Written by Shannon Shea
I founded Elder Love USA to provide lower cost in-home caregiving services, but I never dreamed I would become a client at just 50 years old. For several months this summer I had been having difficulty breathing, along with the sensation that I had swallowed paint. Then came the incessant coughing. I thought, “This is it. My prior years of smoking have come to kill me. I have lung cancer.” But a trip to the pulmonologist confirmed just the opposite – I have perfectly healthy lungs. Chasing the symptoms, I was put on several antibiotics and had x-rays, and even a few CT scans – but we were no closer to a diagnosis. I felt like I was starring in an episode of “House.” Then it really started to get bad. I had to sleep sitting up on the couch because I couldn’t breathe lying down, I couldn’t eat anything without throwing it up, and I had a profound sense that I was dying. I was finally able to see a cardiologist who ordered an echocardiogram and discovered I was in severe heart failure. My ejection fracture was at just 15%. He was aghast that it had gone on this long without diagnosis and was, as he stated frankly, “surprised I was still alive.” I was ordered on two weeks of strict bed rest and put on six medications. Three months later, I’m happy to report that the treatment is working. I lost 17 pounds of water in a week and feel great. Next month I have my first echocardiogram since diagnosis, and we will see how my heart is healing. Another great thing about having CHF is that I feel even closer and empathetic to our clients. We truly are in this together.
Shannon Shea is the founding executive director of Elder Love USA, Inc. She has her Master’s degree in gerontological social work and is pursuing her PhD in Gerontology (class of 2022).
She can be reached by email at Shannon@elderloveusa.org Attend her fun murder-mystery fund-raiser on November 12, all details are listed below.