Pow-wows, death curses and a happy dance

SATURDAY MARCH 16 UPDATE:
Last night was horrible. That’s just the truth. Chest pain/discomfort all night, and low BP, and the uncertainty of this condition I find myself in, looming over me. But symptoms constantly reminding me how fragile my life is.

Last night was incredible and beautiful. That’s just the truth. In my uncertainty, I was certain. Peace resting over the heaviness, and knowing I am okay; there is nothing to fear.

I prayed, again, a prayer I find escaping my lips these days when my heart is unstable. “God, You hold my life in your hands, and I trust You”… and I go on to tell Him that with all I have seen and know in this fallen world, the ‘forever peace’ of the other side is inviting. It draws me. I’m not gonna lie. But then I tell Him that for the love of my life – Tim, my children, grandchild, family, friends-who-are-family, and all my friends, not to mention supporting survivors of abuse, I would really like to live for quite a long while yet. And I prayed for a good friend and his family who have gone through a brutal health crisis in the past week, and has seen God do miraculous things.

Something like that is what I pray, over and over again, in the uncertainty that settled over me in January as symptoms progressed. Unbelievable fatigue, low-grade fevers, followed by crazy and unusual-to-me joint pain, irregular heartbeats (PVCs, for the medically inclined), and spikes in super high blood pressure. These eventually led to my heart racing the days leading to the dissection (SCAD) and mild heart attack. Those symptoms are not benign.

Now here we are, post ‘event’. This phase of adjusting meds while the dissection heals is especially volatile and uncertain, from a medical perspective. (The nurse’s parting words were, “I don’t want to scare you, but…” and then told of a woman who did well in hospital with SCAD and returned days later after a massive heart attack. Good to know. Being informed saves lives). And knowing my body with medications I expect some bumps. It does not like meds, and I do not adjust easily.

The whole experience is physically and emotionally exhausting, at moments, as I find myself contemplating the cost to family while I am not able to do much. (And, again, not gonna lie… I contemplate the cost of worst case scenario, and the thought of leaving is a bit overwhelming. Which is about the time I pray that prayer).

Yet, at no point have I been in fear. For this I am thankful. Growing up in violence and abuse, and always fearing for my life left me fearing death for many years. And then I had the first heart attack in 2006 on the eve of my 37th birthday. That day I learned that nothing but death can kill me, and there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of. By the time death comes, I’ll be on the other side and then I will be more alive than ever I have been before here. That terror never returned. For twelve years I’ve lived with knowing my heart is high risk, by all human and medical standards, yet it has not limited me but rather propelled me further. I anticipate this round will do the same.

***

In the past few years I’ve been cursed with death wishes, and received messages that certain conservative communities held pow-wows to silence me and curse my life. A stranger wrote that she heard groups were “sending curses to you and doing witchcraft“, to which I responded “Believe it or not, this actually kind of excites me. It means that we are penetrating something in the spiritual realm that is far bigger and deeper than we could possibly imagine.” I feel that thrill no less today as I recover than I did then.

(One friend mentioned that there would be those who would throw a celebration at the news of my death. Ah well… Put that party on hold and blow out the candles. I’m still here and doing a happy dance. I didn’t mean to get your hopes up).

When I first realized my heart was in trouble in the past few weeks, and went through numerous doctor visits, ER visits and testing, I thought of the curses spoken. I wasn’t worried that they hold power, but it did occur to me that they who spoke them might claim having such power. (And that includes those who spoke these things in relation to me exposing things that needed to be exposed).

So it is no secret that there are those who would celebrate my end, but this is of no concern to me. I walk in strength. The hand of God rests gently on me, always. He is near and holds my life in His hands, firmly, kindly, and graciously. No curse or darkness spoken has any authority or power in my life; I put no weight or stock in it. And this event won’t silence me. It will enlarge my territory. That’s what it will do. And allow me to touch the hearts of more wounded. Therefore, I praise God for it.

In the middle of the physical pain yesterday, I found Psalm 71… This is my response to both the curses spoken (death wishes), and the events of this past week (and those leading up to it).

Screen Shot 2019-03-16 at 1.44.24 PM

Maybe I’m not quite ‘old and grayheaded’, but I did become a grandma (or Nana) almost three weeks ago, and I have seen ‘great and severe troubles’, so it fits. In any case, I love David’s candid conversations with God. He doesn’t much sugar-coat the harshness of people wanting him dead, and asking God to protect him to the shame of those who wish him evil. David shows us how to be honest, to say it as it is, and still walk away with a dance and praise. I like it.

***

SUNDAY MARCH 17 UPDATE:
So far today I’m feeling better than I have since before the episode. I’m still incredibly fatigued. My right arm still aches from the procedure. And my heart is still skipping to its own rhythm. (How appropriate!)  The sudden ‘zapping’ and piercing pains (milliseconds long) are still sporadically there. But the feeling of my entire heart and surrounding chest area are spasming and tense is all but gone. And that is a gift.

