Episode 24

full
Published on:

14th Nov 2023

Complications and Second Chances: Navigating Unexpected Hurdles in Heart Surgery -24

From a life-altering heart attack to a misplaced bypass graft, embark on a rollercoaster ride of resilience and self-discovery with Sherri Hansen. Sherri walks us through her heart attack diagnosis and subsequent open-heart surgeries. This story is important and is a reason why we all need to be our own best advocates.

If you are looking for something specific - here's where you'll find it:

[04:14] Experienced chest pain but didn't seek help.

[07:48] Had issues with pain medication, received Ketamine treatment in ICU, lacked proper rehabilitation after discharge.

[11:59] Surgery mishap, vein instead of artery. Redoing bypass.

[13:25] Sherri received good advice, adjusted her perspective, and advocated for herself.

[15:51] Bright Spots - Nurse helped with wound care; puppy visit boosted spirits.

[17:15] Bridge misdiagnosis, life-threatening blockages, and complications.

[27:45] The importance of having a Caring Bridge & a Strong Network

[32:40] The Effects of Societal Pressure, especially as a woman

[33:55] Be your own advocate, ask for help.

A Little More About Today's Guest

Sherri Hansen is originally from Detroit, Michigan, and moved to Madison, WI in 1996 to work at the University of Wisconsin. She is a psychiatrist and has been in private practice for the past 23 years. She is also a musician and when not working or attending doctor appointments, sings in several community choirs, plays piano, and writes church music. She loves hiking and biking, knitting, reading, and gardening.

How to connect with Sherri

Website: www.womenheart.org

How to connect with Boots

The Heart Chamber - A podcast for heart patients (theheartchamberpodcast.com)

Email: Boots@theheartchamberpodcast.com

Instagram: @theheartchamberpodcast or @boots.knighton

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/boots-knighton

If you enjoyed this episode, take a minute and share it with someone you know who will find value in it as well. You can share directly from this platform or send them to:

The Heart Chamber - A podcast for heart patients (theheartchamberpodcast.com)

Transcript

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Boots Knighton [:

Welcome to episode 24 of The Heart Chamber podcast. I am your host, Boots Knighton. I am so glad you are joining me today. I bring you Sherri Hansen. She has an incredible story to tell from a misplaced bypass graft to a life altering heart attack. We embark on a roller coaster ride of resilience and self-discovery in her and I's conversation today. It is an important tale for everyone to hear, and I just so appreciate Sherri's willingness to be vulnerable and to come on and share with us everything she has learned. It has not been a perfect journey for her, but she is thriving anyway, which is the whole point of this podcast. No matter what we heart patients go through, we still can choose our attitude, and Sherri is the perfect example of that. So, without further ado, I bring you miss Sherri Hansen.

Boots Knighton [:

Welcome to The Heart Chamber. Hope, inspiration and healing. Conversations on open-heart surgery. I am your host, Boots Knighton. If you are a heart patient, a caregiver, a health care provider, a healer, or looking for open hearted living, this podcast is for you. To make sure you are in rhythm with the heart chamber, be sure to subscribe or follow wherever you are listening to this episode. While you're listening today, think of someone who may appreciate this information. The number one-way people learn about a podcast is through a friend. Don't you want to be the reason someone you know gained this heartfelt formation? And if you haven't already, follow me on Instagram, 2 different places, at Boots.Knighton or at The Heart Chamber podcast. You can also find me on LinkedIn as well as Facebook. But enough with the directions. Without further delay, let's get to this week's episode.

Boots Knighton [:

Well, welcome Sherri to The Heart Chamber. Sherri and I met through Women Heart. It's an organization you will likely hear me speak about often on this podcast. It is an organization I wish I had known about prior to my heart surgery. It is a powerful organization by women for women with heart disease. And I put out a call for women from Women Heart to come on to The Heart Chamber and share their stories. And Sherri Hansen was so generous and offering up her time today to share with all of us. So, Sherri, welcome, and please just tell us a little bit about yourself before we get into your story.

Sherri Hansen [:

Thank you. My name is Sherri. I'm a 58-year-old married as of 4 months, a woman who lives in Madison, Wisconsin. And I've been active all my life, so developing heart issues 2 years ago was quite a shock and kind of a reset for me. And my journey, although it's been difficult has given me a lot of wisdom and insight, which for that, I'm grateful.

