Office of Citizen
Rest in Peace,
Red has always been a favorite color of mine since a good friend convinced me that as a redhead I could wear it proudly. Years later, the red in my hair has faded and much of it is replaced with gray, and today I wear red for a very different reason.
Today is Wear Red For Women to raise awareness of the threat of heart disease to us. It seems it is as good a day as any to share my own personal journey with my heart.
On November 17, 2008 I went out to dinner with friends for a celebration and 21 days later I woke up in the MetroHealth Cardiac Intensive Care Unit unable to talk, walk or fend for myself. This next part of the story was told to me by family and friends. I have no recollection of any of it. My husband tells me that when the paramedics arrived I was as limp as a noodle. One of them commented that this was the worst case of flu they had seen this year.
They put me in the ambulance and took an EKG. That paramedic didn’t like what he saw and said go! go! go!. Luckily, we live five minutes from MetroHealth so that when I began to scream “Help me! Help me!” the people I needed came running.
During the next five days, I had three cardiac arrests, three strokes, and two stents finally placed successfully. But, then it was a time of wait and see. My cardiologist explained to Tim and our daughters that there was nothing more that could be done-if they tried I certainly would not survive. That was the day that a DNR was placed at my bedside.
When I woke up I had missed my daughter’s birthday, my baby granddaughter and her parents who had celebrated Thanksgiving with friends and family who brought it to the hospital, days of friends sitting by my bedside reading to me, telling me stories, and holding my hand. And, I had missed my wonderful family being told that I had a negative 17 per cent chance of surviving and if I did survive I would probably end up spending the rest of my short life in a rest home.
But as you can see I beat insurmountable odds and I am here today to tell you don’t be like me, don’t rationalize away the signs like me. When your normally low blood pressure begins to climb, when you become so fatigued by afternoon that a two hour nap becomes routine, when you have flu-like symptoms off and on that linger for weeks, a sense of impending doom that becomes overwhelming, when you dread walking to the end of your street or when climbing the stairs causes shortness of breath and a pounding heart go to the doctor. Be smart, be proactive, be a partner with your body. Acknowledge that these subtle changes that seem to come and go have become part of your routine. You know your body be its friend not its naysayer. When it begins to tell you that your “normal” is not normal, listen to it.
Here six signs of a heart attack. Remember that a woman’s signs are often not the classic signs of those experienced by men. Remember that most tests and treatments are based on studies conducted by men for men.
· Chest pain or discomfort. Chest pain is the most common heart attack symptom, but some women may experience it differently than men.
· Pain in your arm(s), back, neck, or jaw.
· Stomach pain.
· Shortness of breath, nausea, or lightheadedness.
My symptoms included a knot in my back. There was no elephant sitting on my chest. My RIGHT arm felt like a band tightening and tightening. And then the band, moved to around my chest. I thought I had the flu-I was chilled, my teeth chattered. Twenty minutes later I was burning up, sweating, throwing up and so weak I could not stand. My husband stood over me telling me he was dialing 911. I was insisting we should wait a few more minutes because I was starting to feel better.
I am lucky my husband didn’t listen to me. I am supremely fortunate that I live minutes from a Trauma 1 hospital that sees it all and knows that quick reaction is often the difference between life and death. And I am extremely blessed with a family and friends that have faith and believe in the power of prayer.
But I am hear to tell you that this is certainly not the way to take control of your health. Do it when you aren’t in crisis mode. Do it when you feel those subtle changes happen. Don’t rationalize away symptoms. Move forward. Make a doctor’s appointment. Find out just what is going on in that body that has worked so hard for you every single day of your life.
Don’t be like me.