple by-pass operation!!
Two things struck me – firstly, my insecurity that mum wouldn’t be around to support me through my own major surgery, but more importantly, my seemingly trim, active mother, who had always appeared invincible was on the brink of having a major heart attack!! So there we were, me in one hospital with my neck about to go on the chopping block and mum in another hospital preparing for open heart surgery…and neither of us could be there for each other. How random and peculiar is that?
Women are born nurturers, tending to everyone else’s needs before their own. What happens then, is they fail to listen to their own needs to the detriment of their wellbeing. Please take a moment right now to remind yourself how useless you will be to everyone if you don’t take care of you and tune in to what your body is telling you. My mother was lucky she was visiting me in a hospital while having chest pains, because if she wasn’t, I doubt she would be reading this story today.
Here’s another one for you…the symptoms in women can differ greatly to men. According to Heart Foundation research less than 40 per cent of women experience chest pain while having heart attacks. In fact, women are more likely to suffer atypical symptoms such as shortness of breath, upper back pressure or discomfort, flu-like symptoms, weakness and light-headedness, all of which can be subtle and easily mistaken for other health conditions.
A woman’s smoking status, her blood pressure, blood cholesterol, weight, diet and how physically active she is, also contribute to her risk of heart disease. I know you’re probably zoning out right now thinking ‘heard it all before”…but in the majority of cases there are early warning signs that can be managed under the guidance of your GP. Giddy up – let’s practice prevention!
National Heart Foundation CEO, Mary Barry, was recently quoted saying “Every day in Australia, fifty women will have a heart attack. Eleven of these women will die from their event, that’s one woman every two hours”. “If your GP has diagnosed you with high blood pressure, high cholesterol or both, you are at an increased risk of heart attack and you need to be doing all you can to stay on top of your health to reduce your risk”.
On this 22nd anniversary of my mother’s triple by-pass and the gratefulness I have that she continues in good health after such a horrible scare, I ask you to please have a check-up – if not for you, for those you love. And try and remember how precious you are to your loved ones…you owe it to them to look after yourself first.