When I had a stroke I often wondered if others would understand more clearly what the aftermath of a silent killer was like if stroke or heart attack survivors had a visible affliction like a broken leg. I have been the recipient of both a stroke and a heart attack, and through nothing but sheer luck, their powerful silence did not kill me.
Strokes and heart attacks don’t run in my family–cancer does–and for the last 20 years I have been the last family member standing. It wasn’t the load that broke down this time–it was how I carried it. Inner stress runs through my veins every single day, and I was born a worrier, come from a lineage of worriers, and will sadly leave a legacy of more worriers. I was raised to believe that it’s our family’s duty to worry about everyone else and I proudly carry on the tradition. Each day I try to make a difference, but am in no way an overachiever or I would have been one of the folks putting in my artery stents Wednesday night.
I think most of us know what heart attack symptoms are backwards and forwards, but I mistook the first signs Sunday night as indigestion. I knew what was happening wasn’t normal, and I had a good idea of what was going on- but I was too busy drowning in the river of denial to see what was hitting me in the face–or to my heart. That’s right, I sat there trying to concentrate on the The Hand Maiden’s Tale ignoring the first heart attack. Yes, the first heart attack.
Wednesday night the pain in my chest, the nausea, and the shortness of breath returned again with a vengeance, and this time it did not go away. Again I balked going to the hospital for the sole reason that my British family raised me to ” have a stiff upper lip, chin up and never be a bother”. Seeing I don’t recall any of them ever experiencing heart attacks I sensed that none of then had ever felt jolts of electricity hitting them on the 4 block ride to the Carleton Place Hospital when they were trying to instill those family values in me.
About 7 minutes later I heard the words “cardio” and “call the ambulance” as my local hospital did everything they could to get me out of pain and rushed off to the Ottawa Heart Institute. This isn’t the first time that the Carleton Place Hospital has gone above and beyond for my family and I wish I could do more than just say “thank you”.
It wasn’t an easy ride for me in that ambulance as memories began flooding through my mind. Three years ago I had made the same journey, only to the Ottawa General Hospital with my late husband and they had asked him the same departure question as they asked me Wednesday night. In the space of 15 seconds you have to answer if you want to be resuscitated if something terminal happens, and let’s face it, even Google can’t answer that question. Steve knew exactly what answer he was going to hear– but it still hit him like a ton of bricks. Do not resuscitate!
In what seemed no time I was ushered into a cold looking room at the Ottawa Heart Institute that reminded me of an examining room from an alien B movie. Suddenly the whole space became a movie theatre with black and white shadowy images of my veins as the feature of the hour. I lay there and shook my head. I knew how I got there, but how do you shake the emotional sticky monkeys off your back. In what seemed no time, but I knew it wasn’t– I felt a rush of warmth fill my body from head to toe and knew that my veins were now flowing again. Trying to make light of a bad situation I silently wondered if this is how Vampires feel after a “satisfying bite”.
I’m honest, my health stats are not the best, but I was told if I don’t get rid of the stress it is going to end up killing me. I know a lot of of the load I carry is not mine to carry and I need to stop worrying about what I can’t control. But, that’s easier said than done, and I have to sit down and realize I can do anything, BUT not everything.
At 5:48 the next morning my machine began to beep from a small panic attack and I’m sure imaginary quotation marks were quickly rising from my body. A nurse popped her head in, looked at me and said in a thick Jamaican accent,
“Linda, let it go!”
With that she sat down beside me and reasoned that my greatest weapon is to be able to choose my own thoughts, and it’s all about finding the calm in the chaos.
Now I know I’ve got to find
Some kind of peace of mind
I’ll be searching everywhere
Thank you to the Carleton Place Hospital and the Ottawa Heart Institute for their amazing care and letting me be here a little while longer. Please donate!
- Pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing or aching sensation in your chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw or back.
- Nausea, indigestion, heartburn or abdominal pain.
- Shortness of breath.
- Cold sweat.
- Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness.