I’ll sprinkle some pics along this post to break it up a little.
This all started last Tuesday, October 15, 2013. I spent the morning preparing for a night class I was to teach that evening. I pre-prepare some, but I wait till the last minute to do most of the work as it might be cancelled due to lack of participation. Tuesday morning was no different than any other day. It was nice weather, a little warm. I had been gathering lots of stuff to spray paint—glass ware, frames, etc. I had decided to spray paint several mason jars to show the participants how easy it is to change up a regular jar with colored or specialty spray paint.
I noticed as I flitted around the house and yard that my chest was hurting, and I was short of breath. Both of those were unusual, but I brushed it off. Because of the other episodes I had with chest pains, I drank some Gatorade. If you are unfamiliar with my other ER visits, I had dull chest pains while at rest. My Potassium had bottomed out, and a quick trip to the hospital, EKG, blood tests, and large doses of Potassium I was home pretty quickly. After the second visit, I started paying more attention to working outdoors in the heat, and sweating out all of my electrolytes.
After downing some Gatorade, eating a bite, and a shower…I proceeded to start loading my car with all the necessary items for class. The chest pains came back, with a little shortness of breath. The pains are difficult to describe. For me, they were dead center in my chest, and radiated up and out to both breast bones or collar bone. I didn’t have any classic symptoms, only that pain that I had never felt before.
I notified the school that I had to cancel my class. I chewed up two 81 mg. aspirins. Because the nearest ER is only about 2 minutes from my home, I phoned Jamie’s dad to take me. I had that feeling that I’m sure we all have experienced….you know the one I’m talking about. This is silly, and it’s probably nothing. But the “silly” feeling was more fleeting than it had ever been before. Because, this time was different.
I grabbed my phone charger, and my purse, and we were off to the ER. Billy dropped me off at the door, and it just so happened that someone had walked in 2 steps ahead of me. I waited my turn for Triage. After I told the registrar that I was having chest pains, everything was put in high speed. They immediately got me to a room, and hooked up to monitors. My blood pressure was 189/109. Next came some blood work and the standard EKG. Both came back okay. Ninety minutes later, more blood work and EKG. Meanwhile, the hospital had been on the phone with Dr. Rogers. He had ordered a stress test. Because this local ER is not a hospital, that meant they needed to transport me to a nearby hospital. The second set of enzymes came back, with some change.
After being there 4.5 hours I was moved to Sts. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital via an ambulance. They hooked me to the standard heart monitor in a pocket, and monitored my blood pressure, which was now under control a little. I had a restless night, waiting for the stress test the next morning. I had a stress test years ago, but this one seemed a little different.
The Technician (a nice lady named Sam) took good care of me, and lots of pictures and video of my heart. I watched the monitor as she was taking the ultrasound images. I saw my heart beating and working so hard. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the images of that. We (or at least I do) take our bodies for granted. Our heart beats every second of our life until it stops. It’s there for us, day in and day out, doing what we ask of it.
At this time, the cardiologist stepped in for a brief assessment. He had come to my room just as transport was wheeling me down for the test. Dr. Rogers is a nice man, with a gentle smile. He assured me that he felt there was nothing to worry about after looking at my numbers. He basically bid me adieu and said he thought he wouldn’t see me again. But—he did mention I should lose a few pounds.
After the pictures were taken, I was to get on the treadmill to walk uphill until my heart rate reached the level for my age. My blood pressure was pretty high again, even before we started. They wanted me to get to a heart rate of 139 — I didn’t make it. At 133, the pain became so severe, and I got nauseous enough that they had to stop. To get the best pictures, one has to immediately step off the treadmill on to the gurney so the tech can get images of your heart at work. The pain subsided slowly while I lay there. There was no need for any Nitroglycerin pills.
Back up in the room, I waited for news from the d.r. AND something to eat. It had been 24 hours since I’d had anything substantial. It’s funny how you make up stuff in your mind. I had myself convinced that they were not letting me eat because I needed to go for more tests. No—that wasn’t the case, it was just a misunderstanding.
When I got back to the room, I noticed my reading glasses were missing—the nurse on duty actually went to the gift shop to buy me a new pair of glasses. My friend saw her there as SHE went to buy me a new pair. Between the two of them, within a few minutes I was styling a new pair of glasses.
After getting some lunch, Dr. Rogers came in with a horrified and shocked look on his face. He said “I’m 90% sure that your front artery is blocked, the one we call the widowmaker. In your case the widower maker. We will be doing a heart cath to be sure.” Luckily I wasn’t alone when I got the news. A good friend had come to visit, and had been through these types of things with her husband. It was hard to absorb. NINETY PERCENT sure. BLOCKED.