Boots Knighton [:

So, congratulations on your recent nuptials. That's incredible. And we all know that having a support system when we're going through any heart issue is so important.

Sherri Hansen [:

Well, I didn't actually know my husband until after my 2nd surgery. It was a roller coaster ride last year.

Boots Knighton [:

Right. I bet. I bet. So, you said 2 years ago was when you first started down this road. How did you know something was amiss?

Sherri Hansen [:

You know, it happened pretty suddenly. I do water aerobics because I have inflammatory arthritis, and I had done my Monday class, you know, nothing different or and then Wednesday, I, for the first time, noticed midway this kind of squeezing pain, you know, kind of what they talk about someone sitting on your chest. And I was like, well, that's kind of strange, you know, because it's not that rigorous of exercise, so I just backed off and it went away. And I thought, well, maybe it's a cramp. Although, I think there was a part of me that knew that something was not right. But I just kind of, you know, went on with my day. And then I went back to class Friday.

Sherri Hansen [:

The same thing happened again. And so, I backed off, went away. And then I thought, well, maybe I should just be kind of not calm and not do much over the weekend, but I had to, I'm a church musician, and I was guest playing at a church. And I was running late, and it was uphill, and I was kind of rocking fast. And I got such terrible chest pain that I had to kind of double over and breathe through it. And, yes, that was a point where I probably should've dropped everything and gone to the ER, but it passed. And I went and played because I didn't want to, of course, let people down. But then, you know, over the next few days, less and less activity was bringing on the pains to the point where I was chipping ice, which we get a lot of that around here.

Sherri Hansen [:

And I started having such severe chest pain that I had to go lie down, and that was the point where it's like, okay, something's really wrong. So, I called my primary care doc, and I said, you know, I've been having chest pain off and on the last few days, and this was in the morning. And she's like, well, I have an appointment at 4:30 if you want to come in. And, yes, I should have probably gone to the emergency room, but I think I was in denial like a lot of people are. And when I lay down, it did get better. So, they came and took an EKG, took some blood, and then she's like, well, you know, we’ll let you know we probably shouldn't have a stress test, but it's probably going to take a couple months to get that scheduled. Anyway, no sooner had gotten home when she says, you know, I saw something on your EKG that looked a little concerning. I'm sure it's nothing, but, you know, you might want to go to the emergency room and have it checked out. And I said, well, can I drive myself? And she's like, sure. So, I did, and within, like, 10 minutes, was told I was having a heart attack, which was like a shock.

Boots Knighton [:

So, within those 10 minutes, you mean you got to the hospital and they were like, you're having a heart attack?

Sherri Hansen [:

Yeah. Basically, they up and had gotten the results of my lab work, and my troponin levels were increasing, which is a mark of heart attack. So, they're like, yeah. You're going to have to be admitted, and we're going to have to do a Cath next day. So, they did the Cath, and they were like, oh, yeah. This probably won't be a big deal. They'll put Stenton, and everything will be fine. Well, they're like, you have extensive heart disease.

Sherri Hansen [:

You need to have bypass surgery. And, unfortunately, I was awake enough during the Cath, and then I was like, are you sure? Can't you put stents in? And she's like, absolutely not. So, I sat in the hospital for 4 days waiting for bypass surgery, eventually had it. And then when I woke up, I remember being in just excruciating pain. I was, like, basically fighting for every single breath. And I remember the first thing I heard; she's breathing so shallowly. And I am a singer, and so I had sort of asked them to take better care of my vocal cords. You know, it's something I do.

Sherri Hansen [:

So, they had extubated me in the OR, which I guess they rarely do. They usually wait a couple hours. As a result, they couldn't get me any more pain medicine, so every breath was like agony. I spent most of the rest of the night trying to get BiPAP probably really should have re intubated me. On the next day, I was told, well, you know, you can either take Ketamine or, you know, we can't give you any more pain meds. What I didn't know at the time, which I've learned since, is that my metabolism metabolizes opioids really quickly. So, the problem was it would last an hour or 2, but then I would be in excruciating pain. So, they sort of saw it as I kept wanting more pain meds, but they weren't working for me because they were already broken down in my body.

