Think red for life

Gary D. Brune is a re-entry student at Butte Community College

The first week of this month has come and gone, and very few people took notice of the “Think Red” campaign from the American Heart Association. I pray that next year more people will notice it and pay attention to the women’s cardio health issues raised through this effort by the AHA.

Like the “Think Pink” campaign for breast cancer research, this initiative is designed to focus attention on another women’s health issue—heart disease, which is one of the major but little known killers of women each year. I’ve been told that there hasn’t been as much attention focused on this as this as men’s cardiovascular problems. But on Feb. 6, I wore red and something special to my wife.

Even though she was prone to strokes, not one of the doctors she saw regularly shared the signs of this problem with her or me or specifically brought up the possibility of heart attack. So when a sharp pain shot across her back, we thought it was a muscle cramp and I tried to massage it away, the way I had with tight muscles before. That was on Tuesday.

Thursday night, it hit. She had a lot of sudden pain, and as she eventually rose from her chair, she had the grip of three men. Neither she nor I had any idea of what was going on. She was an insulin-dependent diabetic, so we thought it related to her blood sugar.

When insulin didn’t work, I called the paramedics and got her to the hospital. Only much later did I learn that she had suffered a massive heart attack. Vicki Brune succumbed to it five days later.

As her husband and caretaker, the initial event caught me completely by surprise. I had no information to prepare me for the signs of trouble. She was my best friend, and if I had known what to look for, I might not be writing this today.

Information is the key here. From what I’ve heard, too many women ignore the signs of pending heart problems because nobody tells what to pay attention to. How many husbands or significant others feel helpless for just these same reasons? I miss my friend, but maybe the American Heart Association can get this knowledge out to women and make Feb. 6 a day to draw attention to this issue.

And may there be no more widowers because the information isn’t out there. Maybe if we all could think red for life, women and men could live to see a better tomorrow.