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Alan's Story: Coping With Change After a Heart Attack - Alan's story

Support groups make a difference continued...

"It's so easy for cardiac patients to put weight on," Alan says. "And it's so hard to get it off. You need to walk every day or the weight comes right back."

Alan credits Cloris with giving him the help he needs to stay focused on taking care of his heart. But he also relies on a network of friends and support groups. The two belong to the cardiac support group at their local hospital. Alan is also a member of the Ticker Kickers—a group of people who have pacemakers or implantable cardiac defibrillators.

"I couldn't do any of it without my support groups," he says. "The camaraderie of being together and working out together makes such a big difference. We take care of each other."

When newcomers join, Alan and other longtime members of the group share what they know. "We ask them about what they're going through, what medicines they're taking. And we share information about how to get along. It's great for them and for us."

Getting the care you need

After 4 bypass surgeries and 30 angioplasties, Alan has lots of tips about how to work with doctors. He and Cloris track every aspect of his medical care. They keep a printed sheet in the car and bring a copy to every doctor visit. The sheet contains a list of every procedure performed and when, medicines he has taken, names of doctors, and drug allergies.

If you plan to have bypass surgery, ask for the most experienced surgeon, Alan advises. He also tells people to make the most of their office visits and ask a lot of questions.

"We bring a list of questions to every doctor visit," Cloris says. "You can't always remember everything you want to know."

Coping with change after a heart attack

Life wasn't easy after the heart attack. Unable to return to work, Alan sank into depression. Cloris, up until then a full-time homemaker, found a job to support the family, which included two young children.

"That was the most difficult adjustment for Alan," Cloris says. "All of a sudden I was thrown into the workforce, and we didn't have any choice."

"Psychologically, it was tough," Alan says. "But we got used to it. And we kept going."

Working with a counselor or chaplain can be a huge help for people with heart problems and for their families. What is often overlooked in cardiac care is the impact a major heart event can have on the person's family and loved ones.

"When you have a heart attack, you know you have to change your lifestyle," Cloris says. "There's depression. But with all the new medicines and surgeries and procedures, you have to remember that there is so much to hope for."

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 13, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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