Tess Kossow – Surviving and Parenting
Tess Kossow is a healthy 37-year-old marathon runner, living an organic lifestyle, happy wife and mama of a two-year-old miracle, successful entrepreneur, and infertility author. Now add sudden cardiac arrest survivor. This is her story.
He said he simply stood and stared out the window for an hour.
Processing and digesting a phone call he never thought he would have to take.
Especially at thirty-seven years young.
Ferris, our two-year-old son, fast asleep.
And Dan, my husband and best friend, trying to accept whatever was supposed to happen; asking God for strength along the way.
Earlier that day, I had the symptoms of a heart attack while on a road trip, walking through a pumpkin patch at a farm.
I was taken by ambulance to a hospital equipped to handle cardiac concerns.
I was two hours from home…and in a different time zone.
When I arrived at the hospital via ambulance, after receiving nitroglycerin, suddenly things felt fine. Last I remember, I was bored sitting there and was going to be moved to another floor. My husband left with my son and parents, and the ER decided to keep me overnight for observation.
That’s when everything went in an entirely new, unfamiliar direction, and I remember none of it.
I apparently started complaining again of chest pain on the way to the new floor for additional care. As the staff was moving me…I went into sudden cardiac arrest.
I was not hooked up to anything at the time.
I received AED and CPR and was revived and put on a ventilator in a drug-induced coma for 12 hours.
That’s when Dan received the call.
He said it was around midnight that night, October 10, 2020, and he stood there staring at the window outside the stairs to our bedroom.
I came out of the coma 12 hours later when the ventilator was removed.
Dan was there when I was able to talk and he asked me if I knew where I was and what had happened.
And he continues to tell me this story over and over again, helping me to understand the unexplainable because to this day, I am a medical mystery.
The first time I FaceTimed Ferris from the ICU, he cried when he saw me.
It broke me more than I already felt.
My sister had flown in from California and my parents came from Chicago to stay and take care of him while Dan went back and forth to be with me from the hospital, four hour round trip, every day.
It was the first time I had ever been away from my baby overnight. We were still breastfeeding and due to all the medications, suddenly had to stop with no warning.
Which meant now I had to change the way I put him down for a nap and how Ferris falls asleep.
I was released without being able to pick him up for a few weeks and I couldn’t drive Ferris to school.
As independent of a woman and a mother and a business owner and a wife and a (list can go on and on, let’s be honest), I felt completely helpless and lost and unworthy.
Now, on only two medications and gaining strength every day with my new internal defibrillator, Ferris understands that Mama lives with a “boo-boo” and cannot touch that part of my body right now.
I look at how well he has accepted my new normal, and I am beyond proud of the little gentleman he is becoming. He even brings me ice packs when the “boo boo” burns.
When I look at how I deal with parenting now that I have heart disease, I do see life much differently. More specifically, how I respond to stress and pain. Of course, I still get angry and upset. And I still discipline Ferris, as I want him to grow up kind, courteous, and respectful.
But I go out of my way more than before to make sure Dan is as aware as possible of what, how, when, and why I do what I do with Ferris.
Because a tiny piece inside of me still is unsure if I will stick around as long as I thought I once would.
I know, more than ever, that if something deadly ever happens again to me, that Ferris truly will be in the best hands possible. You see, my sister is Ferris’ Godmother and Legal Guardian, and I believe wholeheartedly that should Dan need support and help if I am not there, my sister and her fiancé, Ferris’ Godfather and Legal Guardian, will be there to make sure he is safe, happy, and healthy.
When I was in the hospital, my sister made sure Ferris still got to school. That he still got a cookie when picked up from school. That he played and ate and took naps. That he took a bath and read.
She stood in for me when I couldn’t be.
Having that reassurance brings me piece-of-mind while living with heart disease and raising a toddler.
On the flip-side, I did get a second chance at life, and therefore, I want to resume parenting as normal as it was before my cardiac arrest and cardiomyopathy diagnosis. I try to make life as best I can for a curious, non-stop talkative two-year-old.
Keep bedtime routines.
Keep manners with “thank you’s” and “please, may I have?”
We are kind to one another.
We remember that we are a team.
We eat healthy, and we exercise…and always find time for cookies together.
And we thank God and Jesus for another day.
Because heart disease is something that I am going to have to live with. It’s also something that Ferris is going to have to tell his doctor that runs in his family because his mom has it.
But it’s not his problem right now, and I refuse to make it his.
He is a fearless child, and I want to soak that up more so now than when he was an infant.
We say I’m sorry.
And we always kiss each other goodnight.
Yes, he’s only two.
But he almost lost his mother at two, and I lead a life that never would I have imagined having heart disease almost take it from me so quickly.
I mentioned I have infertility. When I knew I was able to get pregnant with Ferris via IVF, I started writing him letters.
I have continued writing him cards and letters to this day. I put them in a bag, deep in his closet to give to him in the future to read on his own.
I am so grateful that we are up to two bags of letters for him to read from me, someday, no matter if I am here or not.
So overall, parenting for me has gotten a little bit calmer, a little less stressful, but kept the same goal: to raise a happy and polite, little man who is discovering himself more and more each day.
And he knows that nothing is owed to him. He is not entitled or exempt.
Heart disease happened to Mama, and although it seems unfair, that’s life.
And I got a second chance at it.
Here’s to Dan, the most strong and unselfish, loving father and husband, looking out at our future for Ferris, one more day.