Author: tucsonlifestyl

By The Way

One couple’s regular trip from Mexico to Tucson led them to take up residence in a new (old) community.

BY DEBBY LARSEN
PHOTOS BY AMY HASKELL

Over the years, Dhana and Gene Waken have owned houses in scenic places, including Napa, California, and Maui, Hawaii. But four years ago, while traveling between their Alamos and Tucson homes, they stopped in Tubac and discovered another place to put down roots. The drive from Alamos to Tucson sometimes seemed very long for the Wakens, and on one trip Gene joked, as they were approaching Tubac, “If we lived here, we’d be home by now!” They pulled off the interstate and took a quick drive through the newer Barrio de Tubac neighborhood, falling in love with — and eventually purchasing — a Spanish Colonial home on a quiet cul de sac. The village, known for its arts community, provides a tremendously convenient location for the couple — just 60 miles to Tucson and 17 miles to the border. Although they sold their Tucson property, they periodically visit the Old Pueblo to see their physicians, friends and acquaintances. The couple kept their Alamos home, too, and Dhana still has an antique shop in that area. When asked how she selects items for her shop, she notes, “I buy things I would love in my home and hope someone else is inspired by my finds.”

The fireplace is the focal point of the Great Room. A large Persian rug, circa 1920, is flanked by a pair of modern upholstered sofas.
The fireplace is the focal point of the Great Room. A large Persian rug, circa 1920, is flanked by a pair of modern upholstered sofas.
Blue (left) and Kikkoman (on an antique 17th century church bench from Paris) eagerly await the arrival of guests.
Blue (left) and Kikkoman (on an antique 17th century church bench from Paris) eagerly await the arrival of guests.

The couple’s dogs, Blue and Kikkoman, love to romp from the main house through the courtyard to visit Gene in his office.

Wisteria vines offer a backdrop for casual outdoor dining.
Wisteria vines offer a backdrop for casual outdoor dining.

The Frenchstyle graveled courtyard is a terrific space for outdoor entertaining.

It was Tubac’s scenery that drew them to the city, but they really fell for the house, which was featured on a recent home tour. Dhana has decorated their three-bedroom casa with treasures in a mix of styles from many cultures. “I love unusual pieces, such as a 15th century Bishop’s robe closet,” she says. She has found interesting and beautiful items in local shops, including Pancho’s Resource & Design, Angeles y Diablitos and Jane’s Attic. One of the appeals of the home is how interior and exterior spaces blend. “I love the inner courtyard and open floor plan,” says Dhana. “It has lots of windows and doors that lead to the center garden.” There’s even a casita for Gene’s office off the center space. He owned an engineering firm for more than four decades, and still consults. The couple’s dogs, Blue and Kikkoman, love to romp from the main house through the courtyard to visit him in his office. The backyard slants down toward the wooded Anza Trail on the Santa Cruz River. “We would like to build a bocce court in the backyard someday,” observes Dhana. The area is visited by local wildlife, and the Wakens have sighted deer, javelinas, foxes, coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions and coatimundi. In addition to being a Master Gardener and floral designer, Dhana also is a dedicated and enthusiastic hostess. Gene is of Lebanese heritage, and Dhana enjoys utilizing his family recipes in her entertaining (see Entertaining at Home on page 26 for some of her favorite recipes).

Tubac and Forth

A poolside view of Russell Palmer and Alec White’s Tubac-area home.
A poolside view of Russell Palmer
and Alec White’s Tubac-area home.

Southern Arizona proved to be the perfect location for a couple from California to build their future.

BY DEBBY LARSEN | PHOTOGRAPHY BY AMY HASKELL

Russell Palmer and Alec White lived and worked in Santa Barbara for many years, but they dreamed of building a home in Southern Arizona. Their combined creativity is on full display in their Spanish Colonial casa south of Tubac in the Morning Star Ranch development.

Imagine a central courtyard-style hacienda — with modern amenities — sited to take advantage of views of the nearby mountain ranges. Surrounding this fabulous home are 40 acres dotted with native mesquites, Mexican blue oaks and ocotillo. Who wouldn’t want to live there?

Russell, who had worked in the music industry and studio electronics, recently began selling real estate. Alec is a landscaper who managed the grounds of a major historical home when they lived in Santa Barbara. For several years prior to moving to Arizona and starting the building process, the duo made a lengthy list of their must-haves for a desert home, borrowing extensively from favorite features in their previous residences. “We chose what we liked best in each one,” says Russell. “Luckily, we have the same taste so most decisions were easy.” They continued revising the list until the first shovelful of soil was unearthed. The hacienda, built by Dorn Homes and nicknamed “Las Montañas” due to its surroundings, combines everything they love. The couple’s knowledge of architecture, horticulture and art history have been blended together perfectly to create a cohesive whole.

A traditional Mexican-style adobe wall edges the pool patio.
A traditional Mexican-style adobe wall edges the pool patio.
A tile-embellished wall fountain graces the entry patio.
A tile-embellished wall fountain graces the entry patio.

Built of concrete block and color-matched to the desert to mimic adobe, the result is a rustic aesthetic. Many elements of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture in the Andalusian tradition are evident, such as wrought-iron metalwork, painted ceramic tiles and lavish landscaping.

A wide tiled stairway leads down to the front patio. The entryway features a large iron double doorway with a cantera stone surround.

Most of the home’s rooms can be accessed from the interior courtyard. Casement windows and French doors were carefully aligned to capture views and open to shaded loggias. Greta, the couple’s 17-year-old heeler, enjoys lying on the home’s stained and polished concrete floors.

A Rumford-style corner fireplace with cantera stone mantel is the focal point of the expansive Great Room, with its 22-foot-high ceilings. At its far end is an open-concept kitchen with a large central island topped with honed granite. Travertine backsplashes, a copper farm sink and colorful talavera tile give the room a casual feel. “We love to cook, and this design is perfect for entertaining,” Alec notes.

 

The open-concept kitchen is perfect for casual entertaining.
The open-concept kitchen is perfect for casual entertaining.
A Rumford-style fireplace with a cantera stone mantel is the focal point of the Great Room.
A Rumford-style fireplace with a cantera stone mantel is the focal point of the Great Room.
The heart of the home is the central courtyard, which features a large fireplace and containers of olive and citrus trees.
The heart of the home is the central courtyard, which features a large
fireplace and containers of olive and citrus trees.
Homeowners Russell (left) and Alec (right) with their heeler Greta.
Homeowners Russell (left) and Alec (right) with their heeler Greta.

Off the courtyard, one of the inner vestibules was designed to accommodate a large antique glass bookcase from Myanmar. This and a similar piece were purchased from Colonial Frontiers several years ago, and were chosen specifically for their Arizona home.

Alec’s expertise in landscape design shows in the home’s wraparound patio gardens, displaying native and desert-adapted species for year-round visual appeal.

The duo remains busy since finishing their home. From his home office, Russell is a realtor with eXp Realty in Tubac and Rio Rico. He enjoys assisting clients in finding retirement homes in quaint towns near Tubac, while Alec currently manages some of the grounds at Morning Star Ranch.

Their hacienda provides a restful ambience that both gentlemen adore. Russell concludes, “Even in the summer when everyone else wants to leave, we love watching the monsoons from our covered patios.”

Dining – Hungry for Amore

Reforma’s Chocolate Layer Cake.
Reforma’s Chocolate Layer Cake.

 

Candlelight, an intimate ambience, an exquisitely prepared dinner and possibly even a decadent dessert are the ingredients for a romantic dining out experience. Here are six tried-and-true local restaurants sure to inspire love.

BY SARAH BURTON
PHOTOGRAPHY BY THOMAS VENEKLASEN

Reforma Modern Mexican. Mezcal + Tequila

Whether you choose a spot on the picturesque patio overlooking St. Philip’s Plaza and its fountain, or a cozy place within the walls of Reforma’s urban chic interior, you’re in for a departure from your usual Sonoran-style Mexican eateries. Besides the difference in surroundings, the menu itself is inspired by the fresh flavors of central Mexico. While you look over the menu, Owner Grant Krueger recommends you take advantage of what he says is possibly one of the largest tequila selections in the state: “Start with a handselected tequila flight and let the servers take you through some of the finest agave spirits in the world.” From there, he opines that sharing is the way to go, so opt for the guacamole trio to start — an assortment of traditional sweet and spicy variations. And since romance often is synonymous with chocolate, why not go with the chicken mole, featuring deep flavors of chocolate and poblano. To ensure a delicious end to your special dinner with your sweetheart, linger over an order of the house-made churros

4340 N. Campbell Ave., Ste. 101, (520) 867-4134, reformatucson.com

 

Warm Griddled Lemon Cake with Berries and Cream at GOLD.
Warm Griddled Lemon Cake with Berries and Cream at GOLD.

