Saturday, August 25, 2012
It started innocently. A morning scare. A feeling of pressure like an encyclopedia resting heavily on my chest. Radiating tingling all the way down my left arm. Sweaty. Clammy. Threw up a little. I wasn't really doing anything strenuous. What the hell is going on? Uh-oh.
Calmly we call the doctor. Off to the ER. Can't hit the "snooze" button when you've got family history of sudden, deadly heart attacks at early ages. I'm a woman hovering near 50 y/o. Fairly healthy, but with stress. I just knew something wasn't right.
I spend 8 hours lounging around the ER. I witness others fighting for their lives. I hear people moaning in pain. I sure seem better off than most. This perspective gives me some small comfort, but what the hell is going on with my body? Doc says it could be a heart attack in progress. Could be a pulmonary embolism. Could be something else.
Man, I hate hospitals. Usually, I find myself there waiting for news about the people in my life...not for ME.
I'm worried and ashamed because I've packed on 35 of the 90 lbs I lost a few years ago. My original loss was accomplished with the help and inspiration of Sparkpeople. I know re-gain happens to many of us. Although I've kept the bulk of that nasty, unnecessary weight off, I wonder if I've compromised my health. I lost my way by giving in to the emotional crap and chronic chaos that has colored my recent life.
I try so hard to be there for everyone else. I'm the "understanding" one. The person who fixes the problems. I clean up messes I don't make. But what about me? What am I doing to get to MY better place? I have lots of time to ponder these notions in my floppy traction socks and half-tied, flimsy gown.
I drink in small doses of relief as one by one the tests come back clean. But, they are still concerned. The furrowed forehead and tone of voice make me wary. I trade my lackluster ER accommodations for an overnight stay in a hospital room. I haven't done that since birth over 48 years ago. Well, it was a good long streak. More tests to come in the morning. Lots of monitoring, poking, prodding. Not much sleep. Nobody really tells me what's up.
Day 2 activities begin at an early hour. Echocardiogram (all is fine). Cardiac catheterization a.k.a. angiogram (all is fine ). Well, except they scraped my tiny arm artery with the scope. Post-procedure inflammation flares are no picnic, but not life-altering. I can deal with pain and minor complications. Seeing pictures of my heart pumping was a little creepy. I have newfound respect for the wonder of human anatomy and the architect of this clever system.
Whew, I'm fine. I have a normal heart. Looks like I'm going to be around doing my thing for at least a little longer.
Actually, I am AMAZING. Until this point in my life, I've never known what my heart may or may not do. Congenital defect? Clogged arteries? Stress tests don't tell you much, but that angiogram sure does. Doc says I shouldn't worry about much heart-related for at least 5 years. This knowledge is a gift I never expected.
#1 - ALWAYS listen to the little voice in your head. My incident happened about 2 weeks before Rosie O'Donnell publicly announced her heart attack. We sure seemed to be having the exact same symptoms. She ended up dodging the widowmaker. I may have felt the after effects of a pinched nerve, early back disc issue, or something else. I was lucky. I also was responsive and cautious. I didn't shrug it off. I'm no hypochondriac. I have a high tolerance for pain/discomfort. I usually suck it up and go on with my day. But this time felt different. Couldn't take the chance.
#2 - NOW is the time to reevaluate everything that brings on stress. Some of it is controllable. Some isn't. I'm choosing to make changes in my default orientation and priorities. I'm putting the gentle word out to the people in my life: "I love and care about you, but you have to step up and handle more things yourself. I can't and don't want to do it anymore." It feels good. Seeking more balance. Taking baby steps.
#3 - COMMIT to what it takes to reach a healthy place. I'm not that far off. A pile of too snug clothing hanging in the closet is frustrating and cracks my vanity, but it's not enough to motivate real change. My goal of shedding the extra weight is my life insurance. Except it will pay off while I'm still alive.
So I'm back. Armed with new information and a desire to protect the gift of my good heart for as long as possible. Away we go!