Love and Cardiac Complications

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The similarities between love and cardiac complications are endless and mind-boggling.  I think we can all recognize some of these crush and love moments whether they were brief or long; they existed or perhaps still exist for some.  I just hope you don’t recognize any of the cardiac complications!  Either way, whatever you do recognize, the important thing is that you survived.

Love vs. Cardiac Complications

You’re walking around feeling good, living your life = Normal Sinus Rhythm, good arrhythmia!

You meet someone, fall in love, heart is chaotic and skips a beat = Atrial Fibrillation, administer Esmolol

Passion = Ventricular Tachycardia, rapid heart rate over 100 beats per minute, administer Amiodarone.  If you are able to safely live in this zone then you are one of the lucky ones out there.

Love is lost, abandoned, betrayal.  Heart cracks and breaks open, total absence of electrical activity.  HELP! = Cardiac arrest, Asystole.  Like in the movies; “flat line.”  Administer Epinephrine STAT!

Scared, denial, chest pain, can’t breathe, shock….

Take some deep breaths = Administer Oxygen

Friends support system is called in they take care of you, give you comfort, food, love, support = Call 911, perform CPR and ACLS.  Administer Epinephrine again STAT!

Cardiac Defibrillation – “All Clear” shock the heart to help restart it = Clear some space for yourself while you push the “refresh” button on your life and start over

When we think about cardiac surgery we usually think about the mechanics, the anatomy and physiology aspects which are very important when trying to save a life.  What about the other roles the heart plays?  The invisible, emotional, spiritual roles that can only be felt, that can change the heart rate and electrical activity by a single word, song, story or any of the 5 senses?

I’m talking about love and passion.   This is something you never see during surgery but I’ve always wondered what people go through in their love life and how they survived that type of invisible but real heartbreak.  From the outside looking in, everything looks normal, but it’s not.  People often refer to heartbreak as invisible scars, holes, or cracks in their heart.  How did they stitch themselves back together again and carry on?   Did they really heal?  Has this ever happened to you?  How did you handle it?

Coping mechanisms for healing:  reading inspirational blogs, quotes, creative writing, music, movies, books, support and encouragement from friends and family, feeling grateful, finding the silver lining, learning the hidden life lessons, hugs, laughter, getting outside in nature, Zumba = these examples are the sutures that can help stitch the heart back together again.  It’s how I cope anyway…

Real friends:  Non-Absorbable Sutures – since the heart is the strongest rhythmic muscle in the body, non-absorbable sutures give the heart extra time to heal because they are in there for life, the long haul, they are flexible and strong.  These are your real friends.  If absorbable sutures were used on the heart, they would not hold it together and it would keep breaking, leading to death.  Not only that, there would be a medical malpractice case…

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Takers:  Absorbable sutures – the one who dissolved and left after all the work was done, temporary relationship.  In any case, never use these with the precious heart

Stainless steel wires close the sternum acting like a new shield of armor to protect the heart and give it extra strength.  Now you’re a warrior made of steel.

Recovery period:  sleep, get your strength back, start out slowly, exercise, eat healthy, take care of yourself, be kind, patient, don’t smoke!  Normal sinus rhythm again.  Smile!  🙂

Similarity:  you survived a cardiac complication because you were well taken care of by a team of caring people and you also took care of yourself.  The heart can function properly now and your broken heart has been mended and reinforced.  It didn’t kill you; it made you stronger. Are you ready to give another try at love, atrial fibrillation, passion and ventricular tachycardia?

Love can be complicated like the cardiovascular system.  We need to follow our hearts and what we’re passionate about to live our life to the fullest.  Eventually, we can return to Love and Normal Sinus Rhythm.

Take good care of yourself and the ones you love,

Much love,

~ Jennifer

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CALLING ALL NURSES: HOW MUCH OXYGEN IS LEFT IN YOUR TANK?

Have you ever been on an airplane and really paid attention to the flight attendant that is acting out the proper way to put on your oxygen mask in case of an emergency?  I am guessing the answer to that is “no.”  I have a challenge for you the next time you find yourself on a flight to paradise.  One of the reasons the flight attendant is demonstrating this necessary policy is because in order to help other people, you have to start with yourself first.  The same is true when you apply that to your career as a nurse.  We are not only taught but expected to take care of the patients, their families, and our colleagues, only to find out later that we forgot to take care of ourselves along the way too.  This is a normal consequence of doing a good job for others but not for us.  Is it possible to think that we count too?  Or is that just being selfish?  If we don’t put our oxygen mask on first, where does that leave us?  On the plane with the others heading for a crash landing in a town called BURNOUT.

The best way to avoid stress and burnout as a nurse is to start by putting your oxygen mask on first so that you have enough to give to others.  Also, you can only give what’s in your tank so it’s important to monitor this amount that you have at all times.  You do realize I am using a metaphor here and that the oxygen mask is an analogy for taking care of yourself, right?

Stress and burnout are rapidly increasing all over the world in every helping profession out there.  In schools, burnout is not even talked about which is sad.  Nurses are often overlooked for all the hard work they do and at the end of the day, we are expected to take care of our families at home and friends in need.  All of this is possible, as long as we take care of ourselves and don’t run our bodies on empty.  When our oxygen tank is no longer in the green and is heading straight for the red, it’s time to jump into self-compassion mode!  What is self-compassion anyway?

Self-compassion involves 3 key components that can ease our stress by far. (Neff, 2003)  Start by treating yourself kindly like the way you would treat a good friend who is suffering rather than using harsh judgment on yourself.  Two, try to see your own experience as part of a larger human experience instead of isolated and abnormal.  We are not perfect and neither is life.  Third, become aware of what you are feeling emotionally and let them be as they are instead of suppressing them for a later date.  On a physiological side which is a great side for nurses to understand, when we are being self-compassionate to ourselves it releases the “feel good” hormones of oxytocin and opiates.  Similarly, if we are self-critical when we have a bad day, it threatens our defense system and cortisol and adrenaline are released into the bloodstream making us feel even worse.  We become irritable, tired and stressed.  Do you see the road sign that is up ahead?  Burnout.  Unless you make a change soon, that is where you will end up.  So how do you change?

Practice the 3 key components of self-compassion and give yourself a time out or a break.  When you are able to do this, several things will begin to occur such as a greater desire to learn and grow, higher motivation, less frustrations, increases in life satisfaction, connectedness, gratitude, more effective coping skills, more caring and supportive relationship behaviour, more conscientiousness and improved health and wellness.

I am highly supportive of nurses all over the world who work so hard not only at work but also at home.  Give yourself a big hug for being such a compassionate person to others and then give yourself another hug for being a compassionate person to yourself.  You count too and not just during nurses week!  Remember, whatever you do, don’t forget to check your oxygen tank and put your mask on first!     -JJ