Helping recover energy: Interview with Eva Niggemeyer

Eva Niggemeyer

You are a young professional woman with a congenital heart defect who knows what life is all about. Your last operation was some time ago. Why did you decide to apply for rehabilitation?

The fact that I need of some kind of convalescence is often incomprehensible to strangers who don’t know me. But, although at first sight my life appears relatively normal, it is not simply a matter of course for someone with a complex congenital heart defect to be self-sufficient, have a regular job and their own apartment.

Why did you opt for inpatient rehab, instead of having individual outpatient therapy when and as you needed?

My independent life style means putting in a tremendous effort every day and being economical with my energy reserves. After a six-hour working day, my reserves are at a very low ebb. My body and my emotions quickly get out of balance if I don’t make sure that I rest and regenerate enough. Staying at a rehab clinic is worth its weight in gold, especially following a particularly strenuous period of work. Travelling back and forth to treatment and therapy sessions would be a huge additional strain, and I would soon reach my physical limitations.

What were your aims prior to rehab?

My aim was to get to know my emotional and physical self, improve my condition and build up new reserves of power and energy. But I also wanted these aims to be consistent with my physical abilities and to ensure that I wouldn’t have to do anything that could overtax me.

What requirements have to be met by a rehab clinic, and why?

In a normal cardiac rehabilitation clinic I wouldn’t expect to meet a lot of other people with CHD – our numbers are simply too small. It would be really good to do rehab with other people with the same condition. It’s important to talk to other people of the same age group and with a similar condition, especially if you are normally alone with your illness.

Were you able to achieve these aims and take something back with you into your everyday life?

In rehab I realised for the first time that even I was able to do exercises to build up muscle, that I could really make demands on my body and develop it without overtaxing it. I even dared go into the pool for the first time in years when telemetry showed that this was actually possible if the water was warm enough. My accomplishments were also highly motivational for my life after rehab.

About Eva Niggemeyer

Eva Niggemeyer is research assistant with the German Kompetenznetz Angeborene Herzfehler (Competence Network for Congenital Heart Defects) and a member of the Corience editorial team. Eva has a congenital heart defect.

Author(s): Hermine Nock
Last updated: 2009-04-27

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Comments on this article

28.06.2010 | silvana yamauchi, argentina
Eva, a mi tambien me parece muy importantante tener contacto con otros pacientes, y compartir experiencias, tambien me siento bastante sola con mi cardiopatia, y en mi pais, Argentina, casi no hay informacion al respecto.
Tambien, me gustaria saber de que forma ser miembro del equipo de Corience, o si podria hacer algun aporte desde aca. Es algo que me reconfortaria mucho.
Desde ya, muchas gracias,
y felicitaciones por lo que hacen.