How The Queen Of Denial Became A Survivor...Hello everyone! My name is Jeani Codrey, I am 50 years old and on November 26, 2016 (Thanksgiving Weekend) I suffered a massive heart attack and died. I was brought back had a stent put in and spent a week in the hospital. I woke up in ICU with no recollection of four hours of my life to the terrified faces of my husband, 19 year old son and our pastor. I had no idea what had happened, but I knew by the looks on their faces that it was bad. I never, in a million years, expected to hear the words "you had a massive heart attack" come out of my husbands mouth. This is my story.
My mother and her mother both suffered from high cholesterol and both eventually passed away from heart complications. I cared for my mother the last three years of her life and was at her side when she passed. We were very close and even ran our real estate business together for over 20 years. I have had high cholestrol since I was 18 but have always been active and not overweight, non-smoker, healthy eater, so I never thought this could or would happen to me. I was different, I thought...I play tennis, golf, wake board, water volleyball, was a dancer, used to do fitness traning and teach aerobics classes. I was not the kind of person that these things happen to...or was I?
I am a real estate broker and trainer. I manage an office and teach classes for the local real estate board. I work hard, play hard and try to take care of myself. I go to the gym before work three days a week and I just celebrated my 50th birthday with a cruise at the first of the year. First I will share my symptoms which I completely ignored because apart from each other they didn't seem dangerous, but in hindsight, they were warning signs of a bigger problem that nearly cost me my life. I started feeling light headed every once in a while a few months back and occasionally would lose my balance. It wasn't all the time, so I just thought that was part of aging. I noticed that I didn't have the stamina I once had and would get winded sometimes after strenuous activity. About a month before the heart attack I started having a chronic pain in between my shoulder blades. The week before the attack I had what I thought was a cold and actually felt bad enough to take a day off work, which I never do. That brings us to Thanksgiving weekend. My son had come home from college and we celebrated a big family Thanksgiving at my husband's aunt and uncle's home. I was tired, but felt okay. The next day my son and I went to have lunch and visit with his other Grandma and I had a good day. I went to bed feeling fine. I woke up Saturday morning feeling what I would later call "crummy" nothing in particular was wrong, just felt "off." I lounged around in bed while my son went to meet up with a friend who was also in town from college for the break. My husband has a landscaping company and had gone to work on a project about ten minutes from our home. I finally got up and dressed. I started cleaning up the house and decided to vacuum. I got about half way through the living room and was short of breath and sweating profusely. I sat down and cooled off with a wet cloth. Then I felt better and finished vacuuming. My son came back home and said he was going to take a nap and my husband had texted and said he forgot his rakes and could I bring them to him. Those rakes saved my life...
I put the rakes in my car and drove to his job site, I stayed a while and talked to him and he said "let's go get lunch somewhere." I said "okay, but let's just go to the house because we have so much left over Thanksgiving food." That turned out to be another life saving decision. We went home and I heated up the left overs and served us both a plate. I ate all the food and felt good. About ten minutes later, I began vomiting uncontrollably. The I started sweating, so much that I looked like someone threw a bucket of water on me. My husband came in and asked what was wrong and I told him I must have had some bad turkey or something. He looked concerned and told me I should go lay on the bed. I just couldn't. I rolled over on the bathroom floor and that is when the most incredible pain started between my shoulder blades and began to travel down my left arm and then into my right arm and then it moved up into my jaws. My husband came back in the room and told me to lay on the bed, I made my way to the bed and layed down and he asked me what was wrong. I told him I was nauseated, sweating but cold and that I had the most horrible pain in my left arm. That is when he said "we are going to the ER now!" I said okay and picked up my purse and walked to the car. My son woke up when he heard all the commotion and he came outside and asked me what was going on. I don't know where this came from but I said "I'm really sick, I am going to the ER, I think I am having a heart attack." He looked stunned and offered to drive me, I told him it was okay, Jerry was taking me. Jerry told him to wait at the house and he would call and let him know what was wrong. We were going to the hospital which is about 8 minutes from our home. We were only about 100 yards out of our neighborhood when this feeling overtook me and I turned to Jerry and said "Dear God, don't let me die, in Jesus' name." That is the last thing I remember...
