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February is Heart Month - A Veteran Nurse's Story

February is Heart Month – A Veteran Nurse’s Story

Betty Cunar A Veteran Nurse’s Story

By Hans Petersen
Tuesday, January 30, 2018

February is American Heart Month.  VA Women's Health Services in collaboration with the American Heart Association is joining this national movement to raise awareness and education about heart disease and stroke among women Veterans.

Here is one Veteran’s story…..

Nurse Betty Canar receiving captain’s bars in Korat, Thailand, April, 1968

Betty Canar served as the head nurse at the 31st Field Hospital, Korat, Thailand, from 1967 to 1969.

It’s important to Know Your Numbers

Her focus of consistently providing the best possible care for her patients earned her the Army Commendation Medal.

“Excellent care for all patients has been my passion dating back to my first assignment at Fitzsimons Army Hospital as I cared for the many injured Veterans returning from the battlefield in Vietnam.”

She credits Col. Martha Cleveland, Chief Nurse, as being instrumental in “guiding me in my position and remained my mentor and friend for 40 years.”

Canar served as the nurse for the Bob Hope Show in Thailand in 1968 and recalls,“ These shows increased the morale of our men in uniform who were getting negative responses from home.”

She attended the Asian Nurses Convention in Bangkok and met the Queen Mother of Thailand, an educational experience which was, for her, “instrumental in validating the advanced medical care provided in the USA.”

First Signs of Heart Problems

Canar remembers, “About two years ago, I began having fatigue and some shortness of breath. I was referred to Dr. Arang Samim, VA cardiologist.”

She has agreed to have Dr. Samim describe her condition in detail with the hope that it will help other Veterans with similar symptoms.

Dr. Samim: “Ms. Canar has atrial fibrillation, an irregular rhythm of the heart, which is very common among our population. It is not immediately life threatening, but it can cause some symptoms such as palpitations and shortness of breath. She needs to be on a blood thinner to lower her risk of having a blood clot causing a stroke.

“She also has HFpEF, the fancy term for heart failure not from a weakened heart, but due to a stiffened heart. With age, bad luck, and years of high blood pressure, her heart has gotten a little stiff, so it does not relax, leading to pressure build up.  That pressure build up leads to swelling in the lungs and legs and is why people feel tired, lousy and short of breath. She was very symptomatic before I met her.

“With some time and careful adjustments of her medications, she now feels much better than she has in years and her energy level is back to normal.”

Canar adds, “Medication changes , diagnostic work up and a loss of 20 pounds improved my condition.  Dr. Samim has always been available for me.

“Dr. Suneetha Dandala has been my primary internist for seven years and Dr. Arang Samim is my cardiologist.  My care is exemplary compared to the care I received outside of the VA System.  My care is far advanced over the care I received for many years.”

Betty and Tom on a cruise to Mexico on the Ruby Princess in 2017

Canar met Tom, her husband of 48 years, at Brook Army Hospital and they were married in Korat, Thailand in 1969.They enjoy traveling to Monterey and cruising as often as possible.

“We love Thai food and of course, we are passionate Packer Fans.”

Before retiring in 2013, she worked as the national nurse case manager for a national workers compensation company managing the care of catastrophic cases including severe brain injury, spinal cord injury and severe burns.

Heart Disease in Women

An estimated 44 million women in the U.S. are affected by cardiovascular diseases.

The symptoms of heart attack can be different in women versus men, and are often misunderstood—even by some physicians. 

Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for heart disease or stroke; however 80 percent of heart disease and stroke events may be prevented by lifestyle changes and education.

We encourage you to Know Your Numbers: blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and BMI (body mass index).