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Speak Well Being

Serving hospitals, healthcare and women's groups

Too Young to be Here?

Too Young to be Here?

Nov. 20, 2014

Vol. 12, Issue 20

I’ve been booking lots of spring women’s health and nurses’ appreciation events for March, April and May 2015. What happened to heart health events in February? There’s still time, and according to our heart health expert, Eliz Greene, there’s plenty of need to continue educating both the public, and healthcare providers about hearts and health, especially the special needs of women in those areas. Read her description of what happened to her in an emergency recently, and you’ll see clearly how important that education effort is – still.


You Are Too Young To Be Here:

Things You Shouldn’t Say To A Female Heart Patient

At 48, Eliz Greene, who survived a heart attack at age 35 and has become a well-known women’s wellness speaker, found herself riding in an ambulance, and traveling back in time — when she should have been facilitating a meeting.

As a heart attack survivor with a surgically repaired heart, Eliz knew an arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythm, could develop over time. ElizGreeneEven so, when her heart began racing and thumping in her chest that morning, she was scared.  The dizziness and discomfort became so intense that the host of the meeting she was facilitating called 911. The EMTs and emergency room staff took Eliz’s symptoms seriously, and ER doctors determined that she needed to stay in the hospital for tests the next morning.

For more than a decade, Eliz has worked to raise awareness around women and heart disease.  With efforts such as the American Heart Association’s ‘Get With The Guidelines’ program, standards of care and gender disparity issues in treatment have improved over that time.  All of that was demonstrated in her initial interactions in the ambulance and with the emergency room staff.

Once she left the ER and was admitted to the hospital, however, she traveled back in time.  To a time when women’s heart symptoms were taken lightly.

“You are too young to be here.” Said the hospital staff person transporting Eliz to her room.

She heard it again from the floor nurse, and the man who delivered her dinner.  The next morning the same phrase, or something quite close to it, was repeated by nurses and other staff members.

While Eliz looks young and fit, is it unreasonable to believe a 48-year-old woman might have an issue with her heart?  No. Younger women are diagnosed every day with heart disease, arrhythmias, heart attacks, and strokes.  Cardiovascular disease isn’t just an old person’s disease.

Think about the message this sends.  Words matter.  The attitudes of health care providers matter. While Eliz is a strong advocate for her own health care, even she began questioning her decision to call the ambulance.

Women often delay seeking medical attention out of a desire to avoid the embarrassment of being wrong or inconveniencing people. Women’s heart attack symptoms are often subtle, different from the crushing chest pain portrayed on television. Any unusual pain in the torso, especially if it is accompanied by shortness of breath or nausea should be taken very seriously. It is better to rule out a heart attack than have to live with heart damage or worse, die waiting for the symptoms to pass.

While front line emergency medical staff seem to have received the message, not everyone is up to speed.  Some are still stuck in the days of thinking heart disease is a disease of the elderly and of men.

The most glaring example came from the physician who visited her hospital room shortly after she was settled in and said, “Your anxiety just got the best of you.  It is silly to have you stay overnight.  I would have sent you home.” This statement was accompanied by a literal pat on the knee and could not have been more dismissive or condescending.

This was in sharp contrast to the cardiologist who after the first test the next morning refused to allow her to go home without further tests, concerned she had developed a deadly type of arrhythmia and might not survive the trip.

Even now, although the most deadly of arrhythmias have been ruled out, she is still seeking a diagnosis. Eliz now has an implanted heart monitor that will hopefully catch the arrhythmia in process and allow diagnosis and treatment.

Not long ago, Eliz wrote an article for with advice for women in the ER.  In it she encouraged women not to be talked out of getting treatment and to demand testing to rule out a heart attack.  An ER nurse, commenting in response, took issue with this advice, suggesting the days of women’s symptoms being dismissed were in the past. Clearly, that is not the case everywhere.

It is true, progress has been made in the mission to improve women’s heart health, but it is not yet far enough.

Words matter.

Attitudes matter.

There is still work to be done.

As a result of her experience, Eliz has rededicated herself to the mission of improving women’s heart health and treatment.

In hospital-sponsored community wellness events, Go Red Luncheons, Heart Truth programs, work place wellness programs, as well as programs for nurses, physicians and other health care professionals Eliz hopes to reach more than 10,000 people in the next 12 months.

If you’re ready to plan your event, give me a call at 503-699-5031. I know that Eliz is up to the challenge!


Over the Hills and Through the Crowds . . .

. . to Granma B and Grandpa Jim’s house. YAY! We’re busily preparing for a visit from our Berkeley, California family for Thanksgiving weekend.

Being Granma B will never make me feel old. If anything, all that kid energy — especially little Barb-Freya2013girl energy — brings out the lift in my step, the joy in my heart, and the yen to play with anything colorful and creative. So, with a 6 1/2 and 3 1/2 year old in my domain, watch out.

Most of all, I am grateful for this precious time together, living the moments that make memories. It’s kind of an astounding time for me, as I listen to young people on television, or wherever, remember how they learned precious things and say, “ My Grandma did this . . . my grandma taught me this . . . I watched my Grandma do it that way.” It’s a powerful place to be. I pray I’m up to it.

Until next time, I trust your Thanksgiving is filled with all the things that bring you joy, fulfillment, and gratitude. As always, take care of yourself for your well being and those you love.

Yours truly,

For Your Well Being is published bi-weekly. We bring you insider speaker reports, exclusive stories about special events around the country, meeting planner tips, and fun stuff from the worlds of health and well being. Be well and be in the know!

The Speak Well Being Group is a specialized speakers bureau, focusing on speakers for hospital-sponsored community events, healthcare organizations, nurses, conferences and women’s groups. Our speakers are hand-selected. They are not only experts in their fields, they connect with their audiences while bringing them life-changing information, smiles of recognition and ultimately a sense of well being and hope.

Finding the perfect keynote speaker for your special event or conference is my personal passion, not just once, but year after year. It brings me great joy to know that your audience was delighted and moved by the speaker we selected together. I’m committed to making the process easy, pleasant and fun.


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