I know I haven’t written in a long while. I haven’t been in the mood to write.
Today, January 24th…….is my lucky day. I can’t believe it’s been 2 years! It’s amazing how time goes by so quickly and yet it feels like it was yesterday. I have been quite emotional this past week coming up to my anniversary. I think I always will not because it’s sad, but because I am so grateful.
It’s not a day that goes by I don’t think about the day of my collapse (in a good way). I think about how lucky I was at the right place, the right time and how lucky it was to have the lifeguards doing their first aid meeting. The lifeguards will always be apart of my life for what they did for me. Gave me life. Again.
Lots have happened in the past 2 years, I got to drive again, ran a 5k and walked another, watched our daughter D graduate, moved to another province, was apart from DC for 9 months because we couldn’t sell our house, sold our house, got clearance to go back to work again, travelled, and to become grandparents.
I can look forward to the many years ahead, to watch my children grow and have their own families. I have learned life is short and to not take it for granted.
I am lucky!
After my first shock, I had a very hard time adjusting again. I felt I couldn’t do anything because if I did, I would get another shock. I was afraid to shower, go near the stove or even go up and down the stairs. I didn’t know what made my heart rate go up that day, because all I was doing was standing stirring. How could a heart just suddenly go crazy?? I had called the Pacemaker clinic to let them know I had received a shock. They said do a transmission from home (a transmission is a machine that you plug into the phone jack to read the data from your device) to see if it was in sinus rhythm or not. Did a transmission and I waited……….I didn’t wait long but when you are sitting at home it felt like hours when it was probably only ten minutes.
When they called me back, they told me that they believed I had received an unnecessary shock to the heart. Well!! talk about anxiety!!!! I thought it was a necessary shock and here it wasn’t!?! The Doctor said he believed that my heart did an irregular arrhythmia on the top of the heart and because where my ICD lead is (its on the bottom), it “felt” the arrhythmia and shocked me. His suggestion was to come in to adjust the settings to the device. He believed that the settings were too low and wanted me on a beta blocker to help regulate the heart rate. The clinic said I would come in three weeks, so that the beta blocker would be in my system for a few weeks before I went in for my settings change.
I tried my best to stay calm and do regular things again. Knowing that DC had to go back to work soon and that I would be by myself?? That was difficult. I didn’t have any troubles being by myself before but this time was different. I remember the first day he went, I was afraid to stay by myself. All I could think of was “what happens if I get a shock”?? “what if I need CPR”?? “what if I received a shock and fall, knock my self out”?? So many things were going through my mind that day. When DC came home that evening, I broke down! Most people who know me, knows that I do not get emotional like that! I am a very strong person. I’m the one who is the shoulder for everyone. So this emotion was very new to me, I broke down three times that week.
During the few weeks before I went in to get my settings changed, I didn’t want to shower without anyone in the house, I didn’t go anywhere (plus I wasn’t allowed to drive) I didn’t even go downstairs. I was going through a lot of anxiety, DC could see I was struggling and suggested to see a therapist. A therapist?? I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see a therapist because everything to me was fine. Until one day I knew that I couldn’t be afraid of my heart, and most of all, my mind. DC set an appointment with the therapist the same day for my settings change. What a day!!!!
The therapist appointment was first, looking back at it now, I would have to say even thou I was nervous and didn’t know what to expect. It was the best thing for me. I know that when we met that day, I felt the weight was lifted off my shoulders. I knew I needed to see her again. I had seen her every two weeks for about four months and as I am typing about her, I didn’t realize how much I miss her. She helped me in so many ways. I didn’t see her as a therapist, I saw her as my friend. She taught me that I needed to learn to express my feelings more, if I felt mad – be mad, and if I felt sad and wanted to cry – let it out! Don’t hold it in! Learning to do this is hard for me. I have always kept my feelings aside, don’t get me wrong, I still said my opinions but I tried to never show my “sensitive” side. I didn’t like to cry or cry in front of anyone. ANYONE! even DC haha. I said before, I was the strong one! I helped get people through their tough times but now? it’s time for me. For me. I need to, so that I will be a better person, wife, mother, sister and friend.
