American Heart Month got underway Feb. 1 with a whole lot of fanfare around the area. For women, it kicks into extreme high gear Feb. 5 with National Go Red for Women day.
If all goes according to plan thanks to organizations such as WomanHeart – the advocacy group that works hard to shine the spotlight on heart disease as the leading cause of death in women-the fashion statement of the day will be made by ladies in red, a whole lot of them!
Many women heart disease survivors like myself make it a point to wear at least a touch of red every day during February. But on Feb. 5, we go all out.
It’s a good day and a celebratory one because, against many odds, we’re here! I observe this tradition enthusiastically every year with thoughts of the wonderful medical professionals at CentraState Medical Center, Freehold, who rescued me 11 years ago this week while in mid-heart attack.
In fact, I’m looking forward to seeing them once again Feb. 11 — the World Day of the Sick — when I have the opportunity to follow along for The Monitor behind Bishop John M. Smith as he comforts and blesses patients throughout the hospital and blesses the hands of the doctors, nurses and countless angels of mercy there.
This month affords the opportunity to engage in an extra amount of introspection, prayer and reflection on the gift of added years given to so many of us.
I spend a lot of time with St. Teresa of Avila during this month, praying with her and to her, reaching out to her in that vast Communion of Saints as a holy woman who suffered many illnesses and perservered.
She’s not the patron saint of cardiac patients, that honor goes to St. John of God. But she is the patron of, among other things, those who are ill and she did endure a condition known as transverberation of the heart.
Though St. Teresa claimed the experience of having her heart pierced by a sword was purely mystical, it was found after her death that her heart did indeed sustain a single wound at some point in her life.
For much more information about St. Teresa, go to www.wf-f.org/StTeresaAvila.html
In her honor, I plan to start the day tomorrow by serving up St. Teresa’s Bread – Pan De Santa Teresa – a savory that resembles its cousin, French toast but, in my version anyway, is a bit more heart friendly.
St. Teresa’s Bread
Ingredients: 2 cups 2 % milk; 3 tablespoons sugar or sugar substitute to taste; 1 cinnamon stick; 1 generous piece of lemon peel; 12 thick slices stale Italian or French bread; three egg whites; one yolk; pinch of salt; cinnamon & sugar for sprinkling on the toast; olive oil for frying.
Directions: combine the milk with the sugar, cinnamon and lemon peel in a sauce pan and simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes until the milk is well flavored and strain out the cinnamon and lemon. Place the bread in a large, flat dish or pan and strain the milk over it.
Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl with the pinch of salt. With a spatula, lay the slices of bread in the egg and turn them to coat on both sides. Beat additional whites and one egg together with salt if necessary to finish coating the bread slices. Fry the bread in the olive oil until it is brown and crusty and then sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar.