Too Much to Live For
On December 11, 2017 I suffered a "widow-maker" heart attack with my LAD completely blocked. This is the date that my HA took place but looking back now I had warning signs that did not register. Two months prior, in October, I began to have pain in my shoulder blades up into my neck region. I attributed this pain to everyday stress of work, motherhood, family and just life in general. I even bought several different types of pillows thinking it was how I was sleeping. During the month of November, I started to experience night sweats, which I attributed (as did my OBGYN) to menopause, I was 52. I would wake up completely soaked in sweat. I had to change the sheets and take a shower. It got so bad that I began to place a large towel on the bed to sleep. Towards the end of November, I began to feel tired. Now, I am an older mom of an eleven and fourteen-year-old. Both are very active in swimming, cross-country and academically in school. This combined with the holidays quickly approaching made me chalk up being tired once again to just life. The shoulder pain, however, is what prompted me to go to the doctor. My appointment was for December 13 and my HA was on December 11.
We had a big weekend. Swim meet, decorating the Christmas tree and shopping. My two daughters, then 12 and 10, and their friend were over finishing dinner. While they ate dessert, I was doing the dishes. They were talking about "twerking" and when I blurted out that I can twerk and they laughed, I turned off the water and began to dance. When I bent over I got extremely dizzy, began to sweat profusely, felt like vomiting and felt like I had to go to the bathroom, all at once. My immediate reaction was I was having a severe food poisoning reaction to the chili we had just finished eating and I remember thinking I was going to have three sick kids in just a minute as well. As I walked down the hallway to the bathroom my jaw began to hurt. Due to a friend’s story of her HA I immediately thought, “I AM HAVING A HEART ATTACK.” My oldest daughter followed me into the bathroom and asked what was wrong and I saw the fear grip her. Calmly I told her to go get our neighbor Freddy and on your way out tell your sister to dial 911 and tell them that I am having a heart attack. These two actions saved my life. That is when the chest pain began. It felt like someone was sitting on my chest and I could not catch a breath. Paramedics were there in less than six minutes and began pumping aspirin, nitro, valium, and IV fluids into my body. They asked me questions and could not believe that I was only 52 years old. I think everyone I met that night, medically, asked me if I used cocaine. Going to the hospital I was told that there was not enough time to take me to the hospital of my choice.
In the ER room I kept asking what was happening to me. Finally, the cardiologist told me that my LAD was 100% blocked and this type of heart attack is called a widow maker because only 5% of people survive it. He was going to take me to the Cath Lab and try to save my life. I remember thinking Oh God, please no, don’t take me yet. I have to young daughters I have not finished with yet. I really thought at this moment that I was going to die.
It took a very experienced cardiologist one hour and fifteen minutes to open my LAD and place 2 stents inside. I watched the entire procedure in full heart attack mode. I spent three days in ICU and two days in my own room. My cardiologist calls me his enigma, because at 52 with no high cholesterol, no high blood pressure, no diabetes, completely normal EKG’s and bloodwork I was not a candidate for heart attack. My diagnosis was genetics and broken heart syndrome. Now two years later, I watch my diet, take my medication, meditate, exercise and enjoy every moment of life. I don’t let the small stuff stress me and I take time to walk in the rain and smell the roses. I don’t get crazy if I am late and I have learned that spending time with loved ones is more important than anything else. I also tell my story to whoever will listen, because if just one person said to me those symptoms that I was having since October might be heart related I might have been able to put the stents in without the heart attack.
Besides the physical healing, there is a tremendous emotional healing that I am still trying to get through. A year and a half later and I still find it hard to fall asleep sometimes. Meditation has helped. My family listens and tries to understand, but unless someone has gone through this then they really don’t understand. It is a long, hard journey but I am not giving up. I have too much to live for.