I inherited a bad heart from my Dad. My first indication I had heart issues came about because, despite the fact I’ve always loved to walk, suddenly I had to stop walking after short distances to catch my breath. Because of my Dad’s history, I went to the doctor on several occasions. Physically I am slim; eat relatively healthy and lead an active life. I do not look like your typical heart patient. My doctor scheduled me for several different tests including a stress test and I passed them all with flying colors. Out of frustration, I scheduled an appointment with the new young doctor that had read my stress test. I told him my story and asked if there was any final, definitive test he could give me because I knew something was wrong. He agreed to give me a new imaging test that was noninvasive and would provide the definitive results I was searching for. We’ll never know what that test would have told me because my health insurance company judged it to be too expensive. Instead, they approved a cardiac catheter test which is very invasive and put scopes through the groin and run them through the arteries to look for blockages. Fortunatel,y this test is done in a hospital because they determined that four of my arteries were blocked but they also broke up clots which traveled to my brain giving me a stroke. When I woke up there was a nurse yelling at me to tell her my name. I was irritated because I kept saying my name and it didn’t stop the yelling. Apparently, what was coming out of my mouth was gibberish. The next thing I knew my bed was on the move and I ended up in an ICU ward. This all seemed strange to me since I felt fine. As things quieted down, I began to realize I had double vision and that people couldn’t understand me as I spoke. Shortly, Ed my long-suffering husband came into the room. He had been given my room number in the waiting room but, by the time he got there, it was empty. When Ed asked about me they said me I was in ICU. Ed and I learned I had to have quadruple bypass surgery but first my brain had to heal from the stroke. Within six months I had fully recovered from the stroke except for a couple small issues I can cope with. To this day I blame the stroke for my loss of a filter. I had the quad bypass the next week. This is all background to my actual story.
Fast forward about five years. By this time, I have retired, hated it and started my post retirement gig at a retail outfit. Once I recuperated from my heart surgery and my stroke, I had pretty much lived my life unchanged. One morning Ed woke me up for work and my heart had an unusual, halting rhythm. I thought it was possible I was having a heart attack but I didn’t want to admit it. I also remembered how unpleasant my last hospitalization had been. I decided to overcome whatever was going on with optimism and positive attitude. I dressed and went to work believing it halting rhythm would reverts to a normal beat. I worked the entire shift and at the end of my shift, I didn’t think I felt better or worse but did feel really fatigued. I called Ed and told him I didn’t want him to be concerned but when I got home and changed, I wanted him to drive me to the emergency room. We got to the hospital and they asked for my problem. Once I told them what was going on, my feet didn’t hit the ground again for about two days. Quickly I was in an exam room and all wired up. The doctor and the nurse were really fun and we joked around a lot. They would only let Ed come back ten minutes of every hour. While Ed was out of the area the doctor asked me to describe what I felt and when I felt it. I relayed the same story I described above about waking up with palpitations and ignoring them because I hoped they would go away. Unfortunately, Ed was on the other side of the drape when I was talking to the doctor. When I got finished, he came storming through the curtain and gave me hell. Without success I pointed out he shouldn’t raise his voice to someone in the emergency room but he told me I had burned that bridge. It took the next ten minutes to calm him down with the nurse assuring him I was doing fine. After he left, I asked the nurse when I could go home. She said: “Honey you’re not going anywhere because you actually are having a heart attack. We’re just waiting for a room in the Cardiac Ward to open up for you.” The doctor explained that because of blood thinners I was given when I first arrived and since the attack was mild and manageable, they would wait twelve hours before they took me to surgery to put a stent in my artery. They finally found a room and, after I was settled in, Ed told me he’d see me in the morning before surgery which was scheduled for 9:00 am. Almost immediately I went to sleep. The next thing I remember was waking up with a roomful of doctors and interns (my hospital is a teaching hospital) and I was shaking like I was shivering. I tried to tell a couple of jokes because I always love an audience but no one would pay any attention and I apparently lost consciousness. Ed got a call at 4:00 am from the doctor who told him he needed to get to the hospital as soon as possible. Ed called our best friends because he was didn’t have confidence he would drive safely. When Ed got to the hospital, he told me the staff was running down the hall with a bed and when they passed, he was it was me. Later the doctor told him my heart stopped and they had to paddle me to restart it. I woke up feeling surprisingly good although very tired. As soon as I saw Ed and our friends I immediately started joking around because I was unaware of any unpleasantness. Ed was annoyed because of the drama I had created (without my knowledge) and just pressed on like nothing happened. I happily left the hospital after a couple of days and was back to selling shoes another week later. I still refuse to let my ticker limit how I live. My heart and I have decided to take care of each other.