Just over seventy-seven hours ago I looked at our youngest and said, “I don’t feel well.” And then I called 911.
March 7 I posted some updates on health testing I’ve been going through. In spite of all tests coming back indicating there are no problems — EKG, heart stress echo, blood work etc — I knew something was wrong…. a matter of time. At least I was quite sure of it…
Sunday morning I woke up feeling very tired. If that had not become my new normal, since changing my meds a few months ago, this would have concerned me. A nondescript feeling of un-wellness niggled, so I told Tim I was going to stay in bed… My chest and my arm and shoulder were achy. He had to slip out — though I don’t recall him saying good bye, though he did — so I slept until sometime around 1:30 to 2:00. The pain persisted, and I wondered if I had slept funny… and was that hunger pains? I ate a bit, but rather than improving, the pain got worse, and I felt worse. I tried to focus but found myself constantly distracted by the pain. And then came that moment of awareness that something was very wrong…
That’s when I told our youngest I wasn’t feeling well, and asked him to get my BP cuff. It was 183/130… up from a normal reading before falling asleep. I called Tim, told him I wasn’t ok, and then called 911. At their order, I chewed my Aspirins, and waited. The first responder arrived within minutes, attached the heart leads and took my BP again. 206/140… The ambulance arrived moments later, and so began this next phase of my medical journey.
In 2006 a massive heart attack left me with a dead spot, and my cardiologist told me I may not feel the next one, if it comes. If I do, it may not feel the same. I never really worried about it. On Sunday, when it happened, I was both sure and unsure at the same time. I’ve had ‘episodes’ numerous times over the past 4 years. Always questioning, never certain. (In hindsight we are quite certain I’ve had numerous SCADs). The only thing that made me somewhat sure this time that it progressed to heart attack was the pain in my left arm, which by that time started radiating into my jaw, and at moments my back. And then there was that restless feeling of knowing something wasn’t right.
In hospital I was admitted, after some debate, for high blood pressure rather than heart attack symptoms since the pain had cleared up quickly when they brought my BP down. Within hours the cocktail of meds began, with adjustments over the next few days, including anti-coagulants to prep for investigating. Last night they did an angiogram and discovered I had a mild heart attack, due to a dissection (SCAD) toward the lower portion of my posterior descending artery. There is no sign of coronary artery disease, the doc said, all arteries – including the one that collapsed twelve years ago, and the stent they put in — are in excellent condition.
It is complex, to say the least. There is no specific known cause, though a highly stressful event could trigger it. If I had been through stress, that would make sense. There are also markers — a particular unusual blood vessel in the kidney — which he checked for with angiogram, and I don’t have. At the end of they day, the doc said he doesn’t know for sure what caused it. It is possible I may have an underlying condition contributing to these events, or maybe the symptoms coinciding with changing meds mean there is a link there. In any case, this is something that may never happen again, or could happen again, any time, anywhere in my body.
Just to keep it interesting, I nearly passed out after the procedure, as my BP dropped and the pain in my arm set in. Swelling at the site indicates potential bleeding below the skin, versus bleeding out, so the nurse had to put pressure on it. “Would you like to lie back?” she asked. “No. It’s okay, I’m fi… … I’m not fine,” I said as my world started spinning. And then came the visual disturbance with squiggly vision and partial blindspots, leaving me with tunnel vision. You realize in a moment like that how vulnerable life is, and what a gift health is, and how incredibly fascinating our bodies are.
Medications will be adjusted to manage the premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) that I have – which are more pronounced on certain meds, but always ‘present’ — and keep my heart from working too hard, as well as keeping my BP low to reduce as much stress on my heart as possible. And I will continue to do what I started some years ago, and be constantly be mindful of what stresses I can handle, and what I cannot…. but be even more strict about it.
After recovery — which they don’t anticipate taking too long — I plan to continue with my PhD and ministry, and live life to the fullest. In the meantime, I am grateful for the people who are rising up and stepping in to help survivors of trauma locally, as well as many in PA and across USA.
I trust God with the many broken hearts of those devastated by abuse. He will come to you, and heal you. He cares for you. I care for you. Many of us care deeply. You are not alone.
And I trust Him with my life. I am at peace. I have no fear. The purpose He spoke over my life when I was not yet conceived in my mother’s womb rests over me today with the same authority as it did then. And that cannot be taken away or altered. His Word goes through eternity, unchanged by life’s curve balls.
Until that is fulfilled, ya’ll are stuck with me.
Tonight I am back home, thankful to God for His kindness and grace in my life. I am most thankful for the excellent care offered by the paramedics, and St Mary’s hospital (Kitchener) cardiology team — nurses, doctors and support staff. And with special appreciation for staff who were there the first time — especially NP Vera — for the blend of compassion and humour. (I promise, we were only snuggling and trying to nap…. not even kissing.)
~ T ~
Ps. Familiarize yourself with heart attack symptoms so you can help yourself or those you love. Familiarize yourself with abuse symptoms for the same reason.