GOLD

High in the foothills, part of the Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort & Spa property, sits a stately dining room with nearly panoramic views. You’re off to a good start here, before you’ve even glanced at the contemporary menu, thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking both the city below and surrounding mountains — even better if the weather allows for a seat on the terrace. GOLD’s menu is made up of seasonally inspired modern American cuisine, with nods to the Southwest whenever possible. No matter what season, you can expect plenty of seafood options, as well as classics like steak, lamb and slow-roasted chicken. Whatever you order here, you can be assured an artful and well-balanced culinary experience. There’s a reason why the restaurant has won the prestigious AAA Four-Diamond Award for numerous years. “GOLD has been a romantic culinary destination for decades,” says Executive Chef Todd Sicolo. “I enjoy pairing the timeless, breathtaking views of Tucson with creatively reimagined dishes featuring regional products straight from our local partners.”

245 E. Ina Rd., (520) 297-1151, www.westwardlook.com/dining/gold

The Pan-Roasted Diver Scallops at GOLD.
The Pan-Roasted Diver
Scallops at GOLD.

Kingfisher Bar & Grill

A longtime local favorite, Kingfisher has maintained its stellar reputation for carefully balanced classic dishes and an inspired menu for 25 years. Well known for seafood, the restaurant kicks off its menu with the likes of oysters, housesmoked ruby trout, steamed mussels and shrimp cakes. Once you get to entrées, look for even more seafood dishes, such as grilled sea bass or the macadamia nut crusted Hawaiian fish. Similarly tempting are standouts like baby back ribs, chicken pot pie or steak. Not sure what to order? That’s fine by Chef Jim Murphy: “I think romance is about slowing down and being thoughtful with one another — spending time savoring life together. “I would start with a half bottle of Veuve Cliquot alongside grilled and chilled shrimp, baked oysters Rockefeller, and a golden beet and heirloom tomato salad,” he says. For an entrée he points to sautéed Onaga long tail snapper, while suggesting that you leave room for banana-datepecan cake with candied pecans.

2564 E. Grant Rd., (520) 323-7739, kingfishertucson.com

Jonathan’s Cork

For roughly 25 years, Tucsonans have counted on Jonathan’s Cork for their special occasion dinners out. And the décor, a homey throwback to the ’70s filled with dark wood and Southwestern art, accentuates that feeling of longstanding tradition. “We have several small, private rooms with their own fireplaces,” Chef Jonathan Landeen points out. If that’s not enough to set the scene for a special occasion meal, the menu boasts traditional starters like shrimp on ice, oysters and escargot, as well as classic entrées such as roast duck, steak, or ribs. More unusual offerings include bison, ostrich and venison. So, what would Chef Landeen recommend for a romantic meal? “I would share crab cakes, the grilled romaine salad, salmon or prime rib, and ostrich for the more adventurous,” he says. And since no meal is really complete without dessert, “I would finish the meal by sharing a bread pudding.”

6320 E. Tanque Verde Rd., (520) 296-1631, jonathanscork.com

Caffe Torino

It’s not difficult to make an eveningmemorable when you’re dining on the cuisineof Northern Italy. Caffe Torino truly brings authenticity to each dish offered by Owners Ollie Shouse and Daniela Borella, with a menu full of recipes passed down for generations by Borella’s family. “When guests come in from Italy, they tell us, ‘This tastes like home,’” shares Tony Frank, entertainment and social media director for Caffe Torino. Think beyond the spaghetti kiss, à la Lady and the Tramp, with more complex and heady dishes like the Tagliata al Gorgonzola (flat iron steak served with creamy Gorgonzola sauce) or the Scottadito di agnello (grilled lamb chops with citrus pesto). There’s definitely something for every palate, as well as all of the classics you’d expect, such as gnocchi, cioppino, lasagna, and eggplant Parmesan. Even with so many rich and textured flavors to choose from, nothing will conjure romance quite as much as dining on the patio under the stars. “We’re a small, intimate restaurant with a great romantic atmosphere,” says Frank. “Candlelit tables, low lighting, impeccable Italian food and an amazing wine list — not to mention jazz on the weekends.”

10325 N. La Canada Dr. (Oro Valley), (520) 297-3777; 5605 E. River Rd., Ste. 121 (Foothills), (520) 300-6860, caffetorinotucson.com

Harvest on River’s Triple Chocolate Cake.
Harvest on River’s Triple Chocolate Cake.
Harvest on River’s Wild-Caught Salmon.
Harvest on River’s Wild-Caught Salmon.

Harvest on River

With any special occasion, having a great view or unique atmosphere can take it to the next level. Harvest on River, tucked into the second floor of a shopping center with a patio overlooking the city, is a great locale for a quiet dinner with your special someone. When Reza Shapouri and his wife Lisa took over ownership of Harvest in Oro Valley in 2011, they kept the focus on what the restaurant is known for: local and seasonally inspired fare. The same is true at this newer location in the Catalina Foothills, which the Shapouris opened in 2015 in partnership with Executive Chef Michael Veres. The menu offers everything from roasted cauliflower tacos and vegan gnocchi to burgers and short ribs. With a little bit of everything, and a menu perfect for sharing, Shapouri points out they see their fair share of date nights. “We have a great wine selection, house-made cocktails, and you can’t forget our fantastic desserts — like the triple chocolate cake made in house by my wife, our pastry chef.”

5605 E. River Rd., Ste. 201, (520) 529-7180, harvestonriver.com

A Matter of the Heart


Many factors can play into a heart attack, including genetic predisposition, lifestyle, and excessive stress. Here is one local woman’s firsthand account of the path that led her to a heart attack, and the road back.

Before

I had a heart attack on Feb. 9, 2018. It scared the you-know-what out of me, but it also annoyed me no end! I was so busy — doing things for everybody and being everywhere. My days were planned to the max with no wiggle room for delays. I was irritable with stress and now peeved because things didn’t go my way. How inconvenient! I was in the middle of a late-life career path — teaching writing, publishing a book, running a writer’s group, and tons of other social stuff. My to-do list was a mile long, and I liked my busy lifestyle. But something wasn’t right. I was ridiculously tired to the point of fatigue. I couldn’t get through the day without lying down, and if I didn’t get an afternoon rest, I was uncharacteristically cranky in the evening. I was getting up at 5:30 in the morning to tackle that to-do list, thinking I was just sleeping poorly. I blamed everything from my pillow to the full moon. Unbeknownst to me, that nagging pain in my collarbone and the occasional lightheadedness were common signs of heart attacks in women. Women experience a heart attack differently than men. Men typically have the “Hollywood” attacks we see in movies. You know the kind: pain in the left arm, clutching the chest, collapsing. But I had none of those. However, the day before my heart attack, I had nine symptoms in total and still refused to go to the emergency room — fatigue, cold sweats, heart palpitations, lightheadedness, pain in my collarbone, cold/numb fingers and toes, shortness of breath, dizziness, and feeling faint. I believed I could be just having an anxiety attack. I was too busy and “didn’t have time” to have a major health issue interrupt my full schedule. On Thursday, Feb. 8, I was the spotlight speaker at one of my networking groups. This meant I had 10 minutes to stand before the group and give a presentation. That morning my fingers and toes were icy cold. I was tired and hadn’t been sleeping well, but I chalked it up to one of any number of things: a poor dinner choice the night before, a case of nerves, or maybe sleep apnea. My collarbone ached like someone was pinching it. As I wrote my speech notes onto blue note cards, I felt like I’d been holding my breath. While loading the supplies into my SUV, I noticed I was winded even from that effort. At the restaurant, I took an end seat so I could get up easily to do my presentation. When it was my turn to speak, I stood at the front and grasped the microphone for dear life. I talked easily for 10 minutes, though I realized I was getting short of breath. Then my heart started pounding, because (I thought) I was probably holding my breath — until it pounded faster, and I mean really pounded. It took everything I had to appear calm and composed. Then I started feeling lightheaded to the point of dizziness. At the end of my time, I took a few questions and sat down just before the room started to spin. Immediately, sweat formed at my hairline and trickled down my forehead like a menopausal hot flash. I dabbed at my forehead with a napkin, desperate to be “fine.” A friend noticed that all the color had drained from my face. She brought me water and the waiter gave me a Sprite. They wanted to call 911, but I resisted, saying, “NO! I’m fine, just feeling a bit woozy….” I sensed I might pass out, and wanted to lie down, but there was nowhere I could do that. So, I just kept saying, “I’m fine. Honest, I’m fine.” Finally, after lots of water and napkins to mop up the cold sweat pouring from my scalp, I felt somewhat recovered. Knowing I couldn’t drive in this condition, I called my husband Tomas to come and take me home. Once there, I lay on the couch, very still, and Googled my symptoms. Voila! It’s an anxiety attack. That explained everything! Somehow that made me feel better, even though I couldn’t imagine what I might have been anxious about — but anxiety had to be it. On Friday, Feb. 9, I awoke with a head full of plans and a long to-do list. In the shower, raising my arms to wash my hair seemed like such an effort. I was quickly out of breath. So, with a towel wrapped around my head, I put on my robe and lay down on the bed until my breathing returned to normal.

Before her heart attack, Susan was a featured speaker at many networking events.
Before her heart attack, Susan was a
featured speaker at many networking events.

Blow-drying my hair caused the same effect. Holding a brush in one hand and the blow-dryer in the other with my arms above my head was a challenge. I was again exhausted and short of breath. Back to bed I went, lying down for the second time that morning — and it wasn’t even eight o’clock. I thought, This is unacceptable. I have too much to do to be lying down every five minutes! Knowing something wasn’t right, I was determined to push through and prepare for my writing class the next morning. So, I charged off to shop for groceries. I knew exactly where to find all my favorite foods for the class, but in the cookie aisle, it hit me. I reached for a pack of gourmet cookies and they fell to the floor. As I bent down to retrieve them, I suddenly knew I’d faint if I leaned all the way down. I left the cookies on the floor and retreated to the register to check out. My legs felt so heavy, I could barely move. Thinking a jolt of caffeine and sugar would pick me up, I grabbed a cold soda from the case and gulped it down. I slowly loaded the two bags of groceries into the back of my SUV as if I were moving through syrup. I was short of breath again and recognized the pain in my collarbone as constant. After I got home, I finally gave in and called my primary care doctor. “Sorry, he’s out of town,” said the nurse who answered the phone. “Is someone covering for him? Who can I see?” I begged. Her answer was short and sweet. I could either call my cardiologist or go to the hospital emergency room. “I can’t go to the ER. I have too much to do!” I wailed. Her reply would haunt me for weeks, months, even longer: “You can’t do anything if you’re dead.” Thankfully, I had a cardiologist to call. The receptionist found my file (it had been 10 years since my last visit) and said the doctor could work me in that day. I called Tomas and we drove there together. After I was hooked up to an EKG, the tech shook his head as he watched the needle move. Cardiologist Timothy Marshall, M.D., entered the room, stared at the EKG machine, and I knew something was up. “Susan, you’re having a heart attack right now,” Dr. Marshall said. What? It can’t be. I thought he would just give me blood pressure pills and send me on my way. Terrified, I looked over at my husband who appeared terrified, too. The doctor said we had to go to the ER — now. Then things happened fast. The tech gave me a baby aspirin and had me place a nitroglycerine tab under my tongue. I heard Dr. Marshall on the phone swiftly making arrangements for me. Oh, God, I prayed silently.

After

Day One

Susan shows off the defibrillator life vest she wore for six weeks following her heart attack.
Susan shows off the defibrillator life vest she wore for six weeks following her heart attack.

Tomas dropped me off at Tucson Medical Center’s ER entrance, which was only four blocks from the doctor’s office. I was whisked inside and placed on a gurney. I winced as the attendant peeled off my brand-new black leggings and my underwear. I was allowed to take off my top and bra myself, and the hospital gown went on so quickly, nobody could see my nakedness. The medics swarmed around me. Doctors, nurses, techs, all said their names and what they would do to me. Calmly, they took some blood, put in a needle for an IV, and asked about my health history, my medications, and my nail polish. Yes, my nail polish. They wanted to remove it so they could clip a heart monitor onto my finger. They said the polish would interfere, but I knew it wouldn’t come off because it’s made of shellac. I tried to explain this but to no avail. Instead, they attached a heart monitor to my ear. I felt a breeze on my face from the speed of the moving gurney. They rolled me to the Cath Lab, explaining every movement and location along the way. But having received anesthesia, soon I didn’t care. Surrounded by nurses, equipment, and blinking monitors, the doctor threaded a tiny wire with a balloon on the end through the catheter tube in my groin. From there, he inserted a stent in my right coronary artery. It was 95 percent blocked and resistant to opening, but with the stent in place, my blood flow improved to 60 percent. Less than 20 minutes had passed since I walked into the ER. When I woke up from the anesthesia, I found myself in a private room with nurses, techs, and orderlies coming in and out. Tomas was there and so was my son Tim. I was starving, but I couldn’t eat until another round of tests were run. That night was a blur of fitful sleep, bad dreams, a dinner tray at 10 p.m. and a constant struggle to get comfortable.