Here is what happened in the next four hours as told to me by my husband, my son, nurses, the cardiologist and a paramedic. Back in the car Jerry said that I told him I woke up feeling crummy, then I lost consciousness, my eyes rolled back in my head, I turned grey and my lips turned blue and I took one last breath. He was freaked out but his quick actions and thinking saved my life. He sped to the hospital which he could see across the fields from where he was driving. He opted to skip pulling up to the ER entrance and zoomed around to the ambulance bay where there was a nurse on break sitting on a bench. Jerry jumped out the car and told him that he thought I was having a heart attack and had stopped breathing. The nurse opened the car door and my arm fell out limp, he checked for a pulse and there was none. He yelled for help and Jerry said that everyone came running. They pulled me out of the car and put me on a gurney and a nurse jumped up on top of me and started chest compressions as they zoomed me into a room. Jerry called my son and told him it was really bad and to come now. Jordan told me later he drove over 100 mph to the hospital and ran into the hall where Jerry was crying hysterically and couldn't answer any questions. He came in the door of the room where they were working on me and saw them shocking me, working on me and the monitor was flat lining. He was losing it and trying to get someone to tell him something and at that point there was nothing to say. My terrified husband and son who are my world were devastated, confused and lost. A doctor came out and told them I was at that moment having a massive heart attack and they did not know what my outcome would be. For 35 minutes they worked to bring me back. After several failed attempts to get a heartbeat, continued chest compressions and about 15 shocks they finally got a rhythm. They intubated me and figured out that I had a 100% blockage and needed a cardiac stent as soon as possible. There was only one problem, the hospital I was at didn't have a cardiac cath lab and I would need to be transported to another hospital about 20 minutes away. They prepared my family for the worst. If I made it to the other hospital...IF...and I didn't arrest again and I survived the procedure without complications, I would have another hurdle. No one knew exactly how long I had been deprived of oxygen and the doctors told them I may not be mentally okay when I regained consciousness. I may have memory loss or brain damage and may not be the person they knew before. I was loaded into an ambulance and they hit the lights and sirens and took off. My husband and son took off behind the ambulance and arrived at the hospital where they had to sit alone in a waiting room...waiting...to learn if I was alive, if I survived the surgery, if I would wake up, if I would be the same wife and mom that I was before. Thanks to the magic of social media our Pastor learned of my plight and rushed over to comfort my family. After close to an hour of waiting the cardiologist emerged and reported that I had survived and the stent was in and we had to wait to see what would happen next. They were relieved but scared of what would happen if and when I came to. This is where things got really strange for me. I have regained little flashes of things that happened after the stent placement. I have a flash of opening my eyes and being on the vent, people I didn't recognize where running all around me and talking and doing things. I remember being confused and then I blacked out. Next I have a flash of vomiting while this petite nurse with the sweetest little voice told me "sweetie, you are okay, you are okay." Then they rolled me onto my back and I was freezing and shivering terribly. They started wrapping me in warm blankets and then I was out again. My next flash is being wheeled down a hallway and seeing my husband and our pastor at my side. Things became fuzzy again and then I was in an elevator and after that I started coming out of it and I was in ICU with a team of nurses working around me hooking me up to IVs, wires, monitors, tubes and I had this oxygen mask on. The curtain was closed across the door, but there was a window at the end and I saw my son's terrified face looking at me through the window. I had no idea what was going on, but from the expression on his face I knew it must be bad. I knew I had to let him know I was okay. I managed to raise my hand and wave to him and he looked relieved. They opened the curtains and my husband, son and pastor came in and gathered around me and began to pray over me. Jordan stood on one side of my bed and held my hand and Jerry stood on the other side stroking my hair. I couldn't really speak but I am sure my face was asking "what on earth happened?" I was not prepared for the words that came out of Jerry's mouth. "You had a massive heart attack and we almost lost you, they put a stent in your heart, you are in ICU at Christus Santa Rosa. To say I was stunned would be an extreme understatement. I managed to whisper "I am a 50 year old woman who goes to the gym before work in the morning, this doesn't happen to people like me." Well, it does and it did!
