Brenda Adams lives life to the fullest

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Feeding geese gives pleasure; it’s people who feed the soul. Brenda Adams likes to spend her Saturdays toodling around Canyon Lake in her golf cart, checking out garage sales, meeting new people, and stopping by parks to feed ducks and geese the top-quality duck food she stores in sealed containers in her garage.

The fowl food actually cost her a new upholstery job recently when she forgot to take the temporary food buckets out of her golf cart. Even though the buckets were empty, mice gnawed a hole through the drywall in her garage, then through the newly-covered seat in her golf cart, and then through the buckets to get to the crumbs of food.

She shrugs it off. A little ol’ hole isn’t something to get worked up about. Not after all she’s been through. She has survived two heart attacks, pneumonia, a botched medical prescription and more – and it all started just over 20 years ago.

There was a history of heart problems in her family; nevertheless, Brenda was caught by surprise when she suffered a heart attack at the age of 53 in May 1995. She considered herself healthy and athletic, playing golf three to four times a week at the Canyon Lake Golf Course. But one day she was painting the fence at her Blue Bird Dr. home and the next she was on her way to open-heart surgery.

She had a doctor’s appointment already scheduled the day she was painting her fence; so, not feeling well, she went to it and learned she was having a heart attack. She immediately was hooked up to IVs and taken to Kaiser Permanente Fontana for an angiogram. After the blockage in her arteries was detected, she was transferred to Kaiser Sunset for triple bypass surgery.

Mayoclinic.com describes what happens during most most coronary bypass surgeries, including Brenda’s:

“The surgeon cuts down the center of the chest, along the breastbone. The surgeon then spreads open the rib cage to expose the heart. After the chest is opened, the heart is temporarily stopped and a heart-lung machine takes over to circulate blood to the body.

The surgeon takes a section of healthy blood vessel, often from inside the chest wall (the internal mammary artery) or from the lower leg, and attaches the ends above and below the blocked artery so that blood flow is diverted (bypassed) around the narrowed portion of the diseased artery.”

Brenda came home with an almost 12-inch zipper-like scar on her chest and a scar from ankle to groin in her right leg where the surgeon removed blood vessels for the bypass. Brenda says the leg pain was the most difficult part of her recovery.

But in addition to having a much healthier heart, one blessing of her ordeal was Canyon Lake friends and neighbors who reached out to her, especially some of the men who welcomed her to the “zipper club” (those who had had open heart surgery). She says they warned her about the depression that normally follows open heart surgery, which she found to be true; however, she was determined to overcome the depression and move on with her life.

After undertaking her own physical therapy in her swimming pool, Brenda healed and continued to play golf. She decided to downsize her lifestyle, and sold her Blue Bird house to buy a mobile in the Fairway Estates.

It was more than 13 years before she had another heart scare. She was on a golfing trip in Flagstaff, Arizona with several Canyon Lake friends when she started having difficulty breathing. She attributed it to the altitude, but decided to go to her doctor when she got home.

It was determined she once again had blockages in her arteries, so she received two stents. Then, in June 2009, she had another heart attack. This time her symptoms were more recognizable: she started perspiring, felt nauseated, had trouble breathing and fell on the floor. Her roommate called 9-1-1.

She was transported to the Jerry L. Pettis Memorial VA Medical Center in Loma Linda, then transferred to Loma Linda Medial Center for another bypass surgery. The incision was made in the scar from her previous incision; and instead of taking a blood vessel from her leg, surgeons used the mammary artery in her left breast.

Brenda says doctors told her afterward that was a better way to go because the mammary artery is bigger and stronger. Brenda says she has been very happy with how well the VA has taken care of her; she’s had other health issues but she’s had no more heart pain.

Vascular problems now limit how much she can walk, and she hasn’t played golf in five years. “I’ve been athletic all my life so it’s been quite a shock for me to have to deal with these things,” she says.

Retired as an executive with Ampex electronics, Brenda’s other involvements in Canyon Lake have included serving a two-year term on the CLPOA Board of Directors. She’s also been on the Architectural Control Committee and was, for several years, chair of the Fairway Estates Committee.

For about three years, she operated a business making custom golf clubs and doing golf club gripping and repairs for Canyon Lake and Menifee Lakes golfers. Her business was known as Canyon Lake Golf Masters.

Life has slowed down for the 74-year-old. On two separate occasions, in January and March 2015, she came close to death’s door once again. The first time pneumonia put her on a ventilator for five days; the second time was because of a pharmaceutical error with the medications from her January illness.

These days, the activities she enjoys most are getting in her golf cart and making the rounds of garage sales on Fridays and Saturdays. She hunts for her Heisey Depression-era glass or items friends want. But mostly she just likes to talk to people. At a recent garage sale, she sat down with someone she met and talked for four hours, then got invited back for another visit.

“That happens more than you realize. People here are different,” she says. “I’m thankful to be alive and live in a community like this. You don’t find camaraderie in regular communities like you do here. It’s interesting to talk to other people.”

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Sharon Rice