Day Two

The early morning ushered in more nurses drawing blood, bringing pills,and taking my vitals. My breathing was still labored, and my collarbone pain had moved to my chest. Three doctors visited and determined I wasn’t better, so they ordered a few tests. They gave me something for the pain and to get the fluid off my lungs, then sent me off for a chest x-ray. After that, I was wheeled out on yet another gurney for an echocardiogram, a test that uses ultrasound to evaluate one’s heart muscle and heart valves. Hours later, the hospital’s cardiologist Dr. Thomas Waggoner told me he was taking me back to the Cath Lab to fix another artery with a stent. I trusted him. I knew something had to be done because I felt so bad — constant chest pain, shortness of breath, fitful sleeping and non-stop sweating. And I saw how the nurses frowned with concern when they took my blood pressure and peered at my monitors. After receiving a second stent, I improved dramatically. The second stent opened up the left circumflex artery, improving the blood flow along with oxygen to my body. My test results improved. Everyone noticed! This fix marked the beginning of a slow recovery as my heart began to grow stronger.

Day Three

My brain was on overload trying to take in every face, test result, and procedure explanation. I had three cardiologists, four nurses, a dietician, a pharmacist, a physiologist, and a hospitalist who managed my case. One nurse was a counselor who had a soothing voice and wore a fuzzy cardigan. Dr. Juan Pena, my hospitalist, visited me every day. He’d squat down to look me in the eye, hold my hand, and ask if I knew what happened to me. His soft voice calmed me. He made sure I knew I’d had a heart attack and then stent surgery procedures. Whatever the circumstance, he took care to explain the details to me. Sarah, the nurse with the fuzzy cardigan, told me, “Because you almost died, you’ll find yourself feeling depressed. Just expect this to happen at some time.” A kid in blue scrubs (a cardiac rehab intern) said he’d walk me down the hall to see how far I could go. This excited me! I wanted to prove I was strong enough to be released. He offered his arm, and we started our walk. Yet I could only make it a few steps out the door of my room before I was so winded that I had to stop. My ankles felt wobbly, my legs weak.

Susan and her husband happily walking through the park.
Now, I make it a priority to fill my heart with memories
of love, joy, and togetherness with those I hold dear. I
try extra hard to say how much I appreciate them and
make an effort to spend time together.

Then came Debbie, whose job it was to explain how to use a defibrillator life vest. She opened a color brochure describing a contraption I was supposed to wear 24/7 for the next six weeks. The vest, like a fabric sports bra with metal paddles in the back, would shock my heart if I should have a heart attack while wearing it. It’s also full of sensors to monitor everything about my heart and transmit the data to a far-away location via modem. Because it was a Sunday, though, I wouldn’t get the actual vest until Monday. A dietician wearing red scrubs was sweet as she launched into long explanations of what I should be eating for the rest of my life. I was especially intrigued with her visual of the desired salt intake. “Just make a little mound about the size of a dime in the palm of your hand,” she said. “That’s how much salt you can have in a day. Not just from the salt shaker but from everything you eat.” Then she showed me how to read labels on food products, especially the sodium content. At one point in our conversation, my eyelids drooped as I cradled the stack of brochures she’d brought. “This is a lot to take in!” I declared. Before I drifted off, I heard Tomas and my doctor talking about the “ejection fraction” or EF numbers. EF is a measure of how well the left ventricle is pumping blood to the right ventricle, and my EF was low at 15 (with a normal heart putting out 35 to 55 EF). This explained the need for wearing a defibrillator vest. That afternoon, I ordered heart-healthy chicken soup for dinner, but it tasted like dish water. So I ate the saltine crackers, I craved salt so badly! I dozed off again and heard the clicking of heels come into my room. I opened my eyes and saw my best friend bearing a vase of flowers. ”Happy birthday,” she said. “I told you not to come!” I blurted. “I had to see you with my own eyes to make sure you’re okay,” she replied. That’s when I started to cry. I didn’t want anyone to see me so debilitated — oxygen tube, catheter bag, tubes and needles in both arms, bruises on every visible surface. I wanted to tell her I almost died and how scared I was, but my breathing was so labored, I couldn’t get out any more words. We simply hugged.


