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Thursday, 27 March 2014

My Second Chance: I Survived a Heart Attack

Hi everyone, it's been awhile.  I thought about what happened to me on March 15 for the past week and I'm ready to talk about it.

I had a heart attack Saturday, early evening around 6:30 pm.  Scary thing, I didn't even realise I was having it.  All I felt was terrible pain on the right side of my chest, up my neck and jawline, across my shoulders, down my right arm, and down my back.  The pain was all on my right side, which confused me, since I thought such indicators of a heart attack were on the left side.  It was terrifying not understanding what my body was trying to tell me.

At first, I thought I was having an angina attack since it came and went throughout the day, from 4 am and onward.  I would have this tightening weight squeezing my chest for a few minutes and then it would go away after I rested.  The pain wasn't alarming, just uncomfortable.  I thought to myself that I'll have to phone to make a doctor's appointment for Monday.  The action to see my doctor calmed me a bit, knowing I was being proactive with this new strange sensation.  I slept most of the day, thinking that my body was overstressed from the various activities I did throughout the week (Tuesday).  Like shoveling water into a pail in front of my garage for three hours due to the rapid spring melt that made it nearly impossible to get to my front door!  I was tired, but I didn't have any chest pains that day, just my back being super tight and achy.

I've never been so damn scared in my life!  The flashbacks of what I witnessed with my mom's heart attack in this very house terrified me.  The amount of pain in my chest, the confusion, the way my body was suddenly drenched in sweat, my panting to get breath in my lungs, it all mirrored the day my mother died of a heart attack.  I didn't want to die like my mother did, in front of my daughter, nieces, sister and brother-in-law.  I remember even in my terror that I asked my daughter and nieces to leave the room, so they wouldn't see me like I was...the memory is still overwhelming so much that I'm crying as I write this...

I didn't want the last image of me to the people I love to be of terror, pain, confusion, even chanting the words that I didn't want to die.  Even during these moments I thought this is what my mother felt that night and it scared me even more.  I was just as clueless then as I was when this was happening to me.  The guilt I feel for what my mother went through is still strong.  If only I could have done more, understood what exactly was happening, called the EMS sooner...well that part of my emotional pain will heal some day.  I understand and I think it makes it worse.  The vicious circle of what ifs string through my head and I really can't do anything about it though.  My mother is gone.  She died on December 19, 2008 at 3 am (there about).  She didn't get her second chance.

But I'm still here.

I'm grateful.  I'm blessed.  I'm very lucky.

I was rushed to the local hospital via EMS and even in the moments of fear I managed to joke that I had a chance.  My mother didn't make it out of the driveway when the paramedics worked on her that night.  She died in the ambulance.  And here I was being whisked away from my driveway and flying down the road.  I know it was irrational, inappropriate for the moment, but it gave me hope that with what was happening to me I was going to make it.  Even then I still didn't understand I was having a heart attack. The paramedics took a picture of my heart and didn't see anything unusual.  That scared me the most not understanding why I was having this pain in my chest.

I arrived at the hospital and waited for a room.  The pain in my chest lessened, most likely from the baby aspirin they gave me earlier, but the pain was still there, that heavy tightness squeezing my chest.  Blood was drawn and the attending doctor came in and explained what they were going to to do me.  The EKG monitor showed that my heart rate levels were just a bit abnormal, nothing alarming, but unusual enough to be looked at.  After a bit of Morphine to help with the pain and within an hour, I was told I was being taken to another hospital to see a cardiologist.  A specialist needed to see what was going on.  Again, there was nothing too alarming, everyone was calm, even the doctor who ordered my transport.  So, I thought I'm going to be okay, most likely it was an angina attack and I'll be on pills for the rest of my Life.

The trip was about a half hour and I was talking with the paramedic during the ride.  So, how could I possibly be in a situation like this when I was feeling better, even with the chest pain still there, but not as pronounced. I arrived at the hospital and was immediately taken to the Cardiac Cauterization section and met with the cardiologist.  I briefly talked about my day and what happened and half way through the doctor said, "I heard enough."

I was shocked, confused and scared when he said that.  He pointed to the doors that lead to the operating room and said I was going to have surgery to fix my heart. It happened so fast, that I was stunned.  Even when the nurses stripped me down and prepared me for the Angioplasty procedure.  It was non-evasive, but still had a 1% chance of fatality.  At this point, I just wanted to live so I signed and waited.  The scope went through my right femoral artery and a tiny bubble opened my blocked artery.  I had two stents placed in the left ventricle artery, one at the top which was 90-100% blocked, and another a bit further down in the artery that was 70% blocked.  I watched the whole procedure and all I can say was that it was super trippy to see my heart being worked on.  Twenty minutes later it was done and a few minutes I was vomiting all over everything!  My blood pressure dropped too low from the surgery and again a flurry of activity swarmed around me.  The nurses said it was perfectly normal and that my body went through trauma.

I don't remember too much after that, except that I vomited outside the operating room and another time once I was in my room at the ICU.  My poor sister was holding the mini vomit pan from that episode.  By 11 pm my heart was fixed and the results in.  I had a heart attack, not a massive heart attack, but it was significant enough that could have killed me if I wasn't taken to the hospital.  You see, I thought I was healthy.  I eat right, I exercise, I don't smoke, and I drink alcohol occasionally.  What happened to me was sneaky and deadly.  I could have died, but I didn't.  I'm still here.

So, I had to talk about what happened to me with hope of warning people that even moments of unease, such as a tightening in your chest even if you live a healthy lifestyle.  Don't pass it off like I did, thinking I was a bit out of shape.  Go to your doctor as soon as you can.  Small things started for me that I didn't recognize, like being a bit breathless walking up a slight incline, even the stairs in my house.  A slight tightening in the chest and then having it disappear.  It all adds up to something.  I thought I was healthy, but I wasn't.  I could have died, but I didn't.

I'm still here.  Everyday, I wake up grateful. And regardless of the new strict diet, the numerous pills for the rest of my life and the painstakingly slow progress of getting my heart strong and healthy, I'm alive.  I have a second chance and I'm blessed.

So, today listen to your body, it's wise beyond belief.  And remember you are powerful just as long as you take care of yourself and be kind to who and what you are.  Take care everyone and have a great and wonderful day!  Many wishes of happiness and health.

And if you're wondering, my Muse it still very naughty.  It may take me a bit longer to write, but there's a whole lot of ideas going on! :)


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