Monday May 13, 2019 started out like any other Monday. Until about 11am, when I felt an unusual wave of fatigue. A single mother of a certain age with a three year old boy of boundless energy, exhaustion wasn’t unfamiliar but this was sudden and overwhelming. A short time later it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. Now that was concerning. Naturally, I did the only thing a responsible, reasonable adult would do. I googled my symptoms. I was ultimately led to the American Heart Associations YouTube Video by Elizabeth Banks which is so hilarious and so me.
So playing my part as the busy type A, “I don’t have time for a heart attack right now” I remained at work then picked up my son from preschool by which time I had a headache and nausea as well.
I had vertical sleeve gastrectomy in 2018. I lost 70lb. I quit smoking in 2017. That same year, I separated from my husband after 10 months of a co-dependent/chaotic marriage.
Since the surgery/weight loss and separation, I had a significant reduction in life stressors. I was eating well. I had developed good sleep habits. I had a strength forged by the fire of the preceding three years. I was the healthiest I had ever been in my life. My body was a well-oiled machine, a temple of the most High God, Fearfully and Wonderfully made!
I was attending church, serving at a local mission and thriving in my relationship with God. So it was perplexing to me that my blood pressure was high, sometimes critically high. I saw my PMP who restarted me on a blood pressure medication. When the medication didn’t work, I developed a sense that there was something structurally wrong with my heart.
Then I went to a Functional Medicine Physician recommended to me by a co-worker for a more holistic approach. I met with the physician for a very lengthy initial assessment. He scheduled me for labs and a follow-up appointment.
3) Back to May 13
…when I finally broke down and went the two blocks from my house to the emergency room, who was there at the ER but my Functional Medicine Doctor! He remembered me. I was both delighted and mortified. I was mortified because he wasn’t my doctor anymore.
And why wasn’t he my doctor anymore?
So…..I did a thing. I complained to the clinic that he wasn’t responding to my messages on the patient portal. He later explained he wasn’t at the Functional Medicine Clinic anymore because he’d realized he didn’t have the time to devote to it. I was delighted because he remembered me. He remembered that I had a family history of heart disease.
He remembered I’d been experiencing chest pain for quite some time. He remembered I had dangerously high blood pressure at times. He ordered some tests. Then we had a conversation.
We had a conversation. He explained why he felt I should be admitted and the tests that would be performed during my stay. Then he did something uniquely awesome….he asked me how I wanted to proceed. I told him I concurred, based on my clinical background (Web MD, General Hospital and Greys Anatomy).
I don’t know how to explain what followed except to say it was a complete cluster. The Hospitalist discharged me despite Dr.Roth’s recommendations. The hospital said all of my appointments were scheduled but those same providers said the “appointments” were “recommendations.” Eventually, I had a stress echo, which an ultra sound of your heart after exercise. They said they’d call with results in a few weeks if there were no concerns.
They called THE NEXT DAY and said the Cardiologist wanted to see me. That is never good. When we met he said he had concerns. He scheduled a cardiac catheter or angiogram of my heart.
5) Tuesday June 11
I was experiencing symptoms similar to those of on May 13-shortness of breath, heaviness of my chest, fatigue and this time dizziness. I know what you’re thinking….naturally, I learned from the mistake the first time and empowered by Elizabeth Banks I rushed myself to the ER…..and you would be wrong!
I had a meeting to get to. Faced with the decision, meeting or self-care? I think by now you know what I did. Huffing and puffing and leaning on the wall for support because I was so dizzy, I headed downstairs.
Wouldn’t you know it, the door was locked. Luckily Taylor, our helpful and friendly facilities person, went to fetch the key and as I hear him return I could feel myself slide down the wall and slip away. I was only out for a moment. Poor Taylor blesses his heart, he was so concerned and attentive. Only later did I learn I nearly gave the young man PTSD! While for me passing out was nothing, for him (a normal human) this was so not normal.
I was taken to the closet hospital, much to my chagrin. My 19 year old 6’5 inch 300+lb son found me on a gurney in the hall surrounded by other patients. No partition. No curtain. Nothing between me and the psych patient who was attempting to disrobe. No barrier between the rugges (that’s the nicest word I could come up with) man with a cath-not the heart kind- and visibly oozing wounds. My son walked over to me and promptly said: “Oh no Mommy you can NOT be here!” Next thing I know, eight hours later, I was at my hospital in my little neck of the woods. Enter my cardiologist who said he would be doing the cath-stat!
Let me say this about my Cardiologist, he is a Believer!
I know this because when he was explaining the anatomy of the heart, he referenced how God makes our hearts. I immediately shared that I was a Believer too and how I felt him sharing his faith with me was the Comforter easing my concerns.
I didn’t meet Dr.Harlamert by chance any more than I met Dr.Roth by chance. God has a way of putting people in our lives at precisely the right time. The circumstances as I have shared them up to this point may not seem like a blessing but it was.
Next thing I know I am laying in a procedure room... I was given sedation. Now, I told them they didn’t give me enough.
Me: “I am completely awake and alert.”
Dr.H: “Oh trust me you won’t remember any of this,”
Me: “Oh I bet I will!”
He took me up on the wager and gave me a code word for after the procedure. If I remembered the word, that would prove I was awake and alert…..Dr.Harlamert, you owe me a steak dinner.
When my heart appeared on what looked like the biggest flatscreen I’d ever seen, and the room buzzed. I was completely aware. What I heard in the frenzy…
Everyone else: “OMG!” “Have you ever seen one like that?!” “WOW!”
Me (with a camera in my heart!): “Dr.H is everything ok?” “
Dr.H: “You just have a very unique heart”
Me (without missing a beat): “I told you I am fearfully and wonderfully made!”
That very unique heart is an Anomalous Right Coronary Artery with an Aortic origin and small intermural, interatrial segment.
- That very unique heart is the second leading killer of young athletes.
- That very unique heart was so rare that all of the information/research I read online was in people post mortem (after they are dead).
- That unique heart causes sudden cardiac death but the risk would not be quantified.
- That unique heart could stop beating-literally.
- That very unique heart is held in God’s hands every moment of every day and it beats because HE allows it to, causes it to, forces it to.
With my diagnosis, the truth of the words of the Apostle Peter came to fruition in my life…”I die daily.” I had to die unto self, to this world and the natural response of fear and panic. Of course, I had a moment of pause. Sadness at the thought of not raising my youngest child, seeing the man he would become. Mostly I was stressed about the logistics of a catastrophic medical condition. Yet overwhelmingly, the Holy Spirit washed a sense of calm over me.
I had this thought “I need to live like I am dying, whether or not I am.”
The Holy Spirit responded, “That’s what I wanted you to do all along.”
In closing, this is not a blog about my very unique heart. Actually, I guess it is. It isn’t about my physical heart but my heart for God.
I do believe I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I believe you are too. I believe all things are possible through God, Our Father.
I believe everything happens for a reason. I believe we can find joy and peace and gratitude in any situation. And if I didn’t believe that before I learned about my very unique little heart, I do now. I believe someone else needs to hear this…
YOU are Fearfully & Wonderfully Made!
American Heart Association - Elizabeth Banks in "Just a Little Heart Attack"
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