Day Four

Finally, Monday morning came and so did a flurry of activity. A young man in gray scrubs went through my discharge papers. One by one, he explained what they meant so I could knowledgeably sign the papers. Most important was getting the long list of drugs, their names, dosages, and what they would do for me. It felt like a barrage of instructions: Do this, do that, make an appointment for this doctor, that blood test. Then a chipper nurse dressed in brown corduroy came in with a lot of enthusiasm and a defibrillator life vest. She showed me how to put it together by inserting the paddles into the slots and the round sensors with their skinny black cords. I noticed a two-and-a-half-pound battery pack was attached with a cord on the side. “Put on the life vest and get me out of here!” I wanted to shout. But no, I’d have to prove to her I could put it together as she did. The vest already was complicated, and it came with a long list of things to do every day. I knew that no slacking off was allowed; wearing this vest was serious, life-saving stuff! The kid in scrubs came to walk me again. This time, I made it farther than before. I wanted to jump for joy, but my arm wouldn’t let go of his.

Day Five

My First Night Home

Tomas and I decided I should sleep in the guest room and keep the walker nearby. I would need it when I got up to go to the bathroom — I wasn’t strong enough to make it there on my own. That night, I had a nightmare, awoke with a start, and begin to hyperventilate. My breath wouldn’t come — I was terrified. I made my way to the family room, got into the recliner, and covered up with an afghan. I realized I could breathe better sitting up. While in that chair, I had a long talk with God thanking him for sparing my life. I asked Him to help me breathe better right now! Then I asked Him what I did to deserve this and what I could do to repay Him for saving me. Over the next few months, I followed my doctor’s orders strictly. That meant attending cardiac rehab three times a week, eating heart-healthy meals, and taking my meds faithfully. The hardest order was eliminating stress from my life. Weeks passed and gradually I regained my strength. My ejection fraction or EF rose to 55, which meant getting released from the defibrillator life vest. In the meantime, I cancelled my writing groups, gave up teaching classes, and reimbursed my students for money they’d paid. I also stopped networking and posting on Facebook, plus I quit being annoyed at interruptions. Thankfully, I began feeling like a normal human being. I learned to drop the “too busy” persona and practiced my new mantra: “JUST BE.”

Six Months Later

Grief, Guilt, and Gratitude

When I had my heart attack, I almost died. I mean, I could have died, but I didn’t. Faced with my mortality in this drastic and incontrovertible way, I realized it was possible I might live a shorter life than I’d anticipated. I suffered grief for the life I’d lost. No, I didn’t die, but my old life was gone for good. I grieved over what I might have missed with my husband, my children, my grandkids, my sisters and my friends. And I grieved for all I will miss in the future when I do die. Now, I make it a priority to fill my heart with memories of love, joy, and togetherness with those I hold dear. I try extra hard to say how much I appreciate them and make an effort to spend time together. Then there is the guilt, which can take on many faces. My counselor told me these feelings are normal. That brings me to gratitude. Today, I’m so grateful God gave me a reality check and a second chance. I discovered that my busy schedule was not the most important thing in my life. I thought stress was anything that caused me great upset or anxiety. But I learned from a soft-spoken cardiac nurse that stress is more than that. “Basically,” she said, “it’s taking on too much. Doing too many things without enough time. Many women take time to take care of everybody else before they even think about caring for themselves.” “Hmmm,” I thought, “she’s describing me to a T!” I had to face facts: my stress was selfinduced. The old me always said yes to everything, never realizing it was causing stress. But I’m not that person anymore. I now can say no to things that will get done without me. I have to pull back. I know my strength doesn’t have to come from a laundry list of accomplishments. I can relax. I am very lucky I didn’t die. But my life as I used to live it? That’s over.

