2022 | HFSA

The definition of heart failure—a patient’s perspective

Patient News Heart Failure Awareness 365

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I have faced many challenges in my life and now am facing one that could take my life. This is how my heart failure journey started:

  • I have been an athlete all my life but, in the Spring of 2004, I began having trouble breathing on my morning runs. All through the spring it became more difficult for me to breathe. On a family trip to Arizona after a night of struggling to get my breath I was diagnosed with severe level four heart failure. My blood pressure was 190/90, my heart rate was 200 beats per minute, my heart was three times its normal size, and my ejection fraction was 10%. I had survived a year of combat in the jungles of Vietnam, in 2002 I contracted the Asian Bird Flu and survived. Now laying in a hospital ICU, for the first time in my life I thought this might be a battle I would lose. I was married with an 11-year-old daughter and they came into my room I could see the terror in my daughter’s eyes. I was reminded of something my dad had told me when I was very young. “Son whatever you do in life you give it 100% and nothing less.” In that instant my thought that followed, a promise to myself and that little girl really was that I would do everything I could to live because I was not about to let that little girl go through life without a father and to this day 18 years later I have not wavered. 

Where am I in my journey now?  

  • There is no cure for heart failure, so the best that you can do is to follow the recommendations of your cardiologist. It differs for everyone but for me, it’s about attitude and perspective. If you have life style issues that have contributed to your heart failure, change them. If you smoke, stop smoking. If the salt shaker is your best friend, end the friendship. If you don’t exercise, start (with the advice and consent of your health care provider). If you have been prescribed medications take them religiously and don’t stop taking your medication even if you feel better. In 18 years, you could count on one hand the number of times I have forgotten to take my medications. I lost my wife three years ago but despite that, the quality of my life is great, I continue to exercise daily, I continue to limit my sodium intake. And what joy it brings me to see that little girl of 11—now 28 years old—about to finish her Master’s Degree in college. 

How do I define heart failure?

  • It is like a constant companion, but I am determined to give it 100% and nothing else to live with this disease. Attitude and perspective help me manage my heart failure.


Helpful Resources

Visit the HFSA Patient Hub to explore tools and resources to help patients stay healthy while living with heart failure. 

View Heart Failure Awareness 365 activities to stay up-to-date on tips for healthy living for people living with heart failure.