Reviews

The Simplified Handbook for Living With Heart Disease and Other Chronic Diseases is receiving rave reviews from the literary community. Read on to see what professional editors, reviewers and individuals concerned about men's health have to say about Warren Selkow and Donna Selkow's book.

Book Review by Deborah Adams, www.myshelf.com

Heart surgery is no longer the major procedure of a few years ago—at least, it isn’t for the doctors and nurses in the cardiac care unit. For patients and the people who love them, the words 'heart attack' and 'bypass surgery' still carry all the terror they ever did.

Because it is part of their everyday schedule, health care professionals take for granted that we all understand the terms and activities and instructions they toss at us. Three months ago I learned just how terrifying and baffling a cardiac emergency can be. Kind nurses told me exactly what was happening with my patient. They walked me to the waiting room, showed me where to sit, where to find coffee, and even told me how long it would be before my patient was in his room. They encouraged me to use 'the phone' to call 'the desk' if I felt too much time had passed without contact or if I simply wanted reassurance. Thoughtful and compassionate, yes, but... they assumed incorrectly that I knew a) where to find 'the phone' and b) the number to call. Those were the first of many puzzles we had to sort through on the road to recovery.

Warren and Donna Selkow have written The Simplified Handbook for Living With Heart Disease and Other Chronic Diseases just for me and people like me. Using their firsthand experience as patient and caregiver, they know what the doctors forget to tell you, and they’ve ferreted out the answers for us. A member of the Zipper Club himself, Warren Selkow lays it out straight—this is not a man who takes the warm fuzzy approach, nor should he. He’s ignored doctors' advice and knows exactly how badly that works.

The Selkows cover every aspect of their topic, from early symptoms to the procedure in the cath lab and beyond. They explain the connection between heart disease and renal failure, between heart disease and diet, and between heart disease and denial. The doctor may tell patients to avoid salt and fat, but Warren Selkow explains why patients need to do that. There’s even a glossary to make deciphering cardiac language a little easier.

Donna Selkow provides advice to the caregivers and boy howdy, was I ever grateful to get it! Like her husband, she pulls no punches. She tells the reader just how difficult the patient will be, how to cope with him, and—especially helpful!—when the caregiver can have her own nervous breakdown.

All the information is here—perhaps a little too much of it if you’re in a hurry to get to the meat of the issue. Having too much information, though, could be an advantage if you are either patient or caregiver, so I’m not going to quibble about that. If there is even a slight chance that you or someone you care for will fall victim to any sort of cardiac emergency, you should read this book now. Frankly, I believe The Simplified Handbook for Living With Heart Disease and Other Chronic Diseases should be handed out in the cardiac waiting room along with anti-anxiety meds. A lot of books promise to change your life; this one just might save it.

Reviewer Deborah Adams is the Flair and Macavity Award winning author of the Jesus Creek Mystery Series: All The Great Pretenders, All The Crazy Winters, All The Dark Disguises, All The Hungry Mothers, All The Deadly Beloved, All The Blood Relations, and All The Dirty Cowards. She was also an Agatha Award nominee for Best First Novel.

Book Review by Scott Keith, Men & Health: It's a Guy Thing

A Glendale, Arizona man, who had to learn the hard way that the heart can only take so much stress, has co-written a book that’s designed for the newly diagnosed coronary artery disease patient. Blending tough love, honesty, humor and encouragement, The Simplified Handbook for Living With Heart Disease and Other Chronic Diseases, by Warren and Donna Selkow, promises to take the heart patient on a step-by-step journey along the long and hard road from diagnosis to recovery.

Selkow’s lead up to heart disease started in the 1990s when he was diagnosed with high blood pressure. In an interview with Men & Health: It's a Guy Thing, Selkow says he ignored the news, as many men do. “I said, ‘big deal,’ you’re supposed to have hypertension in a high-pressure job.” He admits he was not eating any of the right foods. “Why bother. You entertain clients, you have a steak,” says Warren, adding that while fatty foods taste good going down, your arteries are getting clogged. His first heart attack, which revealed serious valve disease, came in October, 2000. “My aortic valve was on the verge of completely failing.” Told by his doctor that he would be dead in six months if the valve wasn’t fixed, Selkow’s response was that he had to start teaching a class on Monday, then be a keynote speaker at a conference in Atlanta. His doctor’s terse reply: “Well, you may be going to Atlanta, but you won’t be coming home.” Selkow was to have a second open-heart surgery. Throughout the ordeal, Selkow received two artificial valves and became totally dependent on a pacemaker.

