I am a woman. I am 47 years old. I am a wife, mother, and grandmother, disabled for several years. And… I am a survivor of multiple heart attacks. The “heart event”, as my doctors now call it, occurred on January 25, and 26, 2010. I had pain in my chest, beginning shortly after dinner on January 25th. I thought it was my acid reflux attacking me. After awhile, it went away. But on the 26th, it returned, worse than the day before. I still believed it to be acid reflux, with a strong side of anxiety. I tried to ignore it as much as possible.
The evening progressed into the night, and I tried to sleep, but had to keep sitting up and standing, because the pain lessened enough to allow me clearer breathing when I was upright. At 4:00 a.m., I could stand the pain no longer. My husband called an ambulance for me. The monitor in the ambulance showed no heart attack occurring. Neither did the one at the hospital. But the blood enzyme test told another, far different story. I was told that another doctor was coming in to see me.
When he arrived, he told me in as few words as possible, that he was a surgeon. He said that I had indeed suffered not one, but several, “heart events”, and that I was, in fact, in the midst of one that very minute. He also told me that I was going to require surgery, a triple bypass. He said that one of my arteries was 70% occluded, (blocked by plaque), one was occluded between 60 and 70%, and a third was 100% occluded. He said he could operate the next morning, or two days hence, but that at any rate, I was going to be admitted that morning. I said I guess it was a sooner the better case. So I began preparations for surgery.
After the surgery, I spent two weeks in the hospital. I was in constant pain, more in my back and shoulders than my chest. I could not sleep, and finding a position I could even lie down in was near-impossible. My breathing was labored, and I had to do a breathing exercise, to prevent pneumonia. I could not lift anything. Even the coffee carafe hurt to hold. I was tired all the time, whether from the surgery or from the pain meds, I’m not quite sure. I was in just this same state for three weeks. Then I began to feel better, except that my stomach began to feel ill. Turns out I had a massive infection in my chest! Another surgery, then 2 weeks in the hospital, and 5 weeks in a recovery center, (nursing home). I received daily i.v. antibiotics.
At last, I was able to go back home again. But the feel of the place, and the others in it, was different. I was not exactly babied, although I was still unable to lift anything, and could not clean the house. But aside from that, it felt as if I were being treated differently. I felt as if I were being treated like I was suddenly old. Even over the next several months, that feeling persisted. I learned to do low-impact exercises. I have quit smoking too, but that has made me gain back all the weight that I’d lost in recovery, and even more. Having had not just one, but two surgeries that required opening my chest and rib cage, I have a really heavy scar. But I am breathing fine,. I have more energy and physial strength than I had before the attacks. That’s the result of all of the cardio-exercises. My senses of smell and taste have improved since I quit smoking.
I don’t think of my heart attacks as the end of my life, but rather as a new beginning. I am healthier in other ways than I was before the heart attacks. I still feel treated like I’m old. though. That’s hard for a 47 yr. old woman to say. But I know this. I have a lot more life I want to live! And with my strong heart, I will!!