Finding Strength in Family: Robin’s Heart Failure Journey

 

Sponsored by Merck

One morning, Robin G. woke up sweaty, nauseated and unable to get out of bed. Her hands and feet were tingling and numb. She didn’t have any idea what was wrong. At 55, Robin thought she was in overall good health — she was even participating in marathons.However, one thing Robin didn’t realize was that she had a family history of heart disease. After being airlifted to the hospital, Robin received a shocking diagnosis: She had heart failure. 

Feeling Overwhelmed

People who have faced a heart failure diagnosis, like Robin, know the experience can be overwhelming, particularly if the disease worsens over time and impacts a person’s ability to handle day-to-day tasks. “I had to learn to do everything over again, starting with the simplest task of sitting up in bed,” Robin recalls.She stuck to the diet, medicine and exercise regimen set by her doctors to aid her recovery. She typed up daily check- lists that included the timing of her medicine doses and closely monitored her fluid intake. “And I focused on checking those items off every day,” she says.

Changing Habits

After being diagnosed with heart failure, people may have to change their daily habits, which can be a struggle. Common changes in daily rituals often include eating differently, reducing stress, paying closer attention to your body and remembering to take medicines.After having surgery to improve her heart’s function, Robin was put on a very strict, heart-healthy diet that was low in fat and included many fruits and vegetables as well as lean proteins such as chicken, turkey and fish.

For patients who are hospitalized for heart failure, there’s also a higher chance that their heart failure may worsen, and they may need to return to the hospital for treatment. Following a doctor-recommended treatment plan and communicating symptoms and any important lifestyle changes to your doctor may lower the chance of having to go back to the hospital.“I knew my health care team was saving my life, so I did everything I could to follow their instructions, to help them help me so I could be there for my kids and grandkids,” Robin says.Her exercise routine also had to change in addition to her diet. “My heart just doesn’t have the strength that it used to, so I have to take it a bit easier,” Robin shares. “No more climbing the stairs of the Empire State Building! But the good news is there are activities that I can still do and that I enjoy.”Immediately following her diagnosis, she wasn’t allowed to walk to the mailbox, let alone enjoy long runs like she previously had. Her doctor helped her slowly get back into exercising, starting with small movements and low weights, building up strength until eventually she was allowed to bike ride and swim.

Finding Strength

In the beginning of her recovery, Robin experienced some dark days. She encountered a myriad of different emotions such as anger and often wondered, “Why me?”Although she felt mentally exhausted and physically weak, Robin knew giving up was not an option during her recovery journey.

As a mother and grandmother, she found a source of strength in her family.“My children and grandchildren are my greatest inspiration,” she says. “I try to set a good example for them, showing them that even though life is hard sometimes, you can get through it by building up an inner strength and finding reasons to be thankful. There’s always, always another day. You just have to be positive.”

Pushing Forward

Now, more than six years into her heart failure recovery, Robin volunteers with Mended Hearts®, meeting with people who are newly diagnosed to pass on her positive and hopeful message. She shares her story with other patients and tells them the importance of following their prescribed treatment plan.

She also helps people with heart failure understand how to work with their doctors to improve their condition.“I tell people to hold onto hope and stay positive,” she says. “Don’t let little things get under your skin — don’t let this weigh you down. You just have to remain positive and focus on what you can still do, because there is still so much to enjoy in this life.”

Finding Support and Resources

At the Heart of the Matter – Moving Forward After Your Heart Failure Hospitalization is a program that supports people with heart failure and their loved ones by offering educational information. It was created to help people living with heart failure to better understand their condition and play a more proactive role in their care.

The program is sponsored by Merck in collaboration with Mended Hearts®.

Visit AtTheHeartOfTheMatter.com to learn more.