I thought I was going to die yesterday. And it scared the living hell out of me.
I had the living daylights scared out of me on Tuesday, May 31. I woke up that morning with horrific pain in my chest. I didn’t know what was wrong. I got the boys off to school and I lay down on the couch trying to do my slow, deep breathing exercises I learned during Lamaze classes all those many years ago. It didn’t help. I told The Man Thing what was going on when he was getting ready for work, and he seemed to think that I most likely pulled a muscle carrying all of the paraphernalia back and forth from our apartment to the picnic grove for our Memorial Day cookout. I didn’t agree with him, but I told him I would give it some time and see if it started to ease up any as the day went on.
It got worse. I tried to go about my normal day which includes picking up the house and straightening up all the rooms. I needed to bend over to pick something up and thought I had died right there on the spot. The pain was excruciating, as though someone was trying to rip out my heart from the bottom of my feet. I just knew that before the day was over with I was going to have a full-blown heart attack and end up dead.
You might think that is a bit extreme; but the women on my mother’s side of the family have all suffered congestive heart failure and most of them have died at an early age. My own mother died at the age of 45 after her second heart attack, and my mother’s mother also had suffered a heart attack at a young age, but died of breast cancer at the age of 43.
I remember when my mother was a patient at Hershey Medical Center and her cardiologist and I were talking outside the ICU while my family was waiting for our visitation time with Mom. He told me that the type of heart problems she was dealing with were hereditary, and that I needed to be careful the older I got so that I would not end up in the same predicament as my mother. Talk about scaring the daylights out of a woman in her early 20s – he did!
So I worried, and I cried, and fought desperately to keep the full-blown panic attack that was building inside from erupting in my chest. I tried to talk to The Man Thing about my fears when he came home from lunch. He was just sure that I had pulled a muscle and discounted what I was feeling. I called my daughter and left her a message on her phone – just telling her that I wanted to tell her I love her. I didn’t want to leave this world (if that is what was meant to be) without telling her that I loved her.
I sat down at the computer and drew up my Last Will and Testament. I prepared my Power of Attorney and a Life Sustaining Document with my wishes noted.
…and then I cried. You know how people always tell you that “your life flashes before your eyes before you die?” Well guess what – it does it when you just think you are going to die as well. I cried for all the moments I would miss with my children, I cried for the hopes and dreams that I had which would never come true, I cried for the life that I wanted to live but had never been able to.
Finally it was off duty time and The Man Thing took me to the emergency room. I sent him and the boys home – I didn’t want them laughing at me because I was crying constantly and worrying – I wanted to deal with whatever was going to be on my own before I had to share it with them.
When I arrived, they triaged me and I told them what I thought was happening. They immediately drew blood to check my myocardial markers and did an EKG. Waited for what seemed like an eternity before they brought me to the back to be examined. Nurse came in and got me set up and gave me an IV and then the doctor came in. He asked me what was going on and I (tearfully) described the pain that I had been experiencing all day. When he finally asked about my family medical history – I lost it. The flood gates broke and I sobbed uncontrollably for about 5 minutes before I could calm down enough to tell him about my own mother and grandmother and what my mother’s cardiologist had told me some 20 years ago.
He patted my arm and told me not to worry. He would take good care of me and would make sure that nothing happened to me on his watch. He ordered a CAT Scan and x-rays and then we had to wait to draw more blood for another myocardial marker test after I’d been there about four hours.
After I had returned from x-ray and the doctor had left after my shameful breakdown and consequent blubbering episode, a nurse came in with two tubes. She said something to me as to what they were for, but my brain had shut down and I had gone to my “happy place” inside my head so I wouldn’t have to deal with all of the emotions and thoughts swirling through me. She injected one, and then the other. About 3 seconds after she injected the second tube into my IV line, I had this warm feeling bombard my entire body, and then just as quickly a tingling sensation, and I looked up to tell the nurse – and BUST OUT LAUGHING. I was MORTIFIED! I clamped a hand over my mouth and the nurse just laughed and said, “That would be the morphine the doctor prescribed for you honey. You just sit back and let it work its magic and you’ll feel right as rain in no time.”
Within minutes I was just as high as could be. Just as quickly I was out like a light and sound asleep. Two hours went by before another technician came in to check on me and take me for the CAT Scan to be done. I felt no pain at all and actually felt downright stupid for having a meltdown like I did earlier.
The doctor came in about 30 minutes after I returned and gave me a clean bill of health. He said my heart was fine, there was nothing wrong or abnormal showing up in any of the number of tests they had done. He did, however, tell me that I was suffering from the final stages of Bronchitis and that the antibiotics that they had prescribed for me two weeks ago for the tick bite had actually helped to keep it from becoming a full-blown episode. My coughing from the bronchitis however, had been so severe that I had given my chest wall a contusion – and THAT is what was causing me the severe pain all day. He released me and told me that if I was still in a lot of pain tomorrow, to come back and they would prescribe something for me, but he honestly thought that I would be fine with an OTC medication and plenty of rest for the next 48 hours.
I have too much life left to live – and you never realize just how precious your life is until it hangs in the balance. I had a wake-up call yesterday, and it has seriously altered how I view things now. My children, my family, are more important to me than anything – and for a long time I have not been showing them and telling them JUST how important they are to me.
You can never take for granted that the ones you love know you love them. You have to tell them every day – every minute – every second that you can. You never know when your tomorrow will never come.