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

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."

Keep a positive attitude

Even though Alan stopped working, he has never stopped learning—or helping others learn—about how to cope with heart disease. What has kept him going all these years? A positive attitude.

"You've got to have a sense of humor. Don't take life so seriously," he says.

Staying positive and finding the humor in any situation is a message Alan shares with everyone he talks with about heart disease. He is well known around the local hospital, where he often visits with people scheduled for heart surgery.

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