Sherri Hansen [:

So, they gave me a ketamine treatment, which I don't recommend in an ICU because I had a dissociative reaction, which was very frightening. And I remember begging them to just stop it. I'd rather have the pain because I actually really did think I was dying. Anyway, because, you know, I was relatively fit, healthy, I recovered pretty well, and they sent me home, but they didn't give me physical therapy, occupational therapy, or they just kind of sent me home with a stack of papers, which who has time to read that when you're recovering? And so, all of a sudden realized, well, how do you get up off the toilet? You can't use your arms. How do you open the refrigerator door? How do you get out of that? I mean, it was really eye opening and humbling. How do you do these basic things? I had my brother home with me for the first 2 weeks, which extraordinarily helpful, but it was kind of like we were making it up as we went along. I did eventually recover, but I continued to have chest pain very similar to what I had before the surgery.

Sherri Hansen [:

And I went to my primary care for follow-up, up in the Holy Cross, just probably incisional healing. Went to the cardiac surgeon, and he said the same thing. So, when I finally got to see my cardiologist, I told her what was going on. She's like, well, maybe we should do a stress echo, but those are also a couple months out.

Boots Knighton [:

So, hang on. And you hadn't had a stress echo yet?

Sherri Hansen [:

No. I just had a Cath.

Boots Knighton [:

And before we get any further, help us better understand that heart disease diagnosis. Like, what were the details they gave you when they did that first heart Cath?

Sherri Hansen [:

They told me I had extensive coronary artery disease, that I had 3 vessels blocked, including 99% of my left anterior descending, that widow maker, and that the best treatment was to do bypass.

Boots Knighton [:

You probably didn't have a whole lot of time to research that, like, research different hospitals. I mean, you were admitted. Like, you were in a heart attack and you needed surgery. Like, there was just no time to be like, oh, maybe I should try Cleveland Clinic or, you know, think about this a little bit. It was go time.

Sherri Hansen [:

I was at University of Wisconsin Hospital, so as considered the best in our area, it’s a university, and all tertiary care.

Boots Knighton [:

So, you felt good. You felt like you could trust the process when you were in it.

Sherri Hansen [:

At that time, yes.

Boots Knighton [:

Right. Exactly.

Sherri Hansen [:

You know, like I said, I was like, okay. I mean, these are the experts. They're saying I need triple bypass surgery. Been really dumb. I had a few days, and this was during the pandemic so nobody could come visit.

Sherri Hansen [:

So, I was, you know, stuck in my room quite a bit. So, anyway, turns out there was a stress echo appointment available the next day, just coincidental. So, they do the stress cycle, and within 5 minutes, there were people pouring in the room. They shoved a nitroglycerin under my tongue. They sat me down. They said this is extremely abnormal. We are ambulancing you to back to UW Hospital for an emergency cath.

Boots Knighton [:

So, this was how many weeks after your first surgery?

Sherri Hansen [:

7.

Boots Knighton [:

Oh my gosh. Okay.

Sherri Hansen [:

So, will I get to be ambulanced to the hospital? They did a cath. And when I was awake and alert, they said, well, your bypass graft, the one on the left entry descending, is on your cardiac vein, not your artery. So, basically, they took an artery, I think, the left internal mammary. And so, rather than put it on that artery that was to be bypassed, it ended up on the vein. So, I had a fistula. So, I had an arteriole venous hole. And they had elected to not do the other 2 bypasses. The doctor felt that those could be stented down the road. So, I only had one bypass, and it was on the vein. And I just had had a heart attack not that long ago. So, basically, I survived that, which I'm pretty lucky. So, they basically said we're going to have to redo the bypass surgery all over again.

Boots Knighton [:

How did you respond to that?

Sherri Hansen [:

I was devastated. I mean, I had made it through the first one. I mean, I hadn't even been cleared from external precautions yet so I couldn't even raise my hands over my head yet. So, I was weak, deconditioned. I hadn't gone back to work yet. I wasn't fully recovered by any stretch. I was angry because it's like, you know, what the heck?

