Friday, September 16, 2011

Raising heart disease awareness

HEALING HEARTS: McIntyre, center, with two MGH
cardiac nurses who cared for her, Leann Otis, RN, left,
and Jean Murray, RN

FOR JENNIFER MCINTYRE, RN, BSN, an MGH clinical nursing supervisor, witnessing complex medical procedures is an ordinary part of her day. It wasn’t routine, however, when she became a patient last year and needed double bypass surgery to treat a 90 percent blockage in her left main artery. She credits her medical team at the MGH – led by cardiac physician Shawn Gregory, MD, and surgeon Thomas MacGillivray, MD – for her successful surgery and recovery. 

Determined to give back to those who took care of her at the MGH, McIntyre laced up her sneakers and hit the pavement on Sept. 10, joining nearly 10,000 walkers in the American Heart Association’s (AHA) 2011 Boston Heart Walk.  Teams from the MGH raised more than $30,000 for the cause. McIntyre walked the longest route, six miles, in support of Ellison 11 (Cardiac Access), Ellison 8 (Cardiac Surgery) and Blake 8 (Cardiac Surgery Intensive Care Unit).  

“The walk was a festival for me. It was great to see people younger than me, my age and older all together to celebrate life.  We are the lucky ones, and we wanted to show it,” says McIntyre. 

McIntyre, the mother of two young children, wanted to extend her gratitude to the nurses who cared for her and at the same time, create awareness about heart health. “I wanted to do anything to help the AHA get the word out about heart disease,” she says. “I have a special interest in women – as, of course, I am one – but I also wanted people to know what they can do after bypass.” 

As part of the awareness effort, McIntyre shared the list of her symptoms. She had no family history of heart disease, exercised regularly, didn’t smoke and her cholesterol levels were not high. She did, however, experience a lingering pain in her chest. After experiencing the pain for almost two months and ignoring the symptoms, she knew she had to see her doctor.  What she thought was heartburn turned out to be much more.

After going though surgery, however, McIntyre says she gained a new perspective. She always had the skills and compassion of a nurse, but says she can now better connect with the patient experience and share her story with others.

Her advice to patients – “Don’t deny the symptoms. People like me can have heart disease too.”

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