Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

October 15, 2013

ABACUS COLUMN: Avoiding Barney Fife Syndrome

By Larry Backus
Sun contributor

CROSSVILLE — I can hear Mayberry’s Sheriff Andy asking Don Knotts as Barney Fife, “You seem awfully nervous, are you stressed out?” And Don replying with that deer caught-in-the-headlights look, “Nope! Not me, I’m fit as a fiddle; A # 1; sharp as a tack!” The two of them could be the poster guys for stress management; Andy as Mr. Normal and Barney as Mr. Cardiac Rehab candidate.   

Stress management is merely one of the subjects covered at the Cardiac Pulmonary Rehab center at Crossville’s CMC. However, stress is a universally experienced symptom and therefore a good subject for this column. Cardiac Rehab includes exercise, education and support for risk factor modification for those who have had heart problems. Pulmonary Rehab is the same three prong approach for those with chronic lung disease. I am in Phase II, a voluntary re-enlistment of 25 sessions; after I graduated Suma Cum Loopy from Phase I of 30 sessions. The idea is to change habits that will sap your energy and shorten your life. There are multiple one hour times available for the three-a-week classes. I have a very busy schedule because I actually had no plans to retire when I retired at age 62. Therefore I chose the 7 a.m. class. I’m up at 5:30 a.m., a starter breakfast and into CMC by 7 a.m. There is a doctor and four nurses on duty, all with a high grade sense of humor and a professional, proven approach to getting their “victims” back to a healthy life style.

This is my second heart rehab experience. My first was 22 years ago when I had my one and only serious heart attack. The knowledge and equipment available at CMC is light years ahead of that first rehab. This rehab was the result of a badly needed heart cauterization due to a gradual but steady revision to bad habits. This time, I have shed more than 20 pounds of useless weight – more than two inches around my waist and nearly six inches between my ears. My doctor had some good advice both before and after my procedure by my cardiologist and a few other “pros from Dover” at Vanderbilt. Before the procedure, my doctor cautioned me that this would be strike two and I needed to know that if I got to strike three, I would be out. By out, he meant my ball game would be over ... forever! After the procedure and rehab, he said that with aging patients (I believe he was referring to me and I tried not to be offended) “The best we can hope for is to be able to tell them, this is as good as it’s going to get.” I have a lot of goals yet to accomplish. I have an independent and adventurous wife who requires guidance and/or sedation, five children, 11 grandchildren, a bunch of old codger friends, as well as a few younger friends that object to the term “old codger,” that make life amusing and interesting. Therefore, I have to make a personal decision each day to avoid that strike three y’er out pitch.

Now back to the Barney Fife Syndrome and Jim Cornwall, social worker in clinical management, who delivers the educational part about stress management at CMC. Jim has an excellent four-part handout on stress under the headings:

 “Understanding Stress.” The four sub-titles are: “1. What is stress?- Stress is a natural part of life that everyone experiences. Stress is the result of how we respond to the demands of change or the possibility of change. It is not the situation that causes stress, it is how we choose to respond and interpret the situation. 2. Stressors- What brings on the stress? Stress cannot be avoided. It’s a good idea to limit sources of stress in your life whenever possible. 3. Signs/Symptoms- Body: Stress affects your immune system. People under chronic stress are three to five times more likely to get sick. Mind: People who are stressed often have trouble concentrating and remembering. Emotions: People who are stressed are more likely to feel depressed and/or angry. Behavior: People who are stressed often have trouble sleeping: too little or too much. 4. Coping with stress- We will never be able to eliminate stress in our lives!  We cannot ignore stress in our lives! We must learn to manage our stress more effectively!

There is much more detail in Jim Cornwall’s handout’s, too much for this column to filch. If you suspect that you or someone you love needs help in dealing with stress, why not contact Jim Cornwell at , 459-7036. Otherwise, you or they could end up at the mercy of Ashley, Debbie, Ruth and Lori; the four talented and headstrong dungeon nurses on Floor # 2 of the CMC Cardiac Pulmonary Rehab Classes. They will have you sweating, if not in stitches, in no time at all. I firmly believe dying from laughter is much better than other forms of slow suicide, and these ladies have yet to lose a victim, uh, patient ... even those with no sense of humor.