I was in pain as my body had been through a horrible trauma and my ribs and sternum had been separated. Everything hurt. My throat burned from the breathing tube, my chest ached, my head hurt, I was exhausted. For a moment I worried...we have no health insurance and this was going to be very expensive, but the moment passed when I realized that I was fortunate to just be alive and it didn't matter because you cannot put a price tag on a human life. I laid my head back and tried to just rest as my family clung to my hands in an effort to make sure I didn't slip away from them again. I spent three days in ICU which was extended because I started having irregular heart beats and had to go back on amiodarone drip to stabilize me. I was moved to a regular room on the telemetry floor and told that I could finally have a shower and go to the bathroom by myself, both of which I have never wanted so bad in my entire life! The cardiologist came by and explained what had happened to me. He said I was considered "at risk" because of my family history and I had some plaque build up in my arteries, but nothing terrible. A piece had broken off and kind of exploded lodging in the right artery and blocking it off completely. Basically he told us it was a freak thing. Jordan was sitting with me that morning and he was worried. He said "mom, they said you may have gone too long without oxygen, you might be different. Are you okay?" I looked at him and this is what came out of my mouth, "My real estate license number is 472264, my drivers license number is xxxxxxxx and my social security number is xxx-xx-xxxx." He laughed and said "You are just fine!" I had to send him back to Houston because he needed to get back to school. He didn't want to leave me but I insisted that I would feel better knowing he was back at school and not missing and getting behind. He finally agreed to go. I know that driving away from that hospital was probably one of the toughest things he has ever had to do. He and I are very close, we have been a team and I was his only parent from the time he was 7 until Jerry and I married when Jordan was 15. Jerry helped me to shower and then I grabbed his hand and we walked the third floor including a tour through ICU where we saw my cardiologist. He was very impressed with my progress.
Finally the day came when they said I would get to go home. I was ready, I was so tired of the hospital, I missed my dogs and cats and just wanted to be in my house. Jerry drove me home and was stuck to me like glue. He would not let me out of his sight. Every sound I made he was asking if I was okay. But he was great and made meals for me and brought me what I needed and because of the trauma to my ribs I had to sleep in the recliner to have any form of comfort. Our friends brought dinner every night and the prayers, support, kindness and love we experienced was mind blowing. Things were going great until the third night home. I woke up about midnight and the pain in my left arm started up and I could feel heat in the middle of my chest that began to radiate across my chest. I called for Jerry and told him what was happening. I was terrified. I thought, oh no it is happening again. I really did not want to die. He called 911 and the dispatcher kept him on the line because she could hear me repeating over and over "Jesus, please don't let me die!" The EMS showed up and pretty soon the living room was full of firemen and paramedics. They hooked me up to the EKG and decided that I should be transported. The lead paramedic was the same one who transported me the day of my heart attack and he said "I am very happy to see you alive!" On the ride in he filled in some of the blanks of what happened to me. He told me that I scared everyone pretty bad. I managed one of my signature jokes and told him that is one of my mad skills! I ended up back at Christus in the ER where they took x-rays and did another EKG, took blood and decided to keep me for a couple of days to monitor me. Back to the telemetry floor and a new room and more EKGs, blood tests, vitals and meds. I told Jerry not to call Jordan because I know my son and I knew he would jump in his car and zoom home from Houston in the middle of the night in the rain and that worried me. The next morning after they verified that I did not have another heart attack and I was stable, I called him and told him what happened. He was freaked out and admitted that if Jerry had called him the night before, he would have come right then. They changed up my meds and released me on Sunday. I went back to my recliner and fell asleep until I heard the front door open and looked up to see my son walking in. He had come from Houston to spend the day with me. I am now one month post heart attack and back at work full-time and enjoyed Christmas with my family and friends. My follow up with the cardiologist could not have gone better. He told me I was doing great and not to come back for three months at which time they will take me off one of my meds. I am not 100% yet, but I am trying hard to make a comeback without hurting myself. I want my life back, I don't want to give up like my mom did. I have been able to have deep honest discussions about what happened with my family including feeling guilty for putting them through so much horror even though I know it wasn't my fault. It was just something terrible that happened to all of us. Sometimes I struggle with emotions because I will have a flash back to some little piece of what happened to me. I am working through those feelings and Jerry suggested I seek out support groups like this to share my story, feelings, fears and find encouragement from others who have been where I have been. I know this is a long long post, but I needed to tell my story and find it comforting to be able to share my experience.
What have I learned?
Learn what heart disease symptoms are. Do not ignore your symptoms. Do not deny your family history. Acknowledge and accept the realities that you may be at risk. Seek treatment for your condition. Tell those around you when you don't feel right. Admit that it is okay if you have to take medications.
My denial nearly cost me my life and put me, my family and my friends through hell, but I am a survivor and now I understand why these things are important. I have to thank the medical team who fought hard to save my life when I couldn't fight for myself and wouldn't give up on me. Also the cardio team who saved my life and placed my stent. The doctors and nurses who cared for me and encouraged me. My husband and son who never left my side and take excellent care of me. My family and friends who prayed me back to health and went above and beyond to care for me. I could not have done this alone and I am grateful to God for blessing me with such a support system.