One day, as Selkow was listening to a nurse, he realized he could have saved a lot of time, trouble, grief, pain and anger if he had known more about the disease from the beginning. So he wrote “The Confessions of a Foodaholic” with the thought of providing information for patients. His cardiologist, Dr. Joseph Caplan, asked Selkow to expand on the topic, and the result is a refreshingly blunt and remarkably concise 244-page book that has been thoroughly vetted by medical professionals.

So blunt, in fact, there’s a warning at the start of the book: This book is extremely blunt. It deals with the subject in a manner that some might find shocking. If you are easily offended by tense situations presented in a no-holds-barred manner, than do not read this book.

In his book, Selkow describes his battle with chronic heart failure, or CHF. “CHF is an end-game disease. You do not live with it. It will kill you, because the heart muscle wall deteriorates over time, so the question is what can you do to prevent that from happening, or to mitigate it. There are a lot of things that can mitigate it, but nothing will stop it.”

In a unique and thoughtful style, Selkow’s wife and co-writer, Donna, provides caregiver notes. As equally candid as Warren, Donna writes: Your life as a caregiver begins immediately upon diagnosis. This diagnosis will be as hard on you as it is on you patient. In some cases, it will be even harder on you. Selkow admits, “I would be dead if it wasn’t for her.” When it comes to the vital role of caregiving, Selkow says, “You need somebody to look after you.You are going to need a lot of emotional help, because after open-heart surgery, you are massively depressed.”

In the second section of the book, you’ll be introduced to the Three-legged stool. Selkow says the three legs are diet, exercise and medications. The hardest thing to get on top of, according to Selkow, is diet. “We have such bad eating habits and we don’t want to hear that we have to eat five fresh fruits and vegetables a day. We don’t want to hear that we can’t eat all the french fries.”

Selkow describes the Rules of Acceptance. The first rule is to accept the problem as your own. “If you don’t really accept what the situation is, you can’t get better. It’s like trying to deny the laws of physics. Things fall. You can deny things fall, but they still fall.” Selkow lists ten other rules, including a rather firm one: If you smoke, you are a moron.

The Simplified Handbook for Living With Heart Disease and Other Chronic Diseases is a magnificent reference book that every family member must read in an effort to guide the heart patient through the struggle of recovery. At the end of the book, Selkow offers encouragement in the form of Perseverance Dictums. Among them: Exercise, Laugh and laugh hard, Sing, Give and get pleasure.

Just in case you happen to be an overweight, inactive couch potato, consider the following from Selkow: “You’re not going to change until you have to. If you don’t want to change, I can’t make you. I can laugh at you, I can point at you and call you a moron, I can be abrasive, I can be nasty. … however, if you reach a point where you say ‘I need to do something about this,’ my book will tell you what you need to do.”

 

Book Review by John Weaver from Page ONE Literary Newsletter Web Site

Warren Selkow and Donna Selkow find themselves in a unique position to address and write about the problems of living with coronary artery disease. In October of 2000 Warren had a "mild" heart attack. The event (the word used by the medical establishment) revealed a very serious underlying condition, a failing aortic valve. Subsequent testing revealed four completely blocked veins, a failing mitral valve and a large aneurysm on the aorta. He was scheduled for open-heart surgery to repair all the damage that included a four-way by-pass, a new mitral ring and replacement of his aortic valve with a mechanical devise.

By the end of 2001 Warren Selkow found himself in seriously declining health and another test revealed he had a leak in his heart and a mitral valve on the verge of complete failure due to the leak. In January of 2002 he had that valve replaced and a pacemaker implanted.

