Heart surgery is no longer the major procedure of a few years ago—at least, it isnít
for the doctors and nurses in the cardiac care unit. For patients and the people who love them,
the words 'heart attack' and 'bypass surgery' still carry all the terror they ever did.
Because it is part of their everyday schedule, health care professionals take for granted
that we all understand the terms and activities and instructions they toss at us. Three months
ago I learned just how terrifying and baffling a cardiac emergency can be. Kind nurses told me
exactly what was happening with my patient. They walked me to the waiting room, showed me where
to sit, where to find coffee, and even told me how long it would be before my patient was in his
room. They encouraged me to use 'the phone' to call 'the desk' if I felt too much time had passed
without contact or if I simply wanted reassurance. Thoughtful and compassionate, yes, but... they
assumed incorrectly that I knew a) where to find 'the phone' and b) the number to call. Those were
the first of many puzzles we had to sort through on the road to recovery.
Warren and Donna Selkow have written The Simplified Handbook for Living with Heart Disease
and Other Chronic Diseases just for me and people like me. Using their firsthand experience as
patient and caregiver, they know what the doctors forget to tell you, and theyíve ferreted out the
answers for us. A member of the Zipper Club himself, Warren Selkow lays it out straight—this
is not a man who takes the warm fuzzy approach, nor should he. Heís ignored doctors' advice and
knows exactly how badly that works.
The Selkows cover every aspect of their topic, from early symptoms to the procedure in the cath
lab and beyond. They explain the connection between heart disease and renal failure, between heart
disease and diet, and between heart disease and denial.† The doctor may tell patients to avoid salt
and fat, but Warren Selkow explains why patients need to do that. Thereís even a glossary to make
deciphering cardiac language a little easier.
Donna Selkow provides advice to the caregivers and boy howdy, was I ever grateful to get it!
Like her husband, she pulls no punches. She tells the reader just how difficult the patient will
be, how to cope with him, and—especially helpful!—when the caregiver can have her own
All the information is here—perhaps a little too much of it if youíre in a hurry
to get to the meat of the issue. Having too much information, though, could be an advantage if
you are either patient or caregiver, so Iím not going to quibble about that. If there is even a
slight chance that you or someone you care for will fall victim to any sort of cardiac emergency,
you should read this book now. Frankly, I believe The Simplified Handbook for Living with Heart
Disease and Other Chronic Diseases should be handed out in the cardiac waiting room along with
anti-anxiety meds. A lot of books promise to change your life; this one just might save it.