Learning To Manage Heart Disease: A Personal Story

By Jenni Blendu

Jenni Blendu, RN, MBA, shares her experiences as a nurse and as a patient managing a chronic heart condition. In honor of American Heart Month, Jenni writes a personal reflection discussing her struggles helping patients with chronic disease while also managing her own. Read more of her story on her featured article in Live Younger Longer.

 

A Life Rooted In Patient Care

 

I have been a nurse for quite some time now. I have paid my dues in the intensity of microgram medication titration and pulmonic pressure readings through a Swan-Ganz in the CCU. I have barked orders as the Code Team Leader and assisted with my fair share of trauma during the late nights in the ER.

 

There was also the Christmas Eve night that I drove through a snowstorm to help a newly released patient with his first at home TPN administration and a 45-minute drive to silence a wound-vac for a patient as a Home Health Director. While my desire to help patients has driven my career, nothing fuels my passion more than my personal experiences with chronic disease.

 

Learning To Live With Heart Disease

 

In 2014, I had multiple heart surgeries to help my atrial fibrillation (a-fib), a condition that affected both my family and me for over 20 years.  In addition to recovering from heart surgeries, I have dealt with medication complications coupled with fluid level instability requiring me to take my weight daily.

 

Throughout my journey, there have been times when my heart would beat so fast I thought it would explode, and other times when it would beat so slow that I feared it would stop. I have experienced what may seem like endless trips to the bathroom in the morning from Lasix medication, followed by muscle cramping from my potassium levels shifting. Managing my care at home was difficult, but the worst was knowing that I would have to visit to the hospital again to be “checked out.”

 

The Value of Symptom Management and Patient Education

 

As a clinician and as a patient, and now also as a proponent of telehealth, I am excited to be able to provide patients the ability to manage their chronic disease at home. Telehealth offers patients simple tools that provide patients an immense sense of tranquility. This peace of mind comes from knowing that a clinician is actively monitoring their health – and from the fact that the clinician is easily accessible.

 

February is National Heart Month, which serves as a time for reflection on cardiac care and heart disease. Prevention and early intervention are the best ways to manage chronic disease. These progressive approaches improve patient quality and result in better outcomes. 

 

I know this from personal experience.  Early intervention can be achieved by ensuring that patients stay on track with their care plan while attending to complications or non-adherence.

 

Becoming An Advocate For Patient-Centered Care

 

My co-workers and friends often ask me if I am sad to have this burden, but my answer is always ‘NO!’ I believe that this is a gift that has propelled me to help others and drive change within the healthcare industry. I am a strong advocate for the use of innovative, smarter, and patient-centered healthcare showing by example that it is possible to take your health beyond expectations and lead life to the fullest.

 

Aside from nursing, I was a competitive athlete. These days, competing is no longer about being the fastest, strongest, or an award-winning competitor. It’s about completing life’s races, one step at a time.  Life with chronic disease is about never giving up even when it seems impossible to press forward.

 

If you would like, you can read my story, An Iron-Willed Athlete Reclaims her Rhythm, on Live Younger Longer.

 

Here’s to seeing you at the next finish line!

 

Tags: chronic disease, patient success story, heart disease, aFib

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