My Battle to Save My Life

The Hardest Step Began With Me

My fiance and I visited the doctor's a lot this year. He has had an ongoing heart condition his entire life and in January of 2011, he found he couldn't breathe or keep up his normal routine at his job in the factory.

The news was devastating. His heart was working at 20% capacity and his pumping function very compromised. He was put on medications to try to correct this and this past May, he was tested again and showed no improvement.

I noted lots of breathing that sounded like Darth Vader. I also saw that he was unable to climb the stairs without gasping for breath. He is only 42 years old. A bilateral ventricular device (defibrillator/pace maker combo) was planned to be surgically implanted and the fears and tears began with me and his family. Statistics show that 1 in 1,000 patients don't survive this surgery and because his health has been compromised his entire life, I feared that my beloved wouldn't make it through. I had to be strong however. I had to show his family and my children and most of all my fiance that I was positive that this device would end up saving his life.

He went for an x ray and it was discovered his lung was filled with fluid. He had begun developing congestive heart failure. The doctor put him on Lasix and Potassium to rid his body of the extra fluid. On a Monday, he went into the hospital with me, was prepped for surgery and put under anesthesia. Just before the first cut, his EKG went wild and it was discovered that the chambers of his heart were working against each other. If his heart was going to keep reacting like this, the defibrillator would end up killing him. The doctor, God Bless him for his insight; cancelled the surgery.

The discussion between my fiance, the doctor and myself was eye opening. Lose weight, lose the salt, fat and sugar. Sounds easy but it isn't. If you have struggled with weight your entire life, you understand.

I hadn't seen my ankles in years. I called them cankles. My legs and feet have been swollen beyond recognition and I couldn't understand why; neither could the doctors I had seen.

I realized that it was time for my family to do an eating over haul and get rid of the foods that were high in sugar, fat and salt. Little did I know how much salt was in everything. Even naturally. I gave most of the food in the house to a neighbor with children. I shopped at Health Food Stores and read labels at the grocery store; taking almost 4 hours to grocery shop. There were so many foods that I considered to be healthy with hundreds of milligrams of fat in a serving size. Did you know that soups, boxed macaroni and cheese, even cereals have tons of sodium in them? I didn't.

Within a week I was amazed at my body's transformation. I actually had bony ankles that I hadn't ever seen. I lost eleven pounds in water alone. I had more energy and more focus than usual. I had never known that salt was the culprit of so many of my problems for years.

In Trying to Save Someone Else, I Saved Myself

In my efforts to help my fiance and children adopt a healthier lifestyle, I have saved my own life. I am not feeling awful like I have for the past 10 years, I have actual ankles and feet again and I have a new resolve to begin a new lifestyle and a new life for myself.

All of the years I have attempted to diet and was unsuccessful I now know that I had been going about it the wrong way. I pray for the strength to put my own health first so that I can continue to care for those I love.

A few recipes to share with you...

I have spent the past two weeks tweaking recipes to make them low fat, sodium and sugar. I'd like to share a few with you. Bon Apetit!

Chicken “Casa” Ideas (!) – Eat a Wedge Today

1 cup chickpeas; drained, rinsed well, and then mashed

2TBL fat free sour cream

2 TBL salsa (homemade is best)

1 clove garlic, minced

*mix these ingredients well in a small bowl and set to the side

Spray Olive Oil

Fat free tortillas (8)

*Spray both sides of tortilla…lay four down on a cookie or flat baking sheet and spread chickpea mixture on each of the four tortillas

1 cup of shredded chicken

¼ cup each of red and orange bell peppers

1/8 cup of finely chopped green onion

1 TBL fresh cilantro

1 cup shredded, reduced fat cheese (your choice)

* Combine the chicken and ingredients that follow in a bowl. Spread ¼ of the mixture over the chickpea mixture. Cover with the remaining 4 tortillas.

*Bake in an oven set to 350 degrees. Bake 10-20 minutes, until the tortillas look golden brown. Let cool 5 minutes before cutting so that tortillas stay in one piece.

You can add more salsa or sour cream to taste.