Donna Selkow was called upon to provide the day-to-day care to ensure Warren's survival. Donna already had extensive experience in caregiving to seriously ill people that literally started when she was a child and she looked after her grandmother. Donna became educated about heart disease and with this education and her already well developed sense of what good care means, nursed her husband through the worst of the times which did not end with just the simple healing of the surgeries. No, her care would be required for the following many years.

Warren was a business executive in the sales and marketing area of Information Technology. During his career he was employed by National Cash Register, Honeywell, IBM and Siebel Systems. He was employed by Siebel Systems when the heart attack and ensuing surgery disabled him and ended his working days.

Donna was a stay-at-home mom who raised their children (as Warren says, “almost single-handedly") due to his travel schedule).

The Selkow's now reside in the Phoenix area and are completely retired. They have two grown children and two grandchildren, both now in their teens.

The Simplified Handbook for Living With Heart Disease and Other Chronic Diseases by Warren and Donna Selkow is a must-read for those living with heart disease, diabetes, COPD, or renal failure. A survivor of two open-heart surgeries, and his caregiver wife, offer a straightforward first person guide that will save lives. Readers will discover comprehensive physician-reviewed, approved and endorsed information about the various tests leading to a diagnosis, specifics about open-heart surgery and making it through Intensive Care. Sections include preparing for surgery and recovery, diet, medications and exercise, the emotional side effects of depression, anxiety, and stress, and living a life of fitness and productivity. Based on the personal experiences of patient and caregiver, information is delivered with humor and in-your-face honesty. From the first diagnosis of heart disease to living a long and healthy post-surgical life, this book delivers at all levels.

Book review from Bill Finley, Editor, Boomer Times-Senior Life

This book was written by a man who laughed at diets and his caregiver wife who saved his life. Warren Selkow says that how one's body ends up in one's 50s and 60s depends only 10% on the genes you inherited from your family. The other 90%, over which you have control (more or less), is due to what's in the environment and, more importantly, that you put in your mouth three to ten times a day!

This powerful and effective story starts with a WARNING! "This book is extremely blunt, some may find it shocking." And that is the truth! I wanted to give it go my family members, my friends and anyone else who was even slightly obese.

Warren Selkow and Donna Selkow went to great lengths of spelling out the gory details of how difficult it is to care for happy-go-lucky guy who ate everything in sight for many years, never exercised or paid attention to medical advice! He ended up with a severe cardiac condition and this is the detailed story of what's in store for thousands of guys (mostly) and their female (mostly) caregivers. This very important book, The Simplified Handbook for Living with Heart Disease and Other Chronic Diseases is divided into four sections: The first covers preparing and surviving open-heart surgery and the aftermath.

The second section deals with chronic heart disease for the long term. Section three covers the possibility of also having diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and finally renal failure. The fourth and final section addresses the psychological side effects of depression, anxiety and stress.

Some potential cardiac victims claim to be too busy to follow the good sense rules for avoiding heart trouble (20% of deaths in America are heart-related.) They should be aware of how life-changing it is to have heart surgery and time-consuming and expensive rehabilitation. The impact on one's life, mental, financial and social can't be under-estimated.

And the pain and suffering the caregivers must go through can be almost as bad as for the patient. The interruption of life, job, sleep, finances and other responsibilities can be staggering, not mentioning the stress of possibly losing a loved one.

The foreword written by Warren's doctor is extremely complimentary about what Warren had to say:
"What he wrote is a definitive book on literally ever thing a heart disease patient needs to know…he has meticulously researched the book and provided footnotes, separating opinion and observation from fact. If you have coronary artery disease or congestive heart failure or if you are the caregiver for a patient, this is must reading for you."
—Dr. Joseph Caplan, Director of Cardiology Medicine, Banner Boswell Hospital and Banner Del E. Webb Hospital, Arizona, and CEO of Cardiac Solutions Peoria, AZ.

This book is heavy enough to hit your favorite potential heart-wrecker over the head to get his attention! Whack away!

The Simplified Handbook for
Living with Heart Disease
and Other Chronic Diseases

This comprehensive, doctor reviewed and approved book explains heart disease from a patientís perspective. Without complicated medical mumbo-jumbo, this blunt and hilarious book is a total lifesaver.