Whatever that was, and whatever caused it, I am very glad to have it behind me. It was this squeezing (but not same as heart attack pressure) inside my chest, wearing me out. Deep breaths, sighs and yawns… nothing made it better. So I would rest — as in sit/lie back, because how do you take a break from doing nothing?

In the middle of that but not knowing these details, a friend from PA sent this message, “All I know is that the Strong Hand of God is on you. Soon after you told us that you were hospitalized a heavy, heavy something fell on me and I literally went down on the floor and I entered into a deep intercession like I haven’t experienced in a couple years. […] I had such a sense and a picture of the Strong Hand of the Lord holding you in a strong grip, you are covered from head to toe by His hand so that no weapon formed against you can prosper and even when His grip feels tight and weighty, remember that it’s protection, it’s safety, it’s wine pressing and it’s life giving.”

Now, a day later, feeling no ‘heavy grip of death’ around my heart, I am encouraged and amazed by the kindness of God. The words in Psalm 72, the message from a friend, the awareness of curses spoken (again, they hold no power), and God’s faithfulness in the middle of it all. And peace. How grateful I am, that in every moment – from the first awareness that ‘here we go again’, to the doctor’s “you are aware that during the procedure there is a risk of stroke, heart attack and even death?” – I felt the peace and presence of God. Nonetheless, I’m particularly happy to be alive today.

First thing I did this morning, upon waking, was prop myself up and tell Tim that I have no pain today. None. That felt good. Throughout the day there have been small episodes, but nothing too concerning or alarming. Some of this is expected post event/procedure. As with yesterday, as the day progresses so do symptoms, and I find I need to rest more. (Since I don’t get up until noon, that means I last about 4 hours before symptoms start again).

Friends set up a meal train locally, and friends from out of country blessed us with a meal from a local restaurant. I didn’t expect this kindness. It never occurred to me to receive such a thing, but when offered and I was so exhausted, I said yes for Monday to Friday for one week. (And they booked two!) We are so grateful!

Tomorrow I see my family doctor, and we discuss what next and where to from here. We really don’t know what to anticipate. And, if there was a link to the meds I was on, they have been discontinued and the Lupus-like-symptoms should disappear. With that, I anticipate the risks will also disappear.

If that was not the cause, then we wait it out and ride the waves and watch the sunset. Because life is too short to waste the beauty found in either one.

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2019

hearts, 911 calls, and ambulance rides…

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.

Jeremiah 1:5

***

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.)

As always…
Love,
~ 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.

© Trudy Metzger 2019

Rabbit Trails & Heart Attacks (Part 5)

The large screen displayed my heart in full, magnified view. The dye flowed through the veins, spreading through my heart with each heartbeat. Suddenly it stopped on one side of my heart, clearly unable to pass through the one artery.

Dr. Renner expressed utter shock as she informed me that I have coronary artery disease. The disbelief in her voice, spoke for itself, but she also verbalized it.

“What does this mean?” I asked. Shock set in quickly, even as the questions formed. I needed answers. How could this happen to me? We didn’t have a strong family history of heart disease. Yes, my Grandpa had died in his eighties and Dad had died in his seventies after fighting diabetes and not watching his diet. I was young, healthy and high energy.

My mind raced again. Did I have weeks? Days? Months? Years, if I was lucky?

“This is odd.” Dr. Renner spoke again, obviously puzzled by what she saw. “All of your other arteries are perfect.” She paused, assessing the images on screen. “You have beautiful arteries! It’s just that one artery that is completely blocked.”

“See this here,” she pointed to the blocked artery, “no blood is getting through.” She went on to show me the normal arteries and blood vessels and how the blood flowed through, branching out from the main vessel, to provide oxygen to every part of the heart. She then explained that she was quite certain the blockage was not plaque but, that, in fact, she believed it had collapsed.

“What would cause something like that?” I asked

“Drugs. It’s something we see in young men who over exert themselves after doing dope.”

“Yeah…. that would not be me! I only tried it twice in my life and not even a whole joint! And that was twenty years ago! Is there anything else that could cause it?” I wanted answers. Fears threatened. Would I spend the rest of my life on the edge of death? (The mind is a funny thing… We all are nothing more than a breath, a heartbeat, away from death.)

“I’m going to try to balloon it and see if we can open it back up.” Ballooning went well and, to my relief, the blood flowed normally again. Dr. Renner observed it for five minutes to see if it would stay open or collapse again. Gradually the vessel constricted, leaving us with no choice but to proceed with an angioplasty—inserting a stent into my Left Anterior Descending Artery, to keep it open.

“Is the stent made with surgical stainless steel?” I asked.

“Are you allergic to metals?” she asked.

“I can handle surgical stainless steel, sterling silver and gold.”