Spicy and Zesty Salsa

8 cups diced tomatoes (fresh, not canned but if you use canned, use salt free)

2 cups each Vidalia onion and green onion chopped

6 cloves garlic, minced

4 jalapeno peppers with seeds removed and minced

2 cups salt free tomato sauce

1.5 TBL cumin

1 TBL paprika

2 TBL red wine vinegar

1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

4.5 TBL fresh lime juice

¼ Tsp cayenne pepper

In a large saucepan, cook over medium heat the tomatoes, onions, garlic, jalapenos until you have cooked and stirred for 15 minutes. Add in the sauce, cumin, paprika, vinegar and cayenne. Stir and cook over medium heat another 13 minutes.

Remove from heat, stir in cilantro and lime juice. Mix in a bowl. Serve cooled. To make it a smoother salsa, put in a blender on low blend setting for a few seconds but no more!

Red Potato Salad with a Twist

3 pounds of red potatoes with skins on, washed

Put a colander over a large pan of water. Inside of the colander, put 3 pounds of red potatoes (skins on) that are cubed into small cubes. Bring water to boil and cover colander. This will steam the potatoes until tender but not mushy.

2 stalks of celery, sliced

½ cup of shredded carrots

2 green onions , chopped

½ small, red onion, sliced into small slices

2 TBL each fresh parsley and olive oil

¼ cup red wine vinegar

3 small packets of Truvia sweetner

½ Tsp each of black pepper, celery seeds and dry mustard

1 clove of garlic, minced

Take potatoes (still firm but cooked) and put in a large bowl. Add carrots, celery, onions and parsley. Mix carefully.

In another bowl, whisk olive oil, vinegar, Truvia, pepper, celery seeds, mustard and garlic until well blended. Pour over potato mixture and fold gently to mix. Serve chilled.

Zucchini Bread

1 and ¾ cup of flour

2 Tsp baking powder

1 Tsp each baking soda and cinnamon

¼ Tsp nutmeg

1 cup brown sugar

¼ cup each olive oil and natural applesauce

1 egg

1 egg white

1 Tsp vanilla

1.5 cups shredded zucchini

2/3 cup of Grape-Nuts cereal

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

In another bowl, whisk brown sugar, oil, applesauce, egg and egg white and vanilla. Add to flour mixture. Mix until moistened. Add zucchini and Grape Nuts. Batter will be very thick.

Spray a large loaf pan with olive oil spray. Put batter into pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool.

Rigatoni that tastes like Lasagna

1 large box of rigatoni noodles, slightly undercooked, rinsed and drained

½ cup onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 cups salt free tomato sauce

2 Tsp brown sugar

1 Tsp each oregano, basil, black pepper

½ Tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 TBL fresh parsley, chopped

¾ cup fat free or low fat cottage cheese

½ cup low fat or fat free ricotta cheese

¼ cup grated low fat Parmesan cheese

1 egg white

3 cups fresh baby spinach leaves, chopped

½ cup low fat mozzarella cheese

In a large saucepan, use 2 TBL of olive oil and cook onions and garlic. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add sauce and the next six ingredients. Bring to boil. Reduce to low heat and cover and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

Mix cottage cheese, ricotta, Parmesan and egg white in a bowl. Add chopped spinach and stir until blended. Add noodles and stir.

Spray a large casserole dish with olive oil. Spread ½ cup sauce on bottom, then ½ rigatoni mixture, more sauce and cheese mixture. Repeat until you have layered ingredients. Cover and bake for 30 minutes @ 350 degrees.

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Comments 3 comments

MonetteforJack profile image

MonetteforJack 4 years ago from Tuckerton, NJ

Although, I got scared because I have similar symptoms like your fiance and I am 44 and I have high bp like forever and am on medications for it ... you gave me hope. You mentioned about swollen ankles that you have seen and now you do. I will try to eat healthy and be more active. Thanks for sharing the recipe!


MobyWho profile image

MobyWho 4 years ago from Burlington VT

Your revelation was a great START. The fact that your change was visible helps. I'm sure people have told you to "beware the plateaus" - so discouraging when you continue on your new routine and the scale doesn't change. BUT - keep at it; you'll gradually notice that all those former comfort foods don't lure you any more. I've even found I can convince myself I don't like cake (for instance). Try it and Good Luck!


ljrc1961 profile image

ljrc1961 4 years ago from Michigan Author

thanks moby; I haven't been so good at it this year but I never stop trying

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