The Heart of the Matter
Sharing in a husband's care.
It was the dead of winter; the second snowstorm of a bitter season on its way, and my husband had a scheduled doctor's appointment that morning for a routine checkup. He was getting ready to go, putting on his pants, buttoning his shirt, tying his shoes, but there was something not quite right—an odd crooked feeling that he couldn't quite describe. The closest he came to pinning it down was telling me it was as though he had spent the night swinging on the parallel bars, an ache under both his arms, with a stiff jaw. He also looked a bit gray.
I'm no doctor, but I made the immediate decision to forget about work and drive him to the doctor's office downtown. It turned out to be a very good thing I did so, since within five minutes of his arrival and a hurried electrocardiogram, he was sent across the street to the nearest hospital through the emergency doors—do not collect 200 dollars, do not pass go. Straight off, we were plunged into a nightmare of blood tests, catheters, and teams of white-coated experts who filed in and out, mumbling confusing directives about what might come next.
Luckily, we had a happy ending. Despite the severity of his blockages, which an obliging surgeon sketched for me on the back of my hospital parking ticket, the team opted to see what my husband might be able to do on his own, without surgical intervention. It turned out that he could do quite a bit with diet and exercise, and that the doctors were willing to let him—and his body—have that chance.
I mention this for a few reasons. For one, February is National Heart Month, a good time to think about and take care of your ticker; it's also the month of Valentine's Day; and diabetes and heart disease tend to go together like love and marriage, a fact that every type 2 needs to be aware.
So what has changed for us in the past five years?
Well, for one thing, we're both a lot skinnier. Nothing like a brush with mortality to get you off an Oreo addiction. Also, to a large extent, our daily eating habits have taken a change for the lean and mean. Not that we've abandoned everything we love. We drink quite a bit more red wine and eat a bit more dark chocolate. But we also try to schedule more fish and a weekly platter of something featuring tofu.
The heart incident also taught us some tough lessons about relationships. We've learned to be respectful of one another's health, and to encourage—not nag—the other about the importance of staying on the wagon during times when both of us undergo burnout. We try to take more walks in the summer and to make sure that we both stay on top of our exercise plans in the winter.
And while I never ever want to repeat that morning, in an odd way, my husband's heart attack has made my type 2 diabetes a little less lonely, because I have a partner in chronic care.
So happy Valentine's Day, honey, and here's to a continued happy and healthy heart.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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