A personal story leads to new job in support of women
Karen Giblin was 40 years old when, like many women, a hysterectomy plunged her headlong into menopausal symptoms that appeared quickly after her surgery. Hot flashes, night sweats, heart palpitations, fatigue, and forgetfulness were just a few of her symptoms.
"This was 1991, and to my surprise, I could only find one book on the subject," says Giblin, of Ridgefield, Conn. "At that time, menopause was not spoken about and I was even embarrassed to carry the book openly in my arms, so I covered it up with magazines when I went to the checkout counter to buy it."
While Giblin's symptoms appeared rather abruptly, her experience was not unlike what happens to many women before, during, and after menopause. Episodes of hot flashes worsened during the night and caused her to lose sleep.
"I became irritable and fatigued and had trouble concentrating," says Giblin, then the town manager. "I remember reading a town ordinance and not remembering a thing. Just think … I could have abolished garbage collection."
Even though Giblin now has a sense of humor about her symptoms, at the time, she was very concerned about the lack of information available. "Women heard about my surgery and called me for menopause advice," Giblin says. "They wanted information, they wanted to talk about their concerns, and they wanted to make informed treatment decisions."
Seeing that the menopausal transition could be a difficult and confusing time, Giblin went to her local nursing association for help in hosting an educational program. They agreed, and 50 women attended the first meeting. The organization quickly grew to more than 600 members.
Soon, other hospitals began calling Giblin to develop programs. So Giblin founded Red Hot Mamas® to provide menopause education and support programs. Red Hot Mamas programming is now offered through 250 hospitals in the U.S. and Canada.
"The symptoms can make women feel like their bodies and minds are malfunctioning," Giblin says. She tells women to "keep a sense of humor and stay connected with other women. Above all, remember that menopause is a normal event that may bring challenges, but it can also be an exciting time of your life."
She should know. Giblin's postmenopausal career change led her to a brand-new vocation. She now dedicates her life to providing women and their health care providers with the menopause health information and support they need.