Brandi Barhite 2/5/08 MAIN STORY
Huron woman finds new beginning after heart problems
By JANET NGUYEN
Karen Brahler loved to eat.
Whatever she wanted could be found in her refrigerator.
One night in June 2006, Brahler began to feel what she described as "twinges" while out to dinner.
She didn't believe the slight pain was connected to her heart. Maybe, she thought, it was a pinched nerve.
Regardless, she decided to go to the hospital after dinner.
The Huron resident suffered from angina that evening -- a symptom of coronary artery disease.
Angina can be described as discomfort, heaviness, pressure, aching, burning or a painful feeling. Many times it can be mistaken for indigestion. Coronary artery disease occurs when the arteries that bring blood to the heart muscle are narrowed from buildups of fats or cholesterol.
It is usually felt in the chest, however, patients have also mentioned feelings in the shoulders, arms, neck throat and back.
Brahler underwent an angioplasty and a heart catheterization.
She said her biggest fear was receiving the cardiac catheter, which is the most accurate way to gather information to diagnose and treat heart problems.
"I knew I had to be a different person," the now 55-year-old said.
Before her procedures, Brahler weighed 285 pounds. Her Hungarian diet included lots of "sour cream and butter."
"I didn't care what went in," she said.
Brahler also wasn't active. Walking down the block would wind her, and the thought of having to walk back home wore her out.
Shortly after her stay in the hospital, Brahler became an active participant at Firelands Regional Medical Center's cardiac rehabilitation center.
The hospital's heart institute offers non-invasive diagnostic and rehabilitation services through the combined efforts of Firelands Cardio-Pulmonary Services and Firelands Cardio-Pulmonary Rehabilitation.
A new beginning
In the two months after her procedure, Brahler began to see results. She measures success by her activity levels with her 9-year-old and 5-year-old grandchildren. In August 2006, she set up a plastic kiddie pool outside her house to play with the young boys.
"They are my life," she said.
Ten-minute intervals on the exercise machines has since escalated to nearly an hour on each machine. After a recent workout session at the hospital, Brahler still had the energy to talk enthusiastically about her journey. She also was ready to get back to her workout -- one of three sessions she attends every week.
Walking the treadmill is her favorite.
"I could go on the treadmill all day," she said.
Since she first stepped foot in cardiac rehab, employees describe Brahler's energy level as extremely high.
"She's like an Eveready battery," said Debby Passabet, a registered nurse in cardiac rehab.
Brahler eliminated fast food and doughnuts from her diet. She reads nutrition labels before buying. She stocks up on more vegetables and fruits -- even though her palate doesn't rank them high on the best-tasting food list.
"I eat pretty much what I want ... I just don't eat the things I don't need," she said.
Brahler said her lifestyle hasn't changed completely. A few things have just been tweaked.
She eats more sauce than pasta.
She has switched to eating whole grain pasta.
"It's just the little things," she said. "I use a lot of olive oil now. It's good on everything."
Two years after her incident, she is living a much healthier lifestyle. She has lost 70 pounds since her sour cream and butter days.
Her weight today? 215 pounds.
"I don't mind being fluffy. I feel really good," she said.
She walks, plays with her grandchildren and is overall more active.
"I couldn't do that (before the procedure)," Brahler said. "I would have missed their lives, and they would have missed me."
Brahler attributes the hospital's cardiac rehab center to her healthier way of life.
"If something happens, they're here to take care of you. I'm very happy," Brahler said.
Brahler said if it wasn't for the "twinges" in 2006, her health would have deteriorated.
"They motivate you," she said of the employees and patients at cardiac rehab. "It must be something in the water," she joked.
Passabet said the people who participate in the hospital's cardiac rehabilitation program vary in reason and age.
From heart attacks and angina to cardiac surgery, people ages 33 to 90 can be found at the cardiac rehab center.
"We just want to give them their lives back," Passabet said.
Source: The American Heart Association's Heat Disease and Stroke Statistics
* An estimated 80.7 million American adults (one in three) have one or more types of cardiovascular disease. About 38.2 million are estimated to be 60 or older.
* Ohio is ranked 37th for cardiovascular disease and 41st for coronary heart disease and 28th for strokes.
* Among adults ages 20 and older, the estimated prevalence of coronary heart disease in 2005 was 16,000,000 (about 8.7 million men and 7.3 million women).
* This year, an estimated 770,000 Americans will have a recurrent attack. It is estimated that an additional 190,000 silent first heart attacks occur each year.
* About 18 percent of coronary attacks are preceded by long-standing angina.
* Among adults age 20 and older, the estimated prevalence of stroke in 2005 was 5.8 million (about 2.3 males and 3.4 females).
* Each year about 780,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke. About 600,000 of these are first attacks and 180,000 are recurrent attacks.
* The estimated 2005 prevalence for high blood pressure was 73 million (about 34 million males and 39 million females).