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For Your Well Being: Take Heart!

May 25, 2006, Vol. IV Issue 11

Dear Friends,

There’s a healthy looking woman sitting across the table from me. Her skin glows, her hair shines, her smile is bright and her attitude is “Let’s go!” I’m having tea with Rudy Wilson Galdonik, a heart patient who has $40,000 of equipment in her chest — and that does not include installation.

She was in Washington state (all the way from Rhode Island) earlier this month to keynote a Go Red for Women luncheon, so I took a little road trip to meet up with her. Any time I can take advantage of the opportunity to see a speaker I represent in person, I’m there. Read more about how Rudy went from the sidelines to the limelight in this issue.

Along with women’s heart health, childhood obesity continues to make headlines. We live in a world of media bombardment, and a new program is designed to help young people discern the messages they’re receiving and make better choices about what they eat and how they spend their time. Read all about free materials you can get on the web in this issue.

Rudy Wilson Galdonik:

Heart Condition Takes Her from the Sidelines to the Limelight

Rudy’s heart condition was discovered during her kindergarten exam. Instead of the normal, thump-thump, thump-thump, her doctor heard thump-psssh, thump-psssh through the stethoscope. She was born with a hole in her heart at a time when open heart surgery was still in its infancy. Even years later when it became an option, it was something reserved for the likes of John Wayne and Jackie Gleason. Meantime, she was handed a prescription for a sedentary lifestyle, a little girl denied a PE uniform, and labeled as different, sidelined but not dis-spirited.

Luckily for Rudy, she was born not only with a hole in her heart, but with an expansive sense of humor that served her well through her childhood and even more rewardingly later on in her journey through the healthcare system as not only a female with a heart problem, but a young woman. It seemed like everyone was in denial except her, as she lived with erratic heartbeats and shortness of breath that left her scared and very, very tired.

Her eyes opened to the first possibility of a different life in January 1978. She was a young bride, new to the Chicago area, leafing through Good Housekeeping magazine for the obligatory cleaning and gardening counsel of the era, when she stumbled across an article titled, “Twin Girls Have Identical Surgery.” It described two identical twin sisters who were born with identical holes in their hearts. And it was the exact same condition — an atrial septal defect – as hers. Symptoms included irregular heartbeats and fatigue – the exact symptoms Rudy suffered. The article continued describing how doctors were able to patch the holes during open heart surgery! This was good news . . . or was it?

Open heart surgery? This was a very scary proposition for a 25-year-old, including the prospect of an ugly red scar from neck to waist. Still, between her vivid imagination creating drama and the very real life symptoms that were stimulating that imagination, she desperately selected a doctor out of the Yellow Pages.

If open heart surgery was a scary proposition for a 25-year old young lady, the idea that she could have a problem that required it was not even on this doctor’s radar screen.

“I should have known better,” she says today. “He didn’t even have me take my clothes off or use his stethoscope. His cure for my condition was to send me home to have a baby.”

All of this and more, Rudy recounts with her Erma Bomback style sense of humor, (she has a thing for cute doctors, among other endearing qualities) through the first surgery and twenty-two years later, a second one to replace two valves. Through her husband’s cancer diagnosis and death, raising two children, now grown, assorted pets and a new husband, she’s a trooper who sees life as a journey – one that is embraced and cherished despite personal challenges.

Rudy brings a three-dimensional perspective to her audiences. She has been the patient, the caregiver of a patient (her husband) and a hospital Human Resource Manager. She understands the challenges, emotions and issues of being sick. Her passion is to couple this expertise with humor to encourage people to take charge of their health and to live each day as a gift.

Rudy’s unique perspective is also a valuable resource for the medical community. She understands the pressures, problems and challenges of those committed to working in healthcare. She helps audiences see challenges and obstacles as opportunities for growth and she inspires people working in healthcare to grow in both their personal and professional lives.

Rudy knows what it means to not only survive medical crisis, she knows how to thrive despite a chronic, life-threatening medical condition. Rudy’s sense of humor is an added bonus, making her an expert you can count on regarding:

* Living with heart disease.
* How to create lasting, win/win relationships with your doctors.
* How to tap into the power of humor when facing personal challenges.
* Thriving (versus merely surviving) despite a chronic health condition.
* Living with medical mechanics such as: heart valves, pacemakers, leads, wires and even that notorious pacer wire which Rudy has named “Emily.”
* Growing up with a congenital heart condition

Many of her stories are recounted in her book of essays, Take Heart: True Stories of Life, Love and Laughter, available at

Learn more about Rudy Wilson Galdonik on our website.


Materials Help Youth Evaluate Media Messages, Make Food, Activity Choices

A new after-school program helps kids interpret the numerous messages they receive every day to make healthier choices about food and physical activity. The materials, available free on the Web, were developed by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH.)

Media-Smart Youth: Eat, Think, and Be Active! is designed to help young people ages 11 to 13 become aware of how media may influence the choices they make. The program’s fun, hands-on, interactive activities teach critical thinking skills that will help young people make smart decisions about what they eat and how they spend their time.

“Habits begun in childhood and reinforced in the teen years may become lifelong behaviors,” said Duane Alexander, M.D., director of the NICHD. “Media-Smart Youth teaches young people how to evaluate the complex media messages they receive so they can make wise choices about eating and being active.”

The Media-Smart Youth curriculumconsists of 10 lessons and a major project that help young people acquire knowledge and skills in four key areas:

* Media awareness – The curriculum includes materials to help young people recognize attention-getting techniques used in media messages and to evaluate the messages for accuracy and consistency with their own ideas of being healthy.

* Media production – Participants express what they’ve learned through creative projects. These include a series of “Mini-Productions” in which youth develop their own media messages, and a final “Big Production” in which they may work with a local station, newspaper or other media partner to create radio ads, videos, posters or other media products that promote healthy nutrition and physical activity to their peers.

* Nutrition – Exercises and activities–such as learning to read and interpret Nutrition Facts Labels–teach young people important concepts for healthful eating and encourage them to practice making informed choices.

* Physical activity – Each lesson incorporates discussion and an “Action Break” to help participants develop strategies for becoming more active in their daily lives. They discover that daily physical activity is anything that gets their bodies moving, and that it can be fun.

The accompanying Facilitator’s Guide for the 10-lesson curriculum also includes a video tape or DVD featuring a program summary and tips for facilitators, plus youth-focused video segments for use in summarizing key concepts for each lesson.

To arrange an interview with Media-Smart Youth Coordinator, Jill Center, about the sites around the United States that are conducting the program, please contact Robert Bock or Marianne Glass Miller, at 301-496-5133.

To order a free copy of the Media-Smart Youth after-school program materials, contact the NICHD Information Resource Center at 1-800-370-2943.

The NICHD sponsors research on development, before and after birth; maternal, child, and family health; reproductive biology and population issues; and medical rehabilitation.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation’s Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

Dr. Robin Smith —

Getting to No. 1, Despite Us

My intentions were good . . . but alas, a computer glitch held up my special announcement to some of you about Dr. Robin Smith’s debut of her new book, “Lies at the Altar,” on the Oprah Show a couple of weeks ago. I apologize to those of you who may have received the notice too late. My guess is it will probably be rerun so watch for it. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if Dr. Robin eventually ends up with her own show, just like Dr. Phil.

Meantime, the book has already climbed to No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list. Congratulations to Dr. Robin! You deserve it.

Until next time, take care of yourself for your well being and those you love.

Yours truly,

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