Posts Tagged ‘Bairey Merz’

If asked if the current state of your heart disease is acceptable, how would you answer?

It’s a tough one; I know.  Just yesterday I was asked this very question.  “If, when we first met, your chest pain and quality of life was terrible, 10 being terrible, what number would you assign your quality of life now?” asked my super-hero of a doctor, Dr. Bairey-Merz.

Looking her straight in the face, I responded, “That’s a tough thing to quantify”.

How do you assign a number to the quality of your life?  Of course, I understood the question.  I realized that she needed a figure to determine where I am on my journey.  How else is she to know what to try next. 

Leaning back in my chair, I looked down at my hands and fiddled with my ring.  Slowly raising my eyes, I assigned a number to my life. 

“I estimate my quality of life currently to be a 3”.  Her face relaxed a bit, but I saw no smile.  “About 75% better than when we first met; would you agree?” she asked. 

That’s when it occurred to me.  Her face gave her away.  This was the best it would ever be.

The Best Compared To What?

Every six weeks I visit my wonderful doctors.  With each passing week, however, something very interesting has happened.   My visits with both Dr. Bairey-Merz and the fabulous Dr. Margo Minissian focus more on managing my condition and less on curing me.  ‘Curing me’….  Only now am I beginning to realize how stupid I was to think that I would be cured.  After all, I have Microvascular heart disease.  You can’t operate on the tiny vessels around your heart. 

Why Compare?

I know my life will not be returning to the old ‘normal’.  To be sure, 75% better is better than 0% better.  Even still, the problem isn’t so much in the number assigned to my quality of life as in having to assign a number. 

It’s hard not to compare.  But remember; comparisons do one of two things; they either make you feel bad because others have it better than you or make you feel better because others have it worse than you.  Either way you lose.

So, I will stop comparing my current self to my old self.  I will stop comparing what I could do then to what I can do now.  I’ll stop comparing — period. 

Call it a compromise if you will.  But life is worth living.  Nothing compares to that.


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Having been the rather unwilling participant in four procedures, you might think it odd that I believe angiograms to be necessary.

In the end, however, it was a specific type of angiogram that ultimately confirmed my diagnosis of Coronary Microvascular Disease.  I was given a Coronary Reactivity Test which is an angiography procedure specifically designed to examine the blood vessels in the heart and how they respond to different medications.

Recently, both the Wall Street Journal and NPR posted some very convincing arguments as to why the traditional angiogram is no longer the ‘gold standard’ in heart testing.  And quite frankly, from my experience, I would have to agree.

I had my first angiogram in 2005.  Having been rushed to the ER with chest pains, I was given the full range of testing.  However, when my angiogram came back ‘clear’, I was sent home rather unceremoniously; almost made to feel bad that I put them through the trouble.

My second and third angiograms happened under much the same circumstances.  Continued chest pain, trips to the ER and confounded doctors who could offer no explanation of continued chest pain without clogged arteries.

However, my fourth angiogram was the one that made the difference.  This specialized take on the traditional angiogram proved to be the breakthrough needed to finally diagnose my condition.

How It Affects You

While risk factors for men and women are the same, women tend to have more coronary microvascular disease.  This dysfunction of the small arteries lies in the heart muscle itself and cannot be seen on a traditional angiogram.

Perhaps the problem is not in how often angiograms are ordered, but in the way in which they are administered.

For many women, the road to diagnosis is a long one.  It would be a wonderful thing to leave the cardiologist’s office with a correct diagnosis on your first visit.  Since that’s not going to happen, we must prepare ourselves for the gamut of testing bound to be in our future.

What better way to prepare yourself than to know what your testing options are?

Click here for more information regarding Cedars-Sinai Women’s Heart Center and Coronary Reactivity Testing.

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As I exited the Cath Lab, I felt a sense of relief wash over me as I realized the procedure was over.  An angiogram with adenosine-stress cardiac magnetic resonance imaging isn’t the most comfortable procedure to endure; especially if you have to ‘use the bathroom’ twice during the procedure.

Wheeled on a gurney into recover, my two doctors, Drs. C. Noel Bairey Merz and Chrisandra Shufelt followed.  Once I came to a stop, Dr. Bairey-Merz leaned in and said, “Well, the good news is we know what’s wrong with your heart”.  That’s all I needed to hear.  While the doctors continued to talk, I didn’t hear a word.  Ten minutes into it I looked at Dr. Shufelt and asked her to promise me that she would find my husband and son in the waiting room and explain to them what I couldn’t comprehend.

This was the culmination of five years of searching for a doctor who could find what was wrong with my heart.  As a young woman experiencing chest pain, I was told time and again that ‘I was too young’ for heart disease or perhaps I needed to ‘lower the stress’ in my life.  In actuality, all I needed was a doctor with the skill set and mind set to listen to me objectively.

That is exactly what I found in Dr. Bairey-Merz and her staff at the Cedars-Sinai Women’s Heart Center.  These fine doctors have been leading the way in women’s cardiac research for several years now.  Under their care, I am now participating in my third Research Study.  Each study I’ve participated in has greatly bettered my situation.

As of December 2007, I have had the piece of mind in knowing the name of my condition;  formerly known as ‘Cardiac Syndrome X’,  better known as Coronary Microvascular Disease.  I can honestly say that, had it not been for these fine doctors and the research they’ve done, I wouldn’t be telling you this story right now.

It is now my focus in life to get the word out about Ischemic Heart Disease and where women in a similar situation can get the care they so desperately need.  There are a lot of us out there; they are waiting to be found.

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