Sherri Hansen [:

You know, this is, like, University Hospital, plus you're one of the best in the area. How did this happen? But the best advice I got was that one of my colleagues, because I, of course, started, you know, on social media saying, guess what happened to me kind of thing, and I had a carrying bridge so I could update people. It's one of my therapist friends who said, well, you know, you can't change your circumstances, but what you can change is your reaction and your attitude toward those circumstances. And that really hit home, and that really resonated with me. Because then the wheels in motion, like, if I was going to have to have this procedure to save my life, I know because I needed to have my LED bypassed or fixed. Then we were going to change what had happened the first time to make it much better the second time. And I started advocating for myself and said, okay, fine. But then I want a pain management consult.

Sherri Hansen [:

I want respiratory therapy to come in and find a mask that fits ahead of time. I don't want to go home without home PT, home OT, and I would like home nursing for the first few weeks, and everyone felt terrible about what had happened. So, if I had asked for, like, you know, gold plated, boy, would I probably would've gotten it? On the other hand, it was people were like, okay. Okay. Which is like, well, hallelujah. We can talk about in advance. How can we make this experience better than the 2nd experience. So, I was told that they would keep me intubated longer.

Sherri Hansen [:

They would use a different kind of neural block, which worked far better, and it did. It made a huge difference. I had a mask for BiPAP that fit it right away. That made a big difference. I didn't have ketamine. I told him there was no way that was happening. And I had services when I got home where, like, a physical therapist, occupational therapist could look at my house and say, oh, yeah. That refrigerator door is really heavy.

Sherri Hansen [:

That is going to be hard to open. Or wait a minute. No. You can't brush your hair because you're lifting your arm above your head. You know, things that you don't realize. And so, they were very helpful in in giving me little hacks to try to manage and live. I mean, little hacks like how to walk my dog since I couldn't have her pull on me.

Sherri Hansen [:

Here's an app that will give you dog walkers in your area who can walk your dog for you. Or, okay, let's go around the block. Okay. We can look at the incline on here and see if that's something you can do. It was hugely helpful. I had a nurse help me with the wound care. That was hugely helpful. Because I'm immunocompromised, I'm at a higher risk for infection. And then they even allowed her, my little puppy to come up and visit me because I was hospitalized over Easter and as a kind of a gift, the nurses convinced the doctor to write an order, and they took me downstairs. I mean, you know, nurses are super busy, but they took time out of their schedule to wheel me down to the lobby so I could have a short but wonderful visit with Emma. That did wonders for my outlook and my well-being. So, I recovered from that surgery, and, yes, it was far easier and a lot less painful. But what I didn't know at the time is that I had a cardiac bridge that was very deep and very long, which is probably what threw off some of the landmarks. And, unfortunately, well, I didn't have chest pain until I really was, like, getting my heart rate up to, like, 110, 120. But the last day of my cardiac rehab, they said, okay, let's go ahead. Work on as hard as you can.

Sherri Hansen [:

And they noticed some changes on the, EKG. So, they're like, well, I think you should have another stress cycle. I didn't want to because the last one went so badly. And I didn't want to be ambulanced back to the UW, but they did it, and, unfortunately, it wasn't good. And what had happened is that LED bypassed the second one. For some reason, had matured and was not viable. And the fistula, which was created, which was never taken down, was still working. And so, what has been kept me alive is that because I was active, I had all these collaterals, bypasses, detours through my heart.

Sherri Hansen [:

A really huge network of them that and, actually, my right coronary artery actually was feeding my left anterior descending. So, I had this circuitous kind of circulation weirdness going on. But, anyway, they told me, well, you’re going to maybe have to have the 3rd surgery. And I just said, I can't. I can't do this again. Not right now. And I said if there's any way that I could get a stent in there, and they said, well, it's risky. You have a bridge. It's not ideal. It's not what we want to do, but they were also running out of options for surgery because every time they reoperate on you with scar tissue, the risks go up and up. And I said, well, I would like you to try. And if there's a bad outcome, I mean, I will accept that. So, the cardiologist agreed to do it, and, apparently, it was extraordinarily difficult. I have a very neural left anterior descending and, in the bridge, very deeply. And, yes, I have a lot of compression, but they were able to stent it successfully. And the after flow on the calf was, like, huge.

