Sunday afternoon sitting in a friends kitchen talking about Christmas, it was just another ordinary day. It was just one week before Christmas and I wasn’t ready. I still had to finish buying a few presents for my son and I had to wrap everything. Baking cookies was also on my mind. While visiting with my friend my arm was hurting, but I just put it off to Fibromyalgia. I hadn’t had that pain since I had cut sugar and fat out of my diet to lose weight, but I was a little stressed during the holiday season. The pain was coming and going so I just thought it was my fibro kicking in. I stayed and visited for an hour or so then went home to cook dinner. My pain went away and had become a dull ache so I just took some Tylenol and went to bed.
The next day, Monday, I was scheduled to work from 10 to 6. I was having some more pain in my arm, but nothing too bad. Work was becoming stressful so I just put it down to that. Popped some more Tylenol and felt a little better. Went home to cook dinner and just sat on the couch. I told my hubby that he needed to rub my back and he did. He commented that he hadn’t done that in a while since I was eating healthier to lose weight. I knew that the healthier lifestyle made my fibro pain go away so I really didn’t think anything about it until that night. We sat on the couch for a while and I leaned against him thinking that it had been a long day. I was glad that the following day was going to be a day off so I could just relax and get my gift wrapping done.
Four in the morning, December 20, 2011, I woke up with tremendous pain in my left arm. I just had that deep, down feeling that I was having a heart attack. I instantly woke up my hubby and told him to call 911. He looked at me funny and asked what was wrong, I then remember telling him to call NOW! I got out of bed and grabbed my pajama bottoms. Walked downstairs to the bathroom down there and looked into the mirror at myself. I was as gray as ash. I looked at my arms and chest and felt and looked like I was sweating. Instantly I needed to use the bathroom. I still hadn’t put my pajama bottoms on but I left the bathroom with that gut feeling still there. Stumbling out of the bathroom and into the kitchen, I just leaned against the counter and started to walk into the living room. Collapsing on the floor, I vaguely remember hubby yelling at me to see if I was awake. He had put the lights on for the ambulance and the EMT’s, and had unlocked the door. I had never got up from the floor so I was still sitting there with just a t shirt on and my underwear. I told my hubby to get me some aspirin. He questioned me as he knows that I am allergic to it, but I wanted to chew one. I tried chewing it but threw it up. At this point the EMT’s are here and helped me off the floor and into a chair. They helped me get my pajamas on and started to take my vitals. Pain. Pain was starting into my jaw. I then received a spray of nitro and I remember that helping some. My blood pressure wasn’t extremely high, but the portable ekg machine was showing something abnormal and they told my hubby that they were taking me to Hamot Hospital. I looked into my children’s eyes and could see the worry. My children and hubby followed the ambulance to the hospital. I remember being in the ambulance and the EMT was making me comfortable. I was then getting more pain in my jaw. Another spray of nitro. More pain in my left arm. Another and final spray of nitro. After that I must have lost consciousness because I don’t remember leaving the ambulance. In the ER I woke to a lot of commotion and I barely remember hearing my husbands voice. I remember hearing a Dr. that was on call and he told me that they were going to take care of me. Darkness. Another voice, a woman’s voice telling me that there will be a lot of people around me and not to panic. Panic! That same voice yells “heart rate is now at 30”. Darkness. I came to in the cath lab and I felt PAIN! Pain in my arm, my groin and I needed to tell someone! Yelling out “Oh sweet Jesus help me! Dear God please help me!!” Another voice telling me that he was working as fast as he could to help me. More pain in my groin, feeling like a Brillo pad rubbing me. Then the yanking and pulling down there. Hurt! PAIN!!! My brain couldn’t register what was going on other than extreme pain in different parts of my body. Darkness….
Laying in recovery, I heard a familiar voice. My husband. Then another voice, but who was it? Another female? Nope, a male this time. Darkness. Then another familiar voice, my mommy this time. Mommy felt like a comforting word at that point. She asked me how I was. With my eyes still closed, I told her that I was pissed! I was finally coherent enough to realize that yes, I did have a heart attack and I was mad! I heard her and the male voice laugh. Why are they laughing at me? Don’t they realize that I lost 50 pounds to take care of myself and then this happens? Then I hear my mom tell the male voice that I had lost weight. Finally, someone that understands what I was just thinking. I was waking up more so they moved me to my own room. I hear someone tell me not to move my right leg. Huh? Why not? Oh yea, I just had someone yanking on my groin. Then how in the world am I supposed to get off this bed to another one? Someone better be helping me. Yes, lots of people there to help me.
As I am laying in my own room, I tell the nurse that I have to use the bathroom. She told me that I shouldn’t need to go. Um, yes I do! “Well, don’t move your right leg and you will use a bed pan”, I was told. Huh? Fine I will just pee in front of you. Humiliating :(. After a long nap, I wake to see my mom. Where is everyone else? Doesn’t anyone care? Mom told me that everyone went to get something to eat and they would bring her something back. Thanks for being there for me mom. Yep, I needed her as the morphine that I was given was coming out of me. Throw up time! Thanks mom for being there to help. After that, I just wanted to be left alone. To think of what I just went through. Letting it all just sink in, I had a heart attack. Me, at 42 years old having a heart attack. But I thought that losing weight was supposed to help you? Why did I even bother? Emotions, angry, hurt, lonely and most of all shocked. Why me? What did I do wrong? After a long day of everyone coming in to see me and then just my husband there with me, I told him to go home.
