Over the years, I have chatted over the telephone with Stanley Mignerey of Sardinia, Ohio, perhaps hundreds of times. He is my uncle. Not long ago, a Cincinnati heart specialist diagnosed him with congestive heart failure.
The National Institutes of Health defines congestive heart failure (also called “heart failure”) as a chronic, long-term condition in which the heart “can no longer pump enough blood to the rest of the body.” Though not a disability itself, congestive heart failure certainly can lead to a person having a number of different disabilities.
“Because of (congestive heart failure), I had water building up around my lungs and I was having a bad time breathing,” said 81-year-old Mignerey in a telephone interview. “Before seeing a doctor about it, I wasn’t even able to walk upstairs from the basement to the first floor.”
To shed excess water, he takes a daily diuretic, which greatly limits the work he can do around the house each morning. He can’t get much work done because of having to go to the bathroom several times an hour, he said. The excess water often causes swelling in his feet, ankles, and legs. Besides heart problems, Mignerey has “a really bad back.”
From ages 15-55, he was a three-pack-a-day smoker. When he was a drug store owner, he quit smoking one day after delivering medicine to a customer smoking cigarettes while hooked to an oxygen machine. He didn’t want to die gasping for breath like that man, said Mignerey. He credited his quitting smoking with keeping him alive and being in relatively good shape so many years.
“I’m coping really well,” he said of having congestive heart failure. “I don’t get too excited about anything anymore. I’m 81 and never thought I’d live to this age anyway. The good Lord has blessed me. I just take what he gives me, and am tickled to death I’m still alive.”
Besides managing his own heart challenges, Mignerey helps out his wife, who has diabetes and a mobility disability. Last January, in part, their granddaughter moved in also to help Joyce monitor her intake of medication and carbohydrates.
His advice: “Stop smoking,” he said. “Smoking doesn’t do you any good. If I were a three-pack-a-day smoker today, I’d have to quit buying food in order to afford it. Cigarettes are so expensive now.”