Sherri Hansen [:

I mean, it was like night and day. So, that's where I stand, and so I've had that for a year now, and so far, it's worked really well. It's not ideal. It's not what you want to do. I have a higher rate of failure because of the bridge. But in my case, that's what's worked. And I think part of that was me advocating and saying, you know, I can't do the 3rd surgery. We need to look at another option.

Boots Knighton [:

So, was the bridge discovered at the start?

Sherri Hansen [:

That's a good question. I don't remember it being mentioned until the 2nd cath.

Boots Knighton [:

And they never did a heart CT?

Sherri Hansen [:

I had a heart MRI after the 2nd surgery.

Boots Knighton [:

Yeah. That's different than a CT. Because it seems like it's you know, I've had a bridge and that was why I had my surgery. And I talk to a lot of people with myocardial bridging often. And I was at Stanford for all my testing. And I just wonder if the bridge had been caught at the beginning, if you would have had a completely different experience. I mean, it sounds like you had more than the bridge going on.

Boots Knighton [:

And with all those blockages, that was going to kill you first before the bridge. And so, they narrowed in on that. Their job is to save your life, and so they're going to go to the most important life-threatening diagnosis first. And I also don’t blame you one bit. Like, who wants to have a third open-heart surgery? Right? I had a guest on in my 1st season, Bill Wingate. He's had 4 open heart surgeries, and he's doing great. It was hard. It was horrible, but he made it through. It's still devastating. It is absolutely devastating. I have to ask you, like, now that you've had your heart touched twice by another human, how has that changed you on, like, a soul level? Like, that is such a big deal.

Sherri Hansen [:

I always had this sort of self-smug, like, oh, I'm normal weight. I'm athletic. I eat really healthy. I'm doing all the things you should do. Yes. I have a family history of really heart disease, but I had good habits. I don't drink. I don't smoke going on. So, I kind of felt somewhat, that gave me immortality. I mean, I really hadn't pondered that, you know, I'm in my fifties. Yeah. I'll live into my eighties. That's 30 years away. And now for the first time, like, well, wait a minute. There's no guarantees ever.

Sherri Hansen [:

COVID hopefully should've kind of reminded us of that. And at the same time, I was going through this journey, I was also being worked up for autoimmunity and eventually diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. And there's a huge correlation between psoriatic arthritis and coronary vascular disease because chronic inflammation throughout your body leads to changes in your blood vessels, and so there's a huge risk of that. And I'd had also increased cholesterol, but, again, my primary care doc would put my numbers into the Framington calculator to say when do you need to, you know, treat. And because, because, you know, my body weight was normal, and so my blood pressure was normal, they didn't want to treat a cholesterol of 240 at that point. But looking back, I wish to goodness that I had been put on a statin years ago. I wished my autoimmune disease had been diagnosed a decade ago when I started coming in with joint issues and was basically told, oh, you have arthritis. Take Tylenol. Stop knitting. Stop doing yoga. I was actually told all those things, and I just wish that had been diagnosed sooner so that maybe my cardiovascular risk factors could have been addressed sooner because now I have, yeah, extensive coronary artery disease and probably elsewhere throughout my body. So, it sorts of led me to think, okay. So, maybe I don't have 30 years left. Maybe I have 10. Maybe I have 1.

Sherri Hansen [:

But I want to live as fully as I can, which had been a challenge because during the pandemic, a lot of things we wanted to do, travel and social things, were kind of put to the side. So, shortly after my 2nd surgery, like, within a month, I had a guy contact me through Facebook and was interested in my dog, actually. I think he saw my profile picture. And wanted to know who owns such a cute little one and contacted me, and he says, you know, I'm interested. Can we have lunch? And I'm like, are you kidding? I have a broken heart, literally. And he's like, so? And in the past, I would have probably said, well, of course not. I mean, that's crazy. But now it's like, well, why not? Why not take a chance? Why not take risks? So, we started dating, and we actually just got married this June.

Sherri Hansen [:

I took a trip to Paris, which went fine. So, yeah. And then I'm also made the decision that I'm going to retire this winter. So, I'll be 79 at the time, and a lot of my colleagues are like, oh, you're too young. You're too young. And I'm like, well, you know, life's too short. I don't know if I'm going to be able to hike mountains while I never could or be super active in travel in 6, 7 years, so, I want to do it now. And I want to stop putting all things and start living the life I've always wanted to have.

