COVID-19 (coronavirus) Featured Heart health Patient stories

Heart patients urge others to seek care

Mary Mandel

Mary Mandel has heart disease. She is considered one of the high-risk and vulnerable people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My 86-year-old husband is in a nursing home…one long-time friend has died of the virus, and another was diagnosed and recovered,” she says. “It hits very close to home. I know I’m vulnerable and I’m taking it very seriously.”

A former nurse and clinical researcher, Mary remembers the “old days” when she was caring for a patient with tuberculosis.

“I still remember him saying, ‘If I’ve got it, you’re going to have it too,’ then he coughed right in my face,” says Mary, who is now retired. “You get some takeaway memories. I’ve become overly critical of the techniques being used to keep people safe.”

Mary admits she was worried she’d be disappointed at the hospital when she had to go to Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre for an echocardiogram and visit with her cardiologist.

“It was a very anxious thing, and that made me even more impressed with how well they did,” she says. “You couldn’t get in without being screened – there was no way around it. It was very reassuring.”

Toronto-area hospitals have been taking extra precautions to reduce the risk of the novel coronavirus being spread from person-to-person, from entrance screening to personal protective equipment in clinical and high-traffic common areas.

Robert Kates, a seventy-seven-year-old grandfather of six (soon to be seven), says he too is “a little paranoid” about contracting COVID-19.

“At my age and with my prior history of infections, I’m overly cautious,” he says. “I wear a mask. I carry sanitizer in both my pockets. The only time I leave my house is to go out for groceries, and that’s about twice a week. I even sanitize my own car inside.”

Over the past three months, Robert has been to Sunnybrook three times to undergo tests to evaluate possible heart problems. On visiting the hospital, he says he wasn’t overly concerned: “I wondered what they were going to do. I knew they’d be taking precautions, and I was very relaxed and calm going in there.”

If you are going to hospital or out in public, infection control experts at Sunnybrook recommend you wash or sanitize your hands frequently, keep your hands away from your face, practice physical distancing, and make sure to wear your mask properly.

“Take precautions and trust in the hospital and the doctors,” advises Robert. “If you need to visit the hospital, do it. Don’t wait. It’s your life.”

Heart attacks don’t stop during a pandemic

Don’t ignore the signs of serious heart problems, especially if you have a heart condition. Call 911 if you think you are having a heart attack. Symptoms include:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Discomfort in your chest, arms, back, neck, shoulder or jaw

If you have questions about COVID-19 and your heart condition, or need a health visit, speak to your cardiologist or other health-care provider.

Source: Canadian Cardiovascular Society


About the author

Katherine Nazimek

Katherine Nazimek is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.

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