The next appointment was at the Pacemaker Clinic to change my settings. When I say settings, I mean they set a range that would monitor the heart rate and the defibrillator would decide when it needed to shock the heart. So mine were set at monitor at heart rate 170, ATP (Anti-Tachycardia Pacing) at 176 and if the ATP didn’t help regulate the heart back to normal then I would receive a shock. They said that it didn’t give me much warning between the monitor and the first ATP, so they changed it. They changed it to monitor at heart rate 155, ATP at 200 and if it didn’t regulate then shock at 200. I know what you’re thinking, 200?? That’s pretty high! Yes but in my case my heart does get over 176 more than normal, so they figured if its going to go that high a lot then I would be shocked for no reason. This made me feel 100% better knowing that I had a better range of monitoring. I felt really good that day, knowing that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
I am learning a lot with this defibrillator and I decided that it will not take over my life. Life is short. I have learned that twice……….
After all the things that I had gone thru in the beginning of the year, I finally felt that I was going to be alright! I was healing nicely and I had even decided that having an ICD wasn’t going to be that bad. Our oldest C had come down for Spring break to visit, because she didn’t get a chance to see me while I was recovering in BC, or for my father’s death. When C arrived, we had a family photo done so that we could update the old one, plus D had her Grad photos done at the same time. It was so nice to have the 5 of us together.
The next day, I had decided to make lasagna for supper and cherry cheesecake for dessert. While I was preparing the meal, I was standing at the stove making the meat part of the lasagna and I thought I felt something in my chest. I just shrugged it off thinking it was nothing, so I just kept cooking, but then I felt something again. I stopped immediately and knew that I should go and sit down. When I was at the Pacemaker Clinic they told me that no matter what I was doing whether it was cooking, showering, walking etc, and I felt anything I was to find a safe spot and sit down.
I immediately went to the dinning room table and sat down but I didn’t have much time because I had received my first shock! My ICD did what it was supposed to do when my heart needed it. The shock was very quick, and it was not as painful as I thought it would be, don’t get me wrong it did hurt and like someone had kicked me, but not what I was expecting. The jolt to the heart was so powerful it almost threw me backwards and off the chair but DC rushed over and held my legs down so I wouldn’t. I was so thankful that DC was home that day. I was in shock for some time and tried to stay calm because I was afraid it would go off again. When I went to bed that night however was hard, I was scared that it would go off while I was asleep and what if I went to sleep and I didn’t wake up? DC was so thoughtful, he knew that I was struggling with the thoughts of not waking up that he left the bathroom light on.
I had a lot of trouble that night with my heart rate. The more I felt my heart go up the more anxiety I had. The funny part of it all was every time DC got into our bed my heart rate would go up, and I would get hot. This happened at least four times. He would get up get me a cold cloth to put on my forehead, and check my heart rate to make sure I was okay. DC wanted to take me to the hospital but I refused. I am a very stubborn, and I didn’t want to go to the hospital! after all I had just been there.
As I have said before DC is very thoughtful, after all the in and out of bed, he felt that he should sleep on the floor beside me. He slept on the floor with his pillow and one blanket all night. To this day when I think of what he did, I cry because knowing he had shoulder surgery only a few months earlier he slept on that hard floor for me…..
The shock happened on March 23, 2012 @ 2:45pm. I will never forget this day. I will never forget the feelings that I had that day, the hurt, the worry, and most of all………..
The last post I had said I was home to start my recovery but something happened…………
Before I start on what happened, DC and I left British Columbia on February 9 th and flew to Saskatchewan to see my sister B and my Mom. We had flown there because when DC heard about my incident, he could only get a flight out in Saskatchewan, so he had driven there with our truck and left it at my sister’s place. I was so happy to see B because I knew she had been so worried about me. When I was in the hospital I hadn’t spoken to anyone but my children. I was not ready to talk to people yet. So I knew that I wanted to see B to make sure that she knew I was alright. We had only stayed one night since I was very anxious to get home and see our children. DC drove the 7 hrs that it takes to get home from my sister’s, it was a very long trip and all I wanted was just to get home and be with my children.
