So I Had A Heart Attack
This entire past year has been one of the most trying I can recall. Between illness in my family and unusual stress at work, both my personal and professional lives have been difficult. Yet this past Wednesday something happened that I wasn’t expecting and that put me in a position I definitely was not comfortable with or ready to face.
I had a heart attack. I was at work on Wednesday morning when my left hand began to suddenly ache. And it wasn’t a pain I’d felt before either. This was like having a toothache in the muscle just below my left thumb. It throbbed. Then my left elbow became involved. This progressed to my jaw feeling “funny.” I had this incredibly anxious feeling as well; like I was doomed or something. My chest didn’t hurt but it felt like a pressure was assaulting it. I knew I having a “spell” of some sort but I didn’t expect it to be a heart attack.
A friend of mine insisted I go back to the emergency room and they must have known something was wrong when they looked at me because they went into action. I couldn’t shake that feeling of anxiety and my hand was killing me. My friends at work did everything the current standards say to do. I was given aspirin and oxygen and put on a cardiac monitor. I received nitroglycerin, Ativan for the anxiety, and then Morphine for the pain when the nitro didn’t completely relieve it. After a while I was easy and resting again.
Over the course of the next few hours my lab work revealed that I had indeed suffered a myocardial infarction. I was transferred to a hospital where they have a cardiac unit. The cardiologist in charge of my care is someone I’ve known for a long time and who I trust. He explained to me what the treatment plan was going to be. It was a surreal experience to be on that side of the scene. After so many years being the nurse, I was the patient and I didn’t quite like it.
The next day I underwent a heart catheterization which revealed a 90% occlusion in a portion of my right coronary artery. A stent was placed, the blood flow to my cardiac muscle returned to normal, and I went back to my room. A slew of new medications were ordered for me and I began receiving education on what to expect now and what to do after discharge. It all still felt surreal but there I was and I absorbed every detail they gave me. On Friday it was determined that I was well enough to come home.
I never had another episode of pain like the one which started this whole event.
Now I’m on the other side of a heart attack. I am to start cardiac rehab soon. I’m taking my new prescriptions as I’ve been instructed to do. I am off work for two weeks; something I wasn’t happy about but which my research has revealed to be standard practice. Everything I Googled, from the American Heart Association to the Mayo Clinic, indicated that most people can return to work after an MI with intervention in two to three weeks if they do well and if there wasn’t a lot of damage. So this impromptu time off is another thing I need to get used to, I guess.
But it feels odd to be here. I’ve had a lot of illness in my life but knowing I had a heart attack isn’t comfortable knowledge. I’m going to have to redefine some things in my lifestyle if I want to prevent a recurrence of this experience. I have to be better to myself now and get used to taking medications that once I only taught others how to take. I also have to learn how to take things slower with less stress. Can I do it?
I have family members who are depending upon me right now because of other obligations in my personal life. I have a job that needs me to be present in order to prepare for upcoming events there. A part of me feels like I’m letting everyone down but I realize that if I don’t do the things that have been laid out for me to do I might not be able to satisfy any of my obligations. I have no choice but to do what I have to do in order to return to my normal life.
So I had a heart attack. Just like millions of other people do each year. I had an intervention to correct the problem that caused this. I am recovering and looking forward to getting back to myself again. It’s not going to be easy to take things slower for a while and to be “better” to myself. But I can do it. In hindsight, I’ve done much more difficult things than this. And I likely will have to face more daunting tasks in the future.
I’m strong and I’m tough. Anyone who knows me can testify that challenges aren’t things I slink away from. I typically come out on the good side of anything. This will be no different. I feel it.
So I’m off to get started.