Back in her Kansas farmhouse, still reeling from what she’d been told, hope collapsed onto a chair at her kitchen table and, reaching into her pocket, pulled out her rosary. With tears slipping silently down her cheeks, Hope began to pray.
Unaware of what was going on with his father, Victor Jr. walked downstairs to get something to drink.
Seeing his mother in tears at the kitchen table, he stopped on a dime and asked, “What’s wrong? What’s going on.”
“Your father’s in the hospital.” Hope told him drying her tears.
“What? What happened? Is he okay?” Victor Jr. asked worriedly.
“I don’t know, Victoria called a little while ago. She just heard from her mother. He’s at Memorial Hospital. She said she’d call me when she finds out what’s going on.” Hope tried her best to keep the fear from her voice as she told her son the news.
“What can we do? There has to be something!” Victor Jr. said worriedly, determinedly.
With tears in his own eyes, Victor Jr. joined his mother in praying the rosary, hoping with everything in him that somehow, it would be enough to help his father.
Fighting exhaustion, Nikki went on. “What is Heart Disease–Heart disease is a general term used to describe multiple heart conditions. It’s also a significant risk factor for stroke. Individuals with heart disease are twice as likely to have a stroke as those without it. Arterial fibrillation is one heart problem that makes the heart beat irregularly and can cause the formation of blood clots; leading to stroke. Be aware of your risk factors and make changes to address them. Be physically active. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Take all medication exactly as prescribed. Tell your doctor if you have an irregular heartbeat or fluttering in your chest. If you have high blood pressure, take steps to manage it effectively. Eat a healthy diet that’s lower in fat, particularly saturated and trans fats, and includes fresh vegetables and fruit, complex carbohydrates and high-fibre foods. Reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption. Manage stress.”
“What’s unhealthy weight–BMI and waist circumference are considered good measures for assessing the risk of health problems related to weight. The best way to find out if your weight is putting you at risk of obesity-related diseases like high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease and stroke, is to use the BMI Body Mass index calculator. Even though the BMI is useful for making guidelines for healthy adults between the ages of eighteen and sixty-five, it doesn’t apply to infants, children, adolescents, pregnant or breastfeeding women, adults over sixty-five years old or very muscular people.”
‘Lucky them.’ Nikki thought to herself sarcastically and felt a swift kick. “Sorry,” she muttered before wondering, “Does this BMI thing really work?”
Nikki refocused on the piles of papers she still had left to read. “Lower your risk–Lose weight slowly. Make your goal of obtaining a healthy weight a long-term commitment. Avoid fad diets. Drink lots of water.”
“That’s one thing he did,” Nikki murmured, trying her bet to be optimistic before continuing.
“Physical inactivity–Physically inactive individuals have an increased risk of heart disease and stroke versus those who are physically active. An active, healthy lifestyle can help prevent and manage high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, unhealthy weight and stress; all of these increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Lower your risk–Accumulate thirty to sixty minutes of moderate physical activity most days. Begin slowly, set modest goals and gradually increase physical activity levels over time. Pick activities you like. Join a group or use the ‘buddy system’ to stay motivated. When doing physical activity, you should be able to talk.”
In her office, Casey had gotten half way through her charts when a colleague stopped by.
“Laura, what are you doing here?”
“I came to see how you’re holding up. Word is your brother-in-law was brought in?”
“Yeah.” Casey’s voice held a note of warning that her colleague completely ignored.
“How’s he doing? How’s your sister doing? She’s got to be shaken up.”
“Oh, she’s shaken up alright.” Casey replied pointedly.
“Looks like I hit a nerve. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to.”
“It’s not your fault.” Casey told her, offering no further explanation.
“A piece of unsolicited advice-I know how much family can drive you crazy, believe me, I do. Mine drives me insane,” Laura began. “But regardless of any of that, family comes first. It has to, without family, none of us would be where we are. Stress can do strange things to people, I’m not trying to make excuses for your sister, whatever she did, I’m just saying you need to think twice before writing her off, shutting her out at a time when she needs you the most. Just think about it.”
“Good. I’m heading home. Call me if you need anything.”
“I will. Thanks Laura.”
Back in the waiting room, Nikki worked doggedly on her research. “Lower your risk– Try relaxation techniques. Meditation and deep breathing can relieve tension and aid in reducing blood pressure. Get lots of sleep and eat a heart-healthy diet. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you feel chronically stressed, a healthcare professional can provide support and treatment.”
Stopping to consider what she’d read, Nikki chuckled and thought to herself, ‘Victor meditating, that I’d pay to see! He’d sooner salvage his reputation than ask for help-with anything!’
As Victor Jr. looked for any and all the information he could about his father’s situation on the internet, Hope called Douglas.
“Hello?” Douglas answered wondering who it could be.
“Douglas, it’s me.”
“Hope, this is a pleasant surprise, what can I do for you?
“I was hoping you’ve heard from Victoria or Nicholas.”
“No, why would I hear from either of them.” Douglas replied with a furrowed brow.
“You don’t know then?” Hope asked surprised.
“Know what?” Douglas asked starting to worry.
“I’m sorry Douglas, I thought you might know something. Victor’s been admitted to Memorial. I don’t know anything else though, I’m sorry. Victoria and Nicholas are headed there right now. Victoria said she’d call me when she hears something.” Hope told him apologetically.
“Alright, please let me know if you hear anything.” Douglas told her worriedly.
Meanwhile, Victoria was nearing the middle of town when she had to make an unexpected pit-stop. “Damn!” She swore as she got ouf of the car, slammed the driver’s side door and stormed around to the rear passenger’s side tire to inspect the damage to her tire. “Of all the times, all the days for me to get a flat, this has to be the day! Damn!” Vicki fumed as she struggled with the spare.
“I got it.” Nick said as he easily lifted the tire out of the trunk and began changing the flat.
“Thanks, where’d you come from?” Vicki asked a little confused.
“I was right behind you, remember. I saw you run over the piece of glass.”
As Vicki paced back and forth in front of her car muttering to herself anxiously, still fuming over the entire situation, Nick told her, “This will just take a few minutes. Try and stay calm.”
“Nick, I’m as calm as I’m going to get. This isn’t about the tire! It’s not about the damn tire!”
“I get that.”
“Good.” Vicki continued pacing.
“Vicki, you’re not helping anybody getting all worked up like this.” Nick told her wisely.
“I know that! But, what other choice do I have really?” Vicki countered almost hostilely.
“Just calm down, okay? I’m on your side!” Nick tried his best to get through to her.
“I know that. But, Nick, I need to know what’s going on with Dad! Sitting around guessing isn’t doing me any good; I need to know!”
“Vicki, you won’t find anything out if you don’t stop for a sec and calm down! You know how dangerous it is to drive when you’re upset, you know how that affects your concentration!” Nick told her wisely.
“Thanks so much for the lecture! It’s exactly what I need right now!” Vicki bit out as she got back into her car and started the engine.
“Vicki, wait.” Nicholas tried to get her to listen to him, to no avail.
“Thanks. I’ll see you at the hospital.” With that, Vicki sped off.
“Damn it, Vick!” Nick exclaimed as he punched the hood of his car with the bottom of his fist before getting back in and following her.
Back at Memorial, Nikki had fallen asleep on the couch in the waiting room.
“Mrs. Newman. Mrs. Newman.”
“What?” Nikki asked with a start as she sat up, still tired and a little disoriented.
“Do you need anything? I could get you some coffee or maybe some tea?” Anna, the nurse at the front desk asked.
“No, thank you. I’m fine. Have you heard anything yet?” Nikki asked hopefully.
“No, I’m sorry, nothing yet.” Anna told her apologetically.