Heart Attack Symptoms in Women

The most common symptom is some type of pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest. But it is not always severe or even the most prominent symptom. And, sometimes, women may have a heart attack without chest pain. Women are more likely than men to have heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain, such as:

  • Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in one or both arms
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Unusual fatigue

These symptoms can be more subtle than the obvious crushing chest pain often associated with heart attacks. Women may describe their chest pain as pressure or a tightness. This may be because women tend to have blockages not only in their main arteries but also in the smaller arteries that supply blood to the heart — a condition called small vessel heart disease or coronary microvascular disease.

Susan Smith is a heart attack survivor, writer, speaker, and Mayo Clinictrained WomenHeart Champion. She is writing a book titled “My Inconvenient Heart Attack.”

Garden Calendar

February

It’s time to get your garden ready for the burst of spring growth.

PLANTING

Plant color annuals such as pansies, petunias, larkspur, primrose, poppy, stock, violas, alyssum,snapdragon and marigolds. Plant native or desert-adapted plants such as desert marigold, penstemon, sage and evening primrose, which are hardy enough to withstand the cold nights but benefit from extra time in the ground to establish roots. Start a new crop of cool-season vegetables, such as root vegetables, peas, leafy greens, kale and bunching onions.

FERTILIZING

Fertilize citrus, lawns, grapes and deciduous trees. Citrus fertilizers are formulated especially to provide a source of nitrogen. Fertilize roses with a slow-release fertilizer containing nitrogen and phosphorous around mid-month to encourage blooms by April. Fertilize non-native plants just as they begin active growth. Wait to fertilize tender tropicals until danger of frost is over. Natives generally do not need fertilizer.

TRANSPLANTING

Tomatoes must be transplanted early enough to develop roots, flower and set fruit before hot weather arrives. Plant mid-month but watch for frost and cover for protection until mid-March.

PRUNING

Wait until new shoots emerge on frost-damaged plants. Cut back ornamental grasses.

WATERING

Water citrus deeply every three weeks. Watch shallow-rooted newly planted annuals, which can quickly dry out with spring winds. Adjust watering schedule according to winter rains.

HARVESTING

Continue to harvest citrus. However, Valencia oranges are just starting to sweeten and grapefruit continues to sweeten for several months.

Tip of the Month

Citrus can be planted year-round, but the best times are from late February into April. Small trees, in 15-gallon containers, are easier to plant and have less risk of transplant shock. Purchase citrus from a reputable nursery that grows trees for the local market. Due to water concerns and smaller gardens, dwarf and semi-dwarf trees have become increasingly popular. When removing the plant from its container, the soil should be damp so the root ball holds together. Plant in a hole twice the width of the root ball and the same depth. Mix desert soil with organic soil amendments. Fill the hole with amended soil and let the hose run slowly until the water fills the hole, which should force air pockets out. Add more soil to completely fill the hole. Citrus trees thrive where they are allowed to develop deep roots and have good drainage. Water twice a week until the tree begins to show new growth. After that, it needs to dry out between sessions of deep watering.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 6
About Us

Tucson Lifestyle Magazine is Tucson's only glossy, monthly city magazine, targeting Southern Arizona’s affluent residents. With over 35 years of publishing experience, Tucson Lifestyle is committed to showcasing the people, places, local flavors, and attractions that make our city unique.

General Information

Phone: 520-721-2929 x 102
Address: 7000 E Tanque Verde Rd # 11,
Tucson, AZ 85715

Latest Posts
  • By The Way

    By The Way

    One couple’s regular trip from Mexico to Tucson led them to take up residence in a new (old) community. BY DEBBY LARSEN PHOTOS BY AMY HASKELL Over the years, Dhana and Gene Waken have owned houses in scenic places, including …
  • Tubac and Forth

    Tubac and Forth

    Southern Arizona proved to be the perfect location for a couple from California to build their future. BY DEBBY LARSEN | PHOTOGRAPHY BY AMY HASKELL Russell Palmer and Alec White lived and worked in Santa Barbara for many years, but …
  • Dining – Hungry for Amore

    Dining – Hungry for Amore

      Candlelight, an intimate ambience, an exquisitely prepared dinner and possibly even a decadent dessert are the ingredients for a romantic dining out experience. Here are six tried-and-true local restaurants sure to inspire love. BY SARAH BURTON PHOTOGRAPHY BY THOMAS …