Boots Knighton [:

That's incredible. What lifestyle, I mean, you've just walked us through a few changes that you're making for your future. But have you made any other lifestyle changes like diet or sleep habits, like, the basic things that we do each day to live a healthy life, have you made any changes?

Sherri Hansen [:

Oh, yeah. Of course. I mean, I eat a healthy Mediterranean diet, but I didn't give much regard to salt. So, all of a sudden, I've had to follow no more low sodium diet. And as you know, there's sodium in everything, including baked goods. So, I've really focused on cutting that out, also cutting down fat, you know, switching from low fat yogurt to nonfat yogurt and also limiting red meat. I looked at all kinds of, you know, like, cardiac diets. And I can see where people get really confused and just frustrated because, you know, I was told to follow the DASH diet, the dietary, it lowers, you know, your blood pressure. Then they're like, no. Mediterranean. Oh, no. You should be a vegan. No. You need meat. Yes. You can eat eggs. No. You can't eat eggs. I mean, people get really conflicting information. It's really easy to say, oh, the heck was it. I'm just going to eat what I want. But, no, I try to follow a DASH mind diet, which is low sodium, mostly Mediterranean, lots of fruits and vegetables, and then the leafy greens and berries that apparently help protect you against dementia. So, I focused on that. I've tried to focus on stress reduction and not work as hard.

Sherri Hansen [:

And also, I'm lucky I have a lot of friends, so being connected socially to others and making exercise the priority. You know, cardiac rehab was, this is in my schedule. I can't go to work until after that. Drinking, walking in, and water exercises, and so forth.

Boots Knighton [:

That's great. And tell me more. So, you said you had a caring bridge, and I find that there are 2 types of patients, it seems, those who want to go through something on their own are very privately and only tell a few people, and then there are others who aren't like yourself who have a caring bridge. You said you have a lot of friends that really, like, bring the community along with you as you go through this journey, and I want to hear more about how caring bridge worked out for you and what it provided for you? Because I think this is really important because I know there's so much research about backing the importance of community for our brain health, also our physical health. So, would you speak to that more for us?

Sherri Hansen [:

Sure. So, this was my sister-in-law's suggestion. And remember, this was during pandemic where you could have one visitor a day, and that's all. So, there was a lot of isolation in the hospital to say the least, but I had not met Scott yet, and I lived alone. And so, the concern was, how am I going to manage at home? Because they send you home on, like, day 4 or 5 of surgery, and, you know, it's clear that you can't manage on your own. So, I am fortunate that I have a lot of circles of support to my church, my workplace, involved in some musical ensembles in the community. And so, my sister-in-law set this page up to keep people in the loop, and it was wonderful because then I could get, like, messages of support, and then I could also send out updates so you don't have to email every single person or it just is a really central way of just informing everybody how things are going and also getting support. She also set up a meal train for both surgeries, and, yeah. I was, like, you know, the 2nd time around, like, are people going to come and show up and be there? They were.

Sherri Hansen [:

So, we had a meal train for the 1st month, every meal for both surgeries, visits, chores, like things like laundry, sharing you some help with, can you come over and just run some loads of laundry? Can you come over and help, you know, with some outdoor work? Can you take her to medical appointments? I had a train for that, which was wonderful because you can't drive for 8 weeks. And nobody had to do a lot, but everybody did a little bit and pitched in, and it was, it was wonderful. I mean, most days, I had 2 visitors. You know, they didn't stay for very long, but I never felt lonely. I never got depressed.

Boots Knighton [:

That's incredible.

Sherri Hansen [:

Yeah. It was really a wonderful tool, and I certainly recommend it. It's free, although they certainly welcome donations.

Boots Knighton [:

That's so good. And tell us about Women Heart. How did you find out about Women Heart, and what prompted you to join as a heart champion?