“If you need anything, just let me know.” With that, Anna walked out of the waiting room and back to the front desk. ‘Poor woman, I wish there were something I could do,’ she thought to herself sadly.
“Now, where was I?” Nikki flipped through the closed binder that lay on the couch beside her. “Here it is, still in section three? Casey sure does thorough research!” she murmured to herself, still feeling guilty about the argument they’d had earlier.
Still thinking it best to leave her sister alone for now, Nikki again began reading. “Warning signals of a heart attack –Pain–sudden discomfort or pain that doesn’t go away with rest. The pain can be in the chest, neck, jaw, shoulder, arms or back. It may feel like burning, squeezing, heaviness, tightness or pressure. In women, the pain can be more vague. Shortness of breath-challenges with breathing. Nausea-indigestion, vomiting. Sweating, cool, clammy skin, fear, anxiety and denial.”
Trying to ignore the tears of exhaustion and fear beginning to blur her vision, Nikki valiantly went on. “That’s weird. The warning signs are the same as the ones for stroke.”
“Risk Factors Continued More about atherosclerosis–“…Plaque’s a sticky yellow substance made of fatty substances such as cholesterol and debris from blood cells. It builds up in and damages the thin inside layers of artery walls, resulting in the artery walls thickening and becoming less elastic. The inside of the artery narrows. Because of this, less and less blood can flow through. A blood clot or thrombus can then develop, making the artery even narrower or totally blocking the artery. This is process is called atherothrombosis. A piece of plaque or blood clot may break off and travel to other parts of the body also blocking arterial blood flow. When a blood vessel supplying the heart gets narrowed or blocked, it may result in conditions like angina (chest pain) and/or heart attack. A narrowed or blocked blood vessel that feeds the brain may cause a TIA or stroke. When blood supply to the legs is reduced, it can cause pain and discomfort in the calves when walking and in more advanced stages even when resting. Treating any of these atherosclerosis-related diseases can have an effect on all of them.
Atherosclerosis is a slow, progressive condition which can start as early as child hood and may involve all parts of the arterial system including the heart, brain and legs. The older the patient is, the more advanced in his or her arteries is likely to be. How it develops depends on things like family medical history and lifestyle.”
Quietly, hesitantly, Casey walked into the waiting room to find Nikki sitting exactly where she’d been since Victor had been brought in; sitting on the couch trying her hardest to push aside, push through the exhaustion that was quickly overtaking her, as tears slowly slipped down her cheeks.
“Casey, what are you doing here?”
“I needed time to cool off.”
“Oh.” Nikki said nothing else as she went back to the research in front of her.
Treading lightly, Casey told her, “Nikki, come on, take a break. You’re exhausted. You know you’ll learn more if you get some sleep.”
“I did get some.”
“All of twenty minutes, am I right?” Casey countered wisely.
At Nikki’s silence, Casey knew she was right.
Deciding to try another tactic, Casey said, “You’ll do Victor a lot more good if you get some rest. You’ll do them a lot more good too.”
Placing a weak, shaky hand on her stomach, Nikki finally gave in. “Alright, but wake me up in an hour.”
“I’ll wake you up, don’t worry. I’ll wake you up, but not in an hour. That’s not going to give you enough time to rest. ”
“I’ll take these for now,” Casey told her as she picked up the binders and set them on the table at her end of the couch.
As Nikki eyed her worriedly, she reassured her. “You’ll get them back. But you need to rest.”
Knowing she wasn’t going to win and didn’t have the energy to argue, Nikki said nothing as she sat back against the couch and closed her eyes.
“What?” she asked without opening her eyes.
“That’s no good for your neck.”
Opening her eyes, Nikki looked at her questioningly.
“Come on, lie down.”
“What? Casey, if I lie down, there’s no room for you.”
“Yes there is, don’t argue. Just lie down.”
Heaving a tired sigh, Nikki did as she was told and ended up falling asleep with her head in her sister’s lap.