Friday, June 5, 2009

Talking to Rehab

OK, so as I've mentioned here and here, there've been a couple of times where I've felt like a square peg being pounded into a round hole at cardiac rehab. Their usual patient is older, male, and has had a bypass. I'm young(ish), female, and had angioplasty and stents. No prior risk factors. I know how to eat right, how to exercise, all that jazz, and I'm pre-menopausal.

After cardiac survivors' support group on Wednesday, I spoke with the head of the rehab program. Longtime friends and readers know how much I loathe direct confrontation, but this is my health on the line here. So I told the lady that there had been a situation earlier in the week where I felt like I hadn't been heard, like I wasn't being listened to, that it seemed like the rehab group leaders were treating me like "Generic Cardiac Patient X," instead of seeing me for what I am: a woman under 50 years old who had a heart attack caused by a freak occurrence (arterial dissection), not coronary artery disease, or high blood pressure.

She actually seemed to hear what I had to say, and genuinely seemed appreciative of the feedback. She said, "What can we do?" I told her that I needed some reassurance that the nurses were actually seeing ME when they looked at me, and that they recognize that I'm not a 70-year-old male with hypertension and a triple bypass. I needed to know that they realize that I'm a woman who still has menstrual cycles, and that they won't refer me to the nutritionist the next time I gain 3 pounds of water weight in the days right before my period. She seemed to understand, and she asked if there were any staff members in particular that I felt more comfortable with--I named two.

It felt good to speak my mind in a constructive way. It's my hope that by speaking up, I'm making things easier for other young women who may come through the program.

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