This feels surreal to say, but last week my husband suffered a heart attack during which he flat-lined four times. Which means I watched him die.
This was my greatest nightmare realized, one that I had been warning him about and attempting to help him avoid for years. But even my deepest fears didn’t prepare me for the heart attack itself, which was more violent and more horrific than anything I had even imagined.
Today I am so grateful that he is alive and getting healthier everyday and I know that he will probably live a much longer and more present life because of it.
I, however, am struggling.
Heart attack survivors often struggle with anxiety and depression, but I am coming to realize that their spouses may bear an even larger emotional burden.
One reason is that health-care support often focuses almost exclusively on survivors. The situation is compounded by the fact that spouses often are forced to assume the roles the patient had, at least for a while.
Duties are multiplied even more by the tragedy itself, such as keeping family and friends in the loop with phone calls, emails and texts, time spent reassuring family members, readying the house for the return of the patient, combined with a lack of sleep and exercise, all while the patient is getting excellent care.
The emotional turmoil that pulls at the spouse is a tornado of guilt, gratitude, sadness, anger, relief, and even resentment.
The patient is feeling loved and cared for and is appreciating the miracle of being alive. The spouse is still getting caught up on laundry, attempting to sleep, cleaning up the aftermath of the tragedy, doing heart-healthy grocery shopping, and trying to cope with the constant flashback images of watching our partners die.
Don’t get me wrong. As a spouse, we too are surrounded with love from family and friends and many others who offer to help. I personally had ten dinner meals delivered for a week and half from dear friends. The cards and phone calls often moved me to tears and filled me with wonder and gratitude.
I am also deeply grateful that my best friend is alive and didn’t leave this family. He is dearly loved, valued and needed. One minute, I comfort myself to sleep by putting my hand over his gently beating heart and then in the next minute I want to jump up and slap him for not taking my concerns seriously.
We now have a new normal. The snoring that once kept me awake now lulls me to sleep because I know my husband is breathing.
It is now up to me, the spouse of a heart attack survivor, who must now (as my husband begins taking back part of his daily routine) begin refilling my own reservoir.
Yes, being surrounded with all of this love helps. So does really easy, quick, heart-healthy recipes such as…
Lentils With Roasted Red Peppers, Dill, Mint and Feta
MAKES 4 SERVINGS
This simple vegetarian dish comes together in just 30 minutes, making it a good choice for a protein-rich weeknight dinner.
- 1 cup brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 clove garlic, grated
- 1 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, rinsed, drained and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces, about 1 1/2 cups total
- *½ cup sun dried tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (I omitted and added fresh lemon juice for heart health)
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (divided)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint (divided)
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- *Lemon juice
Cook the lentils in a large pot of gently boiling water just until tender, 15 to 25 minutes. Drain.
While the lentils are cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet until it is hot enough to sizzle a piece of onion. Add the onion and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the red peppers, salt and black pepper. Keep warm over low heat.
Add the cooked lentils, 2 tablespoons of the dill and 1 tablespoon of the mint and cook, stirring, until heated through, about 5 minutes. At this point I also added sun dried tomatoes (great for the heart) which added texture and sweetness. Sprinkle with the vinegar and stir to combine. * I also added lots of fresh lemon juice….yummy.
Spoon into a serving dish and sprinkle with the feta if desired. Top with the remaining 2 tablespoons dill and the remaining 1 tablespoon mint.
From “Fresh & Fast Vegetarian” by Marie Simmons, Recipe Published November 8, 2011 in The Oregonian
These delicious lentils are wonderful served with Tuna or halibut baked in parchment with olive oil, capers, red peppers and thyme.
Want to literally keep your heart happy? Eat lentils.
* Lentils, a small but nutritionally mighty member of the legume family, are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber. Not only do lentils help lower cholesterol, they are of special benefit in managing blood-sugar disorders since their high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal.
A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine confirms that eating high fiber foods, such as lentils, helps prevent heart disease.
Lentils’ contribution to heart health lies not just in their fiber, but in the significant amounts of folate and magnesium these little wonders supply. Lentils’ magnesium puts yet another plus in the column of its beneficial cardiovascular effects. Magnesium is Nature’s own calcium channel blocker. When enough magnesium is around, veins and arteries breathe a sigh of relief and relax, which lessens resistance and improves the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Studies show that a deficiency of magnesium is not only associated with heart attack but that immediately following a heart attack, lack of sufficient magnesium promotes free radical injury to the heart.
When researchers analyzed this data in relation to the risk of death from heart disease, they found that legumes were associated with a whopping 82% reduction in risk!!
Heres to your heart health and to all those whom you love!
Bon Appetit and Namaste!