Sherri Hansen [:

My cardiologist, doctor August Silbert, was an advisor for them when she was at a different university, and she told me about them and that they had this women heart symposium and that it might be just helpful for added support. And I was put in touch with a woman here, Sandy Muscacio, and so, I sort of met, she wasn't a heart sister per se, but we met a couple times. And so, I applied for the symposium at Mayo Clinic last fall, was accepted, and found it to be an extremely empowering experience. I met women who had had heart transplants, one who had had a heart transplant at 13, now she's 40. Women who had had something called SCAD. They were young women in their twenties that had a coronary artery dissection. Women who were in heart failure, women who had, you know, had heart surgery like me or stents, all across the board, but all sharing this passion for wanting to advocate for other women, which is what I wanted to do. So, no one had to go through what I did with either being dismissed initially and knowing, like, how to advocate for yourself so you can get what you need.

Boots Knighton [:

Incredible. Yeah. And I have found it has been so important for my journey as well. I mean, I echo everything you just said. There is so much power to know and so much comfort in knowing we're not alone and that we're not the only person going through heart surgery. And that is the whole point of my podcast is to welcome folks like you onto the program who can provide a story like this as hard as it is to hear it because, like, I want none of this for you. But here you are. You're choosing your attitude. You're making the most of it. You're making incredible changes in your life, which frankly, I think everyone should do whether they've had a heart surgery or not. You know? Like, why can't we retire earlier? Why can't we all travel to Paris? Right? Like, if you can't afford Paris somewhere close by you haven't been to, like, getting the chills just thinking about this, Sherri. It's like, we as especially it seems like as Americans, we put off living. We put off thriving. Why? Like, why is that, like, socially acceptable? And why does it take folks like you and me going through multiple surgeries where we finally we get to the edge of life and death and we get this perspective, and now we can, like, share it with others, but why does it take a heart surgery? Right?

Sherri Hansen [:

Well, I'm a, you know, older generation exert. And when I was going through medical school, there was really this sort of sense to have to prove yourself, especially being a woman and not being seen as weak, and that meant working through feeling ill, working through your pregnancy and morning sickness. Even if you've been up all night with a child, I mean, there's this really culture of being stoic and strong even when real life intrudes. And at some point, I'm like, this is nuts. This is crazy. And I sort of gotten away from that over the years. We all hear stories of people that, you know, going to go retire, you know, somewhere, build a house, and then right after retirement, they get sick and die. Or they always wanted to take this trip, but they never, you know, they die before that opportunity. I mean, we all know people that that happened, and I didn't want to be that person.

Boots Knighton [:

Yeah. Wow. Wise words. Well, Sherri, before we end our time together, I would love for you to share one piece of advice with folks facing or recovering from heart surgery.

Sherri Hansen [:

I think the biggest thing I can offer is to be your own advocate. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask what you need. It's okay to be the squeaky wheel because that's how you get help. You don't have to walk this journey alone, and it's okay to loop in family, friends, and ask for help and support. People want to help. That was the thing. People were like, I'm so sorry this is happening to you. What can we do to help? And then say, well, can you come over and play cards with me? Can you come over and take me to a medical appointment? So many of us feel like we have to do this on our own, and I want people to know that it's important to involve friends and community because you'll do it for them when they need it.

Boots Knighton [:

I love it. Sherri Hansen, everyone. Thank you so much.

Sherri Hansen [:

Thank you, Boots.

Boots Knighton [:

Thank you for sharing a few heartbeats of your day with me today. Please be sure to follow or subscribe to this podcast wherever you are listening. Share with a friend who will value what we discussed. Go to either Apple Podcasts and write us a review or mark those stars on Spotify. I read these, and your feedback is so encouraging, and it also helps others find this podcast. Also, please feel free to drop me a note at Boots@TheHeartChamberPodcast.com. I truly want to know how you're doing and if this podcast has been a source of hope, inspiration, and healing for you. Again, I am your host, Boots Knighton, and thanks for listening. Be sure to tune in next Tuesday for another episode of The Heart Chamber.

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About the Podcast

The Heart Chamber
Conversations on open-heart surgery from the patients' perspective
**The name of this podcast is changing on June 4, 2024. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss the announcement!** Join Boots Knighton every Tuesday for conversations on open-heart surgery from the patient perspective. Boots explores the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual experiences of surgery with fellow heart patients and health care providers. This podcast aims to help patients feel less overwhelmed so you can get on with living your best life after surgery. You not only deserve to survive open-heart surgery, you deserve to THRIVE!
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