It was determined that to proceed would put me at undue risk of my artery becoming blocked again due to scabbing, caused by allergic reaction to the metals. Dr. Renner and the medical team consulted with another cardiologist in the hospital to determine what would be the best course of action. In the end, they called a specialist at another hospital for advice. The final answer was to use a titanium stent, and soon the procedure was completed.

Walking out of OR ahead of me as the nurses pushed my bed through the doors, Dr. Renner greeted Tim in the waiting area. “We all have egg on our faces,” she said, before telling him that I had suffered a serious heart attack and explained what had turned a thirty minute procedure into several hours of waiting for him.

The care I received at St. Mary’s Hospital was second to none. Nurses, while busy, never neglected to check on me and respond to call bells. As traumatic as the experience was, they brought a sense of calm and safety to my badly shaken world.

Toward evening I noticed what felt like a wheezing or ‘sqeaking’ in my chest when I breathed. Memories are vague. I was exhausted and drifted in and out of sleep but at some point the nurse informed me that I had developed a touch of Pericarditis from the strain on my heart.

Oh the irony! The thing that the medical team originally thought had started the heart issues, and had delayed me getting the help I needed, had developed in the end, because of the delay! Whatever it meant in terms of my ongoing health, I believed I would be okay. Either way, the road ahead was not going to be easy, and the recovery would require time and patience.

When tragedy strikes, we instinctively go into survival mode, numb to reality. It is only in hindsight that we recognize this ‘autopilot’ and the shock and strain of what we lived through.  Even fear is put on hold, in extreme situations, until a time when we are able to process it. For me that ‘day of reckoning’ with this reality, came a few months after I was released from hospital. I had moments of curiosity about what had really happened, but I had not found the courage to explore it, until that day.

As I am wont to do, when looking for information, I wandered over to my computer and started to search reliable websites, like Mayo clinic and others like it, to find out exactly what an LAD collapse is, and what the associated risks are, both short term and long term. On one site, I read several stories of other young women who had suffered this particular heart attack, also with no explanation as to the cause. I learned that it is one of the most dangerous heart attacks—morbidly known as ‘the Widow Maker’—and that I was fortunate to be alive, even though the apex of my heart was quite damaged.

One article in particular terrified me. A woman in Dallas Texas, only thirty-seven years old, had survived the heart attack and three months later suffered Sudden Cardiac Death just as she arrived at the hospital emergency unit for help.

I stopped reading and stumbled to the phone. I called Tim. I was cold, shaking. Tim answered. All my fears spilled out. I was going to die. The apex of my heart had been quite damaged and one day, I was certain, I would drop over dead. I was worried about our little children. Who would care for them?

Tim listened patiently and tried to reassure me. It was the first time I faced my fears head on. I wanted so desperately to trust God with my life, and sometimes I did, but in those vulnerable moments, fear took over and I felt like I was suffocating again. Eventually I hung up and tried to go back to what I had been doing before I searched for answers and found that story.

The story kept tugging at my mind and, with it, the fear. In a moment of resilient determination, I returned to the computer. I would finish reading the story and if it revealed I was high risk, I would deal with it. This torment could not continue.

To my amazement, only about two sentences later in the story, I discovered that the hospital staff were able to restart the woman’s heart and she went on to live a full and active life. I needed that reassurance, to know that there was hope and a chance that I would survive and live a full life. I still had work to do and there was one specific passion I needed to pursue. The thought of dying without it, grieved me deeply.

I knew I couldn’t put my faith in that information—only God is deserving of my faith—but in my humanity that boost gave me courage to face the future and let God bring something good out of yet another tragedy. And with time He would. That tragedy stirred in me the passion to pursue a dream that I had carried in my heart for many years; a dream that required courage. And that courage that had been developed by facing one fear after another over the course of many years.  Now, facing the fear that my dream would go to the grave with me, I knew had to pursue.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, because You, oh God, are with me. You comfort me and bring purpose out of the shadows.

In the hospital when I feared I would die, I begged God to let me live because I didn’t want Tim to be a widow, and for my family to have to do life without their mother. But there was one more prayer that I prayed. I wanted to survive so that I could tell my story and give other victims of abuse and violence the courage to face their pain, and overcome it by inviting Jesus into ‘the hell of life’.

The dream came complete with a plan, but I had never been able to see my way through that plan before because my fears were more powerful than my dream.

As I faced death, and the thought that my dream could go to the grave with me, my dream overpowered my fear. Somehow I knew I would survive and see that dream come to life.

Today I live that dream in the form of Generations Unleashed–a ministry we are launching with our first conference for men and women–and Faith Girls Unleashed the ministry we started for women in 2010.

I wouldn’t want to go through the heart attack again. I don’t believe it should have happened, and the medication we feel was to blame has been pulled from the market, for which we are thankful. But I am thankful that God used that near-death encounter to make me realize if I don’t risk the dream, it may well go to the grave with me.

© Trudy Metzger

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