Surviving a Heart Attack: The Beat Goes On
No Fluff. Just Facts
The last thing on a healthy 54 year-old woman's mind on any given day, would be contemplating the possibility of having a heart attack. With all the daily activities of life going in every direction, the hundreds of thoughts whizzing through one's head and feeling quite fine and dandy, there would be no reason to suddenly conjure up a health issue.
I'd always been blessed with sound mind and body and had done at least 90% of those things we're suppose to do to be vigilant and responsible for our own state of overall wellness. Whenever I sat with clipboard and forms to fill out, I could easily breeze through it, checking "No", next to the vast majority of illness, disease and injuries.
Family history had a few check marks in the "yes" box but even genetics didn't seem to be a major red flag in a specific area. Certainly, I am alert to the importance of possible familial and/or hereditary health issues but I made a conscious decision to never be overly concerned. To stress to the point of constant worry or paranoia is just not my style.
So, on a routine Friday evening, I paid little attention to feeling, as I called it....."a bit off." I felt much more fatigued than I thought I should have and just felt as we all have from time to time....as in, blah. I Could not put my finger on a damned thing and to be honest, I became annoyed with myself. I know you can relate to this common occurrence.
I went to bed around 10 p.m......My Mr. Wonderful already snoring powerfully enough to vibrate the window panes. Bless his heart.
I've never even had any sort of sleep disorder. My head hits the pillow and you can count down from 30. I'm out. Nothing was different this night except that as I was drifting off, I was keenly aware of a mild discomfort in the entirety of my left arm. This discomfort increased to pain enough for me to sit up and concentrate. My mind is repeating a few times.."shooting pain up my left arm and into my chest."
There I sat, feeling this pain and thinking that phrase. At the very same time, my little buddy, Miss Denial, is trying to convince Miss Awake and Aware...."crazy, you're simply crazy girl. What you're thinking is not possible. Lay down and go to sleep."
In a few minutes, Miss Awake and Aware said, "Oh, I see, you're waiting for the deep, booming voice to come through the roof, "Child, get thy butt to the emergency room."
So, I turned up the pressure and I shook my husband's shoulder at one a.m., which is dangerous to my well-being to begin with. Jim bolts up swinging, looking crazed and confused, saying, "What! What is it....Who??....What's wrong?!"
When I finished laughing as I always do when he does this....I told him I thought he should probably drive me to Mercy Hospital. Another bolt out of bed, slipping on his khakis like a first time Dad whose wife is in labor. Pretty quick move for a 61 year-old man still half-asleep.
Off we went....to see a wizard
The hospital is only a thirty minute drive. I reassured Jim he needn't speed, drive through red lights or take corners on two wheels. He was very cooperative, except for asking me how I was feeling every 45 seconds or so. After around the 10th time, I told him if he asked me again, I would jump from our moving vehicle. He didn't ask again. This reconfirmed his love for me. How sweet. He didn't want me to jump.
We've all had our share of emergency room experiences, whether for us or accompanying someone else. Where ever you live, I've no doubt that most ER's are pretty much the same.
I did not look like an emergency. I wasn't acting like an emergency. I simply walked up to the window and declared that I believed I was having a heart attack. I was directed to the cubby to the left, to a chair across from a desk and a young lady at a computer. Without looking up, she proceeded to ask for the standard insurance information.. A nurse came in and sat next to me as she took my vitals.....heart rhythm, blood pressure, temp. Cool, huh? This is what I call an emergency room well-trained to multi-task
Once they felt assured they could bill us regardless of the outcome, I was steered into an examining room. In all fairness to the E.R. staff, things proceeded fairly well. In came a little female who looked to me to be all of 13 years old. I remained calm. I know some really smart 13 year-olds. She was wheeling a portable EKG monitor, which she hooked me up to and did her thing. So far, so good. She wheeled back out the same way she had entered and soon, in came an incredibly handsome Dr.
No doubt from his tan color, black hair and gorgeous big brown bedroom eyes, as well as Middle Eastern accent, I guessed, hmmmm, India?. Well girls, let me tell you....he placed his hand on mine and smiled, exposing not only the most perfect teeth in the world, but dimples too. Dimples, I tell you.
At that moment, I was a bit sad I had died but pleased I'd made it to Heaven.
All the basic tests done and questions answered, it was time for Dracula. The blood enzymes are apparently the test that detects the best and the most, in terms of heart activity. This is what I'm told anyway. Results come back in a few minutes and are viewed by the Dr. and staff.
The verdict was that my enzyme levels were stable. I had not had a heart attack nor was I in the process of one. I was fine and I could go home. The fact is, that dastardly pain in my arm was gone and I had no problem signing out and promising to follow-up with my PCP.......even though she's not a gorgeous, dreamy-looking Indian Dr.
Saturday went well. Sunday was Fine
Two of the grandchildren had come on Saturday to spend the day and night with Gram and Gramp. They would go sledding down our hills all day Saturday and again on Sunday after breakfast. These boys are tough. They came in only briefly to have some hot chocolate and exchange wet mittens for dry ones. I remembered doing the same thing at their age, staying out in the snow until I was nearly frozen solid. These days, I watch from the window.
For two days I remained unfazed by what had occurred on Friday night. No aches, no pains. I felt fine. The week-end was a wonderful time with the boys.
Now may be the perfect time for me to give you fair (and necessary) warning: Heart attacks can quite often be as sneaky and stealth as a thief in the night. If you have experienced a medical issue serious enough to warrant an emergency visit, feeling good afterward is not a free ticket to perfectly healthy. More often than not, an initial attack is a blatant warning that we must heed.
Monday morning. Back to the Office.
Monday mornings at work were hectic. Files to go over, appointments to reconfirm, and evaluations to edit. By noon I'd accomplished enough to stop and run next door to pick up some lunch to bring back to the office. All I wanted was some Chinese vegetable rice and a bottle of water.
After eating, I tossed out the containers and turned to head back to my desk. At that instant without warning, quite suddenly and fiercely, a tight, sharp pain shot through the middle of my chest, It was a severe pulling and twisting sort of stabbing pain, between and just slightly below my breasts. I began to feel warm and nauseous as well as light-headed. Just as quickly, I made a choice to call my husband who worked 5 minutes away, rather than call 911 and not know how fast they would respond. I thought this all out in less than 5 seconds. I was alone in the office.
As a side note, that was the best decision for me at the time but realistically, EMT's and an ambulance are always advised when the emergency is a suspected heart attack or stroke. Should the severity increase, professionals and appropriate equipment can save your life. My husband could only rush over and drive me to the same Hospital we'd gone to on Friday night.
The pain I was experiencing was like nothing I'd ever known before. I wanted to scream and cry but I just kept holding my chest and trying to stay calm and breathe deeply and slowly. I admit I was a bit scared.
This time, as we walked in, I remember hearing Jim screaming out, loudly and rapidly, that we'd been in Friday night and.........you know the rest. He gave his best impression of the Hulk, although by this time, I was actually the green one in the family. "Get a Dr. for my wife this very instant! NOW!! Move it!!" I had no idea he was capable of this forcefulness and volume. I was just glad it was not directed at me.
The EKG went like lightening and after only a few beeps, the young girl ripped the contacts from my chest by the cables and I heard her footsteps running down the hall. Mere seconds later, I heard many footsteps running toward me. I thought, "Oops, this must be the real deal.".
Warning: Actual medical procedure (Angiogram)
Cardiologist, angiogram, "Hello, Blockage."
Sedated and appropriately numbed, the Wizard, ever-so-gently cruised up and through my artery to place a Multi-Link Penta stent into the blocked space of the right atrium of my heart. I don't even know how to describe being able to see and hear, but not speak, nor move a single muscle aside from my eyelids. It is, to say the least, surreal.
I watched and listened from my position on the table, dozing in and out, until awakening, strapped firmly down, in recovery. Flat on my back for hours, being poked and prodded, IV hooked up, monitor beeping and flashing above my head, I was finally given a room of my own.
All I asked for was, something to drink and eat and please turn the TV on.....and when can I go home?
I was assured, after the Dr. saw me and left instructions and prescriptions, he would probably OK my release for the next morning. I was happy with this and slept like a baby until hubby came in to visit.
He was stressed and still a bit uptight but relieved that It was over and I was going to be just fine. Poor Jim, he is undoubtedly an A-Type personality. He told me he was so angry about the Hospital having sent me home on Friday night, claiming I was not having a heart incident.....He said, "My God, I keep thinking about how devastating, had their error and malpractice could have resulted in us losing you. I'd have sued the crap out of them.
Being who I am, regardless of circumstance or place, I looked up at him lazily and said, "Awww, Jim honey, I'm so sorry....I'll try harder next time for the money."
As we do so often, we just burst into fits of laughter. Believe me, it felt very good to be able to do that. I was still here.
Anyway, 10 years and doing great......**A word of advice: Don't have a heart attack..they suck.