That first night in bed, I realized that the pain I had had was my warning sign that I ignored. Why did I ignore it? Was I that stupid? I never thought that I was. It was a long night that night. Pain free, but emotionally I was still shocked and angry, so sleep was hard to come by. Next morning I woke to a bunch of tests. Chest x ray, echocardiogram, more blood work, and yes vitals. How many times do you really have to have your blood pressure and temperature taking anyway? I can remember sitting there with my cell phone and texting a friend. I thought that was what I needed, to talk to a friend. It did help, but I was still mad as hell. In the daytime, I had more company and my husband came before lunch. He sat with me and then my Dr. came in. He looked at my chart and then looked at me. He told me that he was able to put one stent in, that one stent saved my life. My artery was 100% blocked. He asked me what my diet was like and I told him that I had just lost 50 pounds and I was eating very healthy. He then asked what I use to eat. I told him that the worse I ate was cookies. I have never liked fried greasy food. He looked at my point blank and told me that if I hadn’t of lost that weight, I would have died. More shock set in. Wow!
Later in the day, my children came to see me. Thankfully they are grown and at the time one was still in high school. They brought a little ray of sunshine with them. It was nice to feel somewhat normal that day. No pain, no grogginess and I was able to eat. When everyone went home, I sat in bed and was on Facebook on my phone. I think I was having a pity party for myself because I put on there that I was missing home. Well, that was all that it took. Where are you? What’s wrong? Yep, I told the my world of friends that I had a heart attack. I think that was the most attention that I ever had. I sat and cried myself to sleep that night. It must have been the tears, and the fact that I had taken a painkiller for my back, but I slept pretty well. I woke up to more blood work, vitals, and pills and the news that I could go home. Yeah! Bad news was I had to come back in a month to get another stent. I had another artery that was 80% blocked and they wanted to wait for me to recover to go in again. :(. I came home two days before Christmas. Everything seemed like a blur. Sleep, take my medication, sleep some more, oh wait I have to eat healthier than I did while I lost weight. How am I going to enjoy Christmas? It was a slow process, but I got through it. Allergic reaction and all. I found out days after coming home, that I was allergic to the IV dye. Hives under the skin are so itchy and it just takes time for them to get out of your system. Ugh, great! One more thing to add to the list.
Thankfully my children were home on break for the holiday and helped out around the house. Laundry, cooking, cleaning, you name it they did it. Grocery shopping, yep they did that too. Unfortunately, they also helped me through my breakdown. I was sitting at the kitchen table wondering how and who took off my pajamas that morning of my attack, and I had that moment. The moment of stark realization that I have heart disease. I passed this onto my children. I have heart disease and I can’t do a damn thing about it now. Crying and sobbing into my hands, my daughter asked if I was ok? No I am not! That was the first time that I cried into my daughters shoulders. Who was the child and who was the parent? My son came into the room and stood there looking at us. My daughter, bless her heart, said ” Mom, we are going to take you to get your hair cut, that will make you feel better.” You know, she was right. I hadn’t had time to get it cut and I felt like a new person. I think it took that meltdown and something to perk me up to realize that I am still here to live. For some reason, God still wants me here on this earth!
Two weeks after my heart attack my husband and I went to a function for his work. My co worker that I worked with when I was losing weight was there. I told him that if it wasn’t for him, I would have died. I thanked him and told him that there are reasons for everything.
One and a half years after my heart attack I found out that my heart had weakened to 20 to 25%. It was at 46% right after my attack. An average adult has a working heart of around 55%. I am working below half the normal. Enter the original Dr. who was on call the morning of my heart attack. I went in on May 6, 2013 for an ICD (implanted cardiac device). I now have a pacemaker and defibrillator inside of me just in case I have another heart attack. The Dr. that put it in me told me that he wants me to see my children have children of their own. Thank you!
Since I have gone through this, I have had several people tell me that they were inspired to lose weight and take better care of themselves because they saw what I went through. If just one person reading this has any warning signs, PLEASE don’t ignore them. Seek help immediately! Not all signs will be the same. I had jaw and arm pain, but some women also have pain in their back. I didn’t . Colds sweats, nausea, vomiting, pain in arm, back and jaw are all common symptoms. Just because you are a woman, don’t think that you can do it all. Take time to take care of yourself. YOU are number one! If you are overweight, lose it. Have a partner that will support you. I lost 50 pounds before my attack, and 16 since. Sixty six pounds lighter is a load taken off my heart. If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for your children. Trust me, they will want you around when they grow up.
There are reasons for everything, and there is a reason that you are on this earth. If you have warning signs of a heart attack, please seek medical attention. We are only here once, so please take care of yourself.