Even so, I didn’t feel stressed, or worried. I felt calm and confident all would be okay. I had some visitors later that night and settled in for the night. As you probably know, you get very little sleep while in the hospital. Someone was coming in off and on all night. AT 4 A.M. the charge nurse returned my glasses, they had been in the laundry.
Jamie’s dad arrived early in the morning to see me off to my heart cath. I was experiencing some pain in my upper back. It worsened. I raised my bed, the pain didn’t subside, it started hurting in my chest—BAD. I got short of breath, and felt very weak. I rang for a nurse. I couldn’t raise my arms off the bed. Two young female nurses came in to access me. I had already had an EKG an hour or so earlier. They ordered another. They were trying to contact Dr. Solankhi to see what he wanted them to do. Because the procedure was scheduled very soon, he was in transit. They decided to give me Nitro. After the first one, the pain was better, but still very severe. Then came the second pill. Pain was improving, but not going away. They offered the third pill, I said no.
This was the scariest moment of my life—and those two sweet faces were just there at the foot of my bed staring at me. This is what they do, what they know. Can they make a headboard bench? no they can’t. So, I had to put my trust in them because I knew nothing about chest pains, and it’s their business to know what to do. I thought I was dying. I suppose if I had seen them rushing around and panicked, I would have been even more anxious.
Those two young ladies took me to the cath lab instead of waiting for transport. The staff in the cath lab was great. They explained everything to me and took very good care of me. Although the meds were suppose to relax me and make me sort of in la-la land they didn’t. They give their patients morphine during the procedure, but I told them that I had some kind of adverse affect the last time I had it, so they decided not to administer it to me. So, that meant I would go through the entire procedure without any pain meds. (They did numb me locally in my groin where the surgeon actually did the procedure) I did have some pain in my chest during the procedure, which caused them to squirt some Nitro in my mouth under my tongue.
I wasn’t able to see the t.v. monitors very well. But I could hear them talking, and pretty much knew what they were doing most of the time. Before I knew it the procedure was over, and Dr. Solankhi was telling me that my artery had been 99% blocked and he had sort of locked two stents together and put them in place. I think it had only been two hours since I had the episode upstairs where I literally thought I was going to die, and now the worst was behind me.
I went to recovery, they call it “short stay”. My cousin Terry came to stay with me so Jamie’s dad could go home to take care of Louie. After an hour, the nurse took the little tube out and held pressure on my artery (in my groin) for 30 minutes to make sure it wouldn’t bleed, then it was flat on my back for another hour—after which I went back to my hospital room.
I had some lunch and played cards with some friends while keeping my right leg straight for the next 5 hours. I was never so happy to be able to get out of bed, ever!
The next morning (Friday) I felt great and I was so ready to go home. Nothing happens quickly in the hospital, so it was late afternoon before I got to leave.
On Saturday, I hung out a little bit with friends, Sunday I went to an 80th birthday party with those same friends. As I finish this post up on Sunday evening, I’m tired. I’ve been monitoring my blood pressure and it’s better than it’s been in years. The drs have changed up my medicine, adding new meds, switching some others. I return for a follow-up in two weeks.
I will be taking it easy for the next week or so, hoping to get back to doing what I love to do really soon.
As you probably know, my ONE show (Glendale) was this past weekend. I, of course didn’t go. I gave my double booth to my cousin’s daughter. She had already scheduled a regular booth, but I thought there was no point in my double space going to waste. As it turned out, it was chilly and rainy most of the day.
I am telling you my story because I want you to be aware that there are great tests and procedures to be done. IF you think you have a problem, please see your d.r. Doesn’t it make more sense to address the situation and get a stent inserted instead of waiting till several arteries are blocked and you need triple by-pass surgery.
I’m am definitely no expert on any of these matters, but I do know that I have been under a great deal of stress for many years. I plan to make several lifestyle changes including diet, exercise and monitoring my stress levels.
Please pay attention to the signals your body gives you.
Because the LAD provides much of the blood flow for the left ventricle, which in turn provides much of the propulsive force for ejecting oxygenated blood to systemic circulation via the aorta, blockage of this artery is particularly associated with mortality. In the medical community ischemic heart attacks associated with this blood vessel are colloquially called “the Widowmaker.”
This video is a PSA, a little light-hearted, but pretty much hits the nail on the head with the way we women deal with stress.