My wonderful Sister-in-law J (who flew out from New Brunswick) was with our two out of three children, D and E (C lives on her own in Alberta) who were waiting for us to arrive. When we arrived, there were balloons and welcome home sign. I was so over whelmed, (they even baked me some goodies!) and really emotional, that when I hugged D, I am sure that every mother would agree with me when I say this, but when you see your child (I am tearing up as I type this) seeing your child’s face looking at you and is glad that you are alright. Seeing that look, is the hardest thing I could ever see. Something that I do not want to see again. Ever!! But E just had come home from a friend’s birthday party to see me too. Another hard thing seeing our son so emotional and happy to see his mother.
So as I said earlier something happened, well we had only been home for two days and we got a phone call from my sister B………….More bad news!! As if 2012 couldn’t be any worse!! Well it did turn out even worse because B said Dad was rushed to the hospital by ambulance because he couldn’t breathe. B said that she would find out from the hospital what his prognosis was and get back to me. B called telling me that when he couldn’t breathe, Dad had a small heart attack and then in the middle of the night he ended up having a stroke, so they needed to send him to a bigger hospital. They had transferred him to another hospital and he had another stroke that next day. The doctors called and told me that there was no chance of him surviving this and didn’t know how long he had left. This just couldn’t get any worse!!! DC and I had made the decision to go back to Saskatchewan. We had decided that we would leave that next morning (because it’s a 7 hour drive and by the time we had talked to the doctor it was already late) which was for Feb 16, but…….. We got the “call” my father had passed at 11:51 pm on February 15. We left at midnight.
K,M, DC and I arrived at the same time, us coming from Manitoba and K & M from BC. We all saw our father and I still feel like I had dreamed all of this and still haven’t mourned my father’s death since I was still trying to recover from my episode. I don’t have any regrets, but I think that no matter what you will always have that feeling the back of your mind……. Did he know??? I am sure he did but because I hadn’t spoken to him in about a year you just never know. Like I said earlier I still feel like this is all a dream and that he is just going to call me up and see what I’m up to or why I haven’t called in a while? I know “it takes time to heal”, and I know now that I have been given more time to heal………………….
Before I was released from the hospital, February 1st, they had to test my Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator to make sure it was in the right spot and show me what to look for when or if something were to go wrong. They took me to a room that had a laptop type computer with a wand to “hook” me up to see how it was functioning. The nurse told me that she was going to tell me what she would be doing step by step so that I knew what to feel or not feel. I was so nervous! I even said to her, “You’re not going to shock me, to test it? are you?” she just giggled and said “No, they already did that when you were in surgery”. The nurse did some tests and I was getting a little nervous because I hadn’t felt anything yet, but she told me that I was going to feel my heart race. I couldn’t believe that this device could do this! and yet from a computer! I felt my heart pump faster, I was so afraid that she was going to make it go too fast then I would end up having a shock! but when I looked at the computer, it had shown my heart rate was only at 90, I knew it wouldn’t shock me. But I was still scared thou. Then she said that she was going to show me how it would feel if the battery is low or the lead from the ICD to the heart was not in place. She explained that it would feel like when your cell phone was on vibrate, and instead of feeling that vibration in your purse or pocket, I would feel it in my chest. Well let me tell you that was the weirdest feeling I had ever felt! The next weird feeling was the flutter, the flutter that would happen in my chest if my heart rate would go to 176, it would give me an ATP. ATP is Anti-Tachycardia Pacing, which tries to pace the heart to its normal rhythm and if it doesn’t pace to the normal rhythm then it would give me an electrical shock to make the heart go back to its normal rhythm. The nurse then gave me a print out of my “settings” which were that the ICD would watch my heart rate of 170 and at 176 it would give me an ATP and if it didn’t go back into rhythm then it would shock me.
I had stayed with K and M until I was ready to take the journey back to Manitoba. Before I took my journey back to Manitoba, I had yet another day that was going to be difficult. I wanted to meet the people who saved my life at the Rec Centre. I wanted to see the people who went with the voices that I heard that day, and to say “Thank you” for what they did for me. On February 7 th I faced the people who saved me, I cannot tell you the words to describe how I felt that day. How do you Thank someone for saving you? there are no words to completely say “Thank you” to someone who just gave you another chance at life.
Before I had walked in to the Rec Centre, I was very emotional. My emotions were so overwhelming that I had felt a flutter! I had felt my first ATP! I was so emotional that it had caused my heart rate to go high, so I tried to calm my self down and DC was there to hold me while I breathed. I was trying really hard to breathe and keep calm when I felt another flutter!(ATP) I had to keep my heart rate down because I knew if I didn’t, I would receive a shock. I didn’t want that to happen since it was only one week ago that I had the ICD implanted! I had finally calmed down enough to go in the building, they were waiting for me to come into the room where they were waiting. Well! I was so emotional that all I could do was cry. I think it was only for a few minutes that I cried, but it felt like a lifetime. I stood there looking in the faces of the lifeguards that saved my life and just cried, saying “Thank you”. I just didn’t know what else to say. What else would you say? DC, K, and M were there with me and they just let me do what I needed to do. The lifeguards were so humble, they just kept on saying that they were happy to help and it was their “jobs” and that they were happy to see me alive. I told them I understand that it was their “job” but I felt that it wasn’t just their “job”. I felt that they were there for a reason, they were there to save me that day. After I had thanked the lifeguards, I knew that my recovery was going to be alright, that I was going to be alright. I wanted 2012 to start all over and start living, but when I got home something else happened………….
When I last left you, I was in the hospital…………….. doctors had requested some blood work, what they called Blood Gas, it’s supposed to check your blood levels and they have to draw it out of your main artery. Which hurts because they took it out of my wrist.
The Doctor said they were keeping me over night for observation. I told them that they didn’t need to keep me over night, that I was fine and that I just fainted. The Doctor held my arm and looked at me, said “No you didn’t just faint, you suffered Sudden Death”. I just sat there in the hospital bed in shock. Just thinking to myself, really?? Sudden Death?? I really thought I just had fainted. The Doctor then said that I was going to see a Cardiologist in the morning, to see what we should do next.
I won’t lie, trying to sleep in a hospital is not easy let alone try to sleep when all of this happened. I was in shock still and they gave me a sedative to help me sleep. However, I had so much adrenaline that the sedative didn’t stay down. The nurse said that I had an allergic reaction to the sedative. I was actually scared to sleep, because I thought if I had supposedly suffered this “Sudden Death”, who’s to say that if I go to sleep and I don’t wake up? It actually took me a few days before I could sleep and when I did sleep it was every 2-3 hrs so it wasn’t all that great either but it was some rest.
The next morning the Cardiologist came in and discussed what he thought and clarified it to Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndrome. He also said that I was a “miracle” because only 1% of the population get this and out of that 1%, less than 1 % survive. Well talk about shock! plus I still couldn’t get over the fact that I had “died” so to speak. So that evening they airlifted me to another hospital. I was airlifted to another hospital because the hospital I was at didn’t have all the equipment, for Cardiologists to do intensive testing with my heart. That was the first night I spent by myself with out DC and K. I must admit it was really hard not to have them there, since they hadn’t left my side. I didn’t sleep well that night.
In the morning they already got the intensive testing started. I was so nervous because DC and K weren’t there right away, they had to drive, it was going to take them 6 hrs and I wasn’t sure exactly what they were going to do . My first test that they did was an angiogram. I have heard of angiograms before because my grandmother had this done. She told me that they went in her main artery in her leg, and in her arm, well when I remembered that, I was so scared! Scared that it was going to hurt! No matter how many needles I have had, I still get scared of them. The nurses told me what exactly they were going to do, that they were going to freeze my wrist and use the main artery. Then they were going to put a tube up with a camera and dye to see if there were any blockage in the heart. Well let me tell you, I think that I would have rather had my three kids, open heart surgery and the Blood Gas done again instead! It was so painful! I couldn’t feel the poke but I could feel the tube go up my arm to my heart. After they did it I remember thinking to myself, wow! my grandmother did this three times??? twice in the arm and once in the leg!! I knew I had more respect for her after that!
The test results of that came clear, had no blockage at all. Thank goodness! On to the next test!!
What my arm looked like after the angiogram, the top picture was when they took the plastic bracelet off to keep the pressure on my artery and bandaged it up, the bottom one was when they took the bandage off.
As I left you off last post, I said I didn’t make it to the hot tub that day………………. I am going to tell you what happened that day…………………..
You know the saying “second chance?” I had my second chance with my Mitral Valve repair in 2004. My title “some say luck, fate, I say “thank you”, well I say “thank you” because that day I got a “third” chance at life.
I remember running on the treadmill in the fitness area, at the Rec Centre and while I was running there was an elderly couple that came to exercise beside me on a couple of stationary bikes. I remember because I apologized for the heavy running noise, the elderly woman laughed and said to me not to worry, and made a joke saying that they were part deaf anyways. I laughed, still ran on. I noticed that there was a gentleman working out with the weights diagonal from me, and I still ran on. I looked down to see where K was with the boys because the fitness area was above the pool so that you could look down and watch. I noticed a gentleman in the pool that I thought was K but it wasn’t. I panicked looking around for K and noticed that he was walking with the boys. I thought to myself “uh oh they are going to the hot tub already without me” and I wanted to finish my run. I looked at the clock, wanting to know what time it was and it said about 2:38? So I still ran, knowing that I only had about 6 or 9 mins left in my run. Then I looked to my left and noticed a blonde girl coming to run on the treadmill beside me, next thing I remember was looking forward and my vision went like when a television loses connection and it goes snowy, well it did, then it was black…………
The next thing I remember was someone saying my name over and over which I later found out it was K. A few moments later I hear a gentleman saying my name and asking me if I knew where I was. I mumbled the place, and he said that I had to keep the oxygen mask on, because I remember fighting it with them trying to put it on my face and then I hear sirens. While I was in the ambulance, K was on the phone to hubby DC, telling him that I had collapsed and was on my way to the hospital. DC was in the grocery store when he got the news and he was so shocked that he dropped everything and left to go tell our children that their mom was on her way to the hospital. DC didn’t know what to do, whether to just drop everything and get to me or wait to find out what was wrong with me first, because he was three provinces away. K also had called M to let her know what had happened, and that he was coming to get her. A lifeguard ended up watching the boys,and there were a couple of friends of K at the pool too that knew the boys and took over. Which was a relief to K since he needed to rush to the hospital as quickly as possible.
I arrived to the hospital and I remember a woman saying to me it’s alright, you’re alright and you’re going to feel a warm sensation, don’t worry you didn’t pee yourself. I was having a CT Scan done to check if there was any brain damage, and a X-ray to check for any broken ribs. I didn’t have any damage to either brain or ribs. The whole time I was in and out of consciousness I didn’t have my eyes open. I then remember hearing K talking to someone about my information, my name, where I lived etc. Then suddenly it was like someone turned on a light switch and I could open my eyes! I looked over and saw K standing beside me and he says to the nurse” could you pass me her glasses? she’s pretty blind with out them” and he gives them to me. I put them on and looked over to K saying “What happened?” “What happened?”. K came over to me, cried, hugged me and said “you collapsed”. I was really shocked at this moment because I only remember running on the treadmill and now here I am in the hospital???
I asked K what had happened over and over, it was probably more than 5 times within an hour or more and K was getting worried, looked over at the nurse and she said it was normal for people to have a little amnesia. K explained as much as he could about what had happened…….
K said when I collapsed, the elderly couple noticed that I had fallen in between the treadmills and was unconscious, so the elderly woman rushed to get help. A lifeguard came and started CPR, while the lifeguard was doing CPR there was another one getting the AED kit. The lifeguard with the AED kit came opened it up and it had said that it was needed. My heart had stopped. They put the AED on me used it. It brought me back. All of this happened less than 2 minutes. Another lifeguard had called 911 and the ambulance was on their way. Ambulance came. Ambulance took me to the hospital.
So, you can call it luck, fate for that day but…..
I say “thank you” because those lifeguards saved my life and gave my third chance.