If there ever was a time I was woefully unready for what would confront me, it would be 1 July 2020. You see, that was the day I suffered a heart attack, aka The Event.
If you’ve known me awhile, you’ll know I’m struggling with a poor relationship with my mother. And that the current distancing situation has been both a blessing and a challenge. However, I never saw this challenge coming.
Well, on the Tuesday before The Event, I’d gone to work as usual and then had lunch out. Where I live, work and dining out are allowed provided a group does not exceed 5, and work spaces are spread out and we work in teams to reduce intermingling.
I felt tired and not terribly chatty but passed it off as the after-effects of having submitted two projects that morning. Then I went home and had dinner with my family.
I felt muscle spasms across my back and a pokey hollow feeling in my chest. Again, I thought it was exhaustion, and regretted not having headed home early for a nap! I had an early night instead and woke up feeling normal.
Wednesday was my off-day so I was at home when the spasms hit at around 2pm. This time, I felt like I was running a vertical marathon and unable to stop. My chest felt as if it was splitting apart, I couldn’t fill my lungs and then came the cold sweats … and the realisation that this was Not Good!
I went to the hospital.
It must have been a sign of the severity of The Event because I went from check in (mandatory temperature check and Safe Entry registration) at the hospital entrance to the OR in less than 30 minutes. No usual 2 hour wait for a doctor this time!
I was strapped to an ECG machine, had multiple needles inserted to draw multiple vials of blood, had two teams of personel to change me out of my home clothes and into scrubs, had chest x-rays done and gone from the Emergency Admissions area to the Heart Centre OR.
I had no time to feel fear really. I was more agog at all the activity going on around me and I remember thinking these medics were as efficient and coordinated as Formula 1 pit crews! Two doctors explained that they’d have to put a stent into one of my arteries; it would be inserted via an “injection” near my right wrist. I learnt later that they’d also spoken to my waiting family. Throughout, a nurse held my hand or kept her hand on my shoulder, patting me in silent comfort. Bless this lovely person!
In the OR, the surgeon explained the processes and asked if I wanted to watch how the stent would be inserted. Sure. Why not. The other option was to stare the overhead lights.
A huge video screen was angled towards me, and I was thus privy to an exclusive front row seat to view my beating heart. Coloured dye flooded the screen and highlighted the problem artery. Suddenly, a stent appeared in place like an elongated UFO. This was the moment that brought immense relief from the pain and tension, and the moment of total peace.
“You feel nothing now, right?” the surgeon asked from the other side if the monitor. “No more pain?”
Today, I would have asked if that meant I had moved on to some other plane but at that moment, being able to inhale normally was good enough!
I spent 2 nights in the Cardiac ICU and was discharged to recuperate at home for the rest of July.
So here I am. I’ve had 2 weeks of Cardiac Rehab and physiotherapy sessions. I’ve spoken to a counsellor, and will be meeting a dietician next month. Then I’ll be meeting my surgeon to discuss affairs of my heart moving forward.
There has been nothing conclusive about the cause of the event. My bloodwork, blood sugar, cholesterol and so on were all within range, as was my BMI.
My physiotherapist wonders if The Event was stress induced. So do I, particularly considering how much has happened in the past 12 months.
Right now, I want to rest and heal. It feels weird to not go to work. And it is (selfishly) annoying that there’s nothing new on the telly. The books that I want to read won’t arrive in time so ebooks will have to suffice.
But I am breathing. It is enough because I am unready to leave yet. I know it’s not up to me but I pray for more time to take time for me. To let go of people and situations that do me no good. To chart new paths and learn new skills to enrich my world and make me a better, calmer person. To accept that there are lifelong medications to take and that certain activities will no longer be possible.
I am, at least, ready to make positive changes.
RDP ~ UNREADY
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