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

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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Rabbit Trails & Heart Attacks (Part 4)

…Continued…

Wednesday November 22, I spent the day in bed, disturbed only when nurses came for stats, and when the on call doctor popped by on rounds. “How did you sleep?” he asked.

“Like a baby!”

“Must have been that little white pill,” he grinned.

“Nah… I spit that in the waste basket the instant the nurse turned away,” I said. “I didn’t need it.”

“Really?”

“It’s still in the garbage.”

He chuckled, gave me that humoured ‘you are a defiant one’ look, went over a few other questions, and then moved on.

I was forbidden the luxury of getting out of bed alone and was told to buzz a nurse if I needed to get up for anything.

The rest of the day blurs into nothingness—probably because I did nothing but sleep, eat, and sleep some more.

That evening, the eve of my 37th birthday, Tim and our children brought a cake and birthday presents to the hospital.  We walked to the family room and had a little birthday party. Our time together lasted just over thirty minutes, followed by lots of hugs and kisses and a short walk back to my room.

Having spent my entire day in bed, it was good to be out, but I was ready to crawl back in, exhausted from the short escapade.

Minutes after Tim and our children left, I realized I was in trouble. I pulled the call bell. Each nurse was kind and sensitive, tending quickly to patients, and always reassuring me. The one that answered my call bell was no different.

I tried to explain what I was feeling—the pressure in my chest, difficulty breathing, maybe some pain—it was hard to describe the symptoms.

“I would like to call Tim. I don’t want to be alone,” I told her.

“Are you worried?” she asked.

“Worried? No.   ….Concerned? Yes.”

“Why are you concerned?”she asked.

“Because I have five children and they need a mom,” I answered.

“They have a mom—they have you,” she assured me.

“I’m not there for them right now, am I?” I challenged.

“Well, no.” She visibly relaxed.

“And depending what happens, they won’t have me again,” I said.

“Mrs. Metzger, there is still a lot that can be done for you, should things get worse.” The look of alarm that crossed her face, betrayed her confidence. It was at that moment I realized she was trying to read the real message I was sending. I had worked in a nursing home and understood the subtle signs that someone’s life is in danger and in that instant, I realized I was sending the message. My life really was in danger.

A doctor came to see me and ordered morphine to open the blood vessels. And so began a birthday night, high on morphine. Happy days!

Not how I would choose to celebrate, on the one hand, but thankful I had it when I needed it. They gave me the highest possible dose as often as they could, and still I asked for more, just to manage the pain.

Tim returned to the hospital and together we were transferred to a room where he could sleep in the bed next to me.

“Thank you for coming back,” I said. “I’ve watched people die alone at the nursing home, and I don’t want that to happen. If I am going to die, I want someone to be with me.”

Tim kissed my forehead—an act of tenderness that has always comforted me and communicated deep affection.

He didn’t want to lie down, preferring to stand beside my bed, or sit there and watch over me. I wanted him to be with me, but not to hover and lose sleep—that only caused me to worry about him. And, though I have learned to invite Tim’s love and guidance into my life, I am, and always will be, independent by nature. Being ‘watched over’ puts me ill at ease.

“Please go to bed. I promise I will call you if I need you. To have you watch over me just adds stress and will make things worse,” I explained.  I didn’t like having to ask for that space, but I felt like I was suffocating in my own body and to have anyone or anything close to me, made it worse. I felt as though I couldn’t breath, and anyone within three feet of me was a threat to my oxygen supply.

When Tim reluctantly agreed to lie on the other bed, I slipped in and out of a restless sleep. The night seemed to drag on forever.

At one point, through a haze of drugs and fatigue, I saw the room fill of doctors and nurses, discussing my situation. They were quite certain it was Pericarditis and it would take time to recover. What they needed to do in the present was get me through this crisis. Whatever the cause, my heart was failing me. Badly.

 

I wanted the pain to end. The only thing that prevented me from asking God to take me home, was my love for my husband and our five children. Every time I pictured my beautiful family, my heart cried out to God to get me through this and let me live—at least until they were grown up enough to care for themselves.

Morning broke, and with it the climax of pain and trauma, as my body revolted against the high doses of morphine with head-splitting pain and nausea. I vomited. And then I fell into a peaceful sleep. I had survived the darkest night.

Throughout the day, my 37th birthday, I progressively improved, so that, by evening, I felt quite good and was hopeful that I would return home the next day.

Tim had spent part of the day with me before heading home, and then returned again in the evening for a short visit, this time without the children, afraid that the strain would be too much. I missed them but knew I had nothing to offer, in the way of energy.

Tim was relieved to see how much I had improved and I was thankful to be past the nightmare of whatever had caused the previous night’s flare up.

I settled down quickly after he left, my body obviously exhausted. Around eleven o’clock I noticed that the heart rhythm printout on my heart monitor screen was abnormal. I called a nurse and pointed out the irregularity.

“That’s nothing to worry about,” she assured me. In hindsight I can only assume that her response was superficial, intended to keep me from worrying, or she was ill-informed. If the former, then it worked. I immediately settled down and went to sleep.

The following morning, Friday November 24, I asked the nurse if I could go home later that day. I was ready to have my life back. She said that I would possibility be transferred to St. Mary’s General hospital in Kitchener, to the cardiac care unit for some ‘routine’ testing, just to make sure there was nothing more going on.

And so it was, that, not long after our conversation, I was in an ambulance with Tim and two attendants, en route to St. Mary’s for more testing.

The technician went to work almost immediately. I watched the Echocardiogram closely. Before they gave me the news, I knew we were up against something bigger. The rhythm was off, and the black spot on the apex of my heart wasn’t supposed to be there—of that I was certain.

Within minutes I was informed that I would need to have another procedure—an angiogram—to further investigate my heart. Fortunately, thanks to studying Biology, I knew what an angiogram was and what I should expect next. I had written an exam, only two weeks earlier, on the function of the heart, angiograms and heart attacks. Nothing of what was happening, was over my head. I understood it well.

In OR I was introduced to a lovely young cardiologist not much older than I, who would do the procedure, along with about half a dozen nurses and several support staff who would assist in various ways.

Dr. Renner carefully explained each step as she worked. In between, we chatted about a variety of things, like why she became a cardiologist and how many children I had, and things like that. Had it not been for the hard metal table, and the back pain, it could have been a fairly pleasant experience.

…To Be Continued…

© Trudy Metzger

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