Day 5

Day 5

I woke in observation Friday morning very worried that I would miss the appointment for my spinal injection. It would have meant delaying important diagnostic information to the surgeon and another trip, or delaying our departure for home. I began haranguing every nurse I saw about getting me released in time. And it worked.

I washed my face with a paper towel, and Bryan drove by and picked me up outside the ER doors. I changed into a clean shirt in the car. Miraculously, we even made it to the 9:45 appointment at the hand clinic. Unfortunately, I was so exhausted and nervous about the upcoming injection that I didn’t conduct myself very well. I hurried the doctor through the appointment. I’ve since written him an apology. I think that he had more to say to me about the fluctuating inflammation and the strange build up of scar tissue. Hopefully, I’ll get more information on that later.

Checking in for the CT guided spinal injection was at the same desk. The admin asked me where I lived in Colorado, and when I told her Kersey, she said her cousin lives in Kersey. It never occurred to me to ask her who her cousin was, and only later did my daughter remind me that my next door neighbor is actually FROM Minnesota. Our town is tiny, but my mind was not focusing on what was in front of me. All my resources were being taken up by the idea that I was about to lay on a table and let someone insert a needle, though the side of my neck, into my spine.

They brought a locker on wheels and gave me a gown. I got to keep my pants on. There are levels of vulnerability and I think this is an important one. When they take my pants I start to get worried. I feel exposed. If I can keep a layer, even better if it’s denim, between me and the world, I feel like still have some autonomy. Even with a needle in my spine. When my belongings were safely tucked away, they clipped a bungee around my wrist with the key and rolled the locker away. I quickly noted the number 40 etched in a brass oval. There was no corresponding number on the key.

When the doctor came I was seated in a wheel chair. They’ve taken over. I don’t get to walk anymore. His skin is dark, his energy is high and bright, and he isn’t much taller than I am seated. Everything about him puts me at ease, and I think that this is how I imagined Willy Wonka as a child. Small and spry and full of energy. They made him a little more mad in the movies, and that’s not at all the Mr. Wonka I remember from the book.

We breeze by the recovery room where my rolling locker is waiting. Phyllis, my nurse, and the doctor are moving at quite the speed, and in a unison that tells me they are partners here often. Recovery is on the 15th floor. The CT machine is on the 2nd floor. I note in my mind that my family has no idea how far away I’ll be.

I’m chatting and joking with the staff. They’ve brought me some orange juice as I’ve had nothing since lunch the day before. I tell the doctor it’s the best juice I’ve ever had in my life. Everyone laughs. Don’t drink too much though, the doc asks. He doesn’t want me getting queasy during the procedure.

Once I lay down on the CT bed the banter stops. Everyone in the room focuses like the laser they are using to line up the pictures of my spine with the two red dots the doctor has drawn on my neck. My eyes are closed and begin to focus on my breathing. It’s what I always do for the scans and the procedures. There are monitors where I could see them if I opened my eyes, but I don’t want to. I want to breathe. I want to be still. The price of a flinch today could be very very high.

Phyllis has another job. She’s on the other side of the CT. The long heavy canvas covered vest she was wearing starts to make sense. She must be laying on her side to put her arm in there with me. She takes my hand.

I’m scared to even swallow. He tells me that I must answer some yes or no questions, but I must never shake my head. I’m breathing and telling myself that I will not move. I will not flinch. Not even if there is pain. I will not move away.

The Doctor talks me through every part of the procedure in a soft and comforting voice. First comes the lidocaine. They say that it will feel like a hard bee sting. It doesn’t. I feel almost nothing. Sensory loss is working for me.

They go deeper and deeper with the lidocaine. The sensation isn’t pain, but it isn’t pleasant either. I don’t move. Neither does Phyllis. Her hand is there in mine, warm and relaxed. She is holding my hand, but not squeezing it. She is letting me do all the squeezing. I am quiet, and still, and my breathing is slow and measured. All of my worry is in that one hand now and I know that Phyllis can feel it. That’s ok though, because she feels like my anchor. She’s my tether to peace. I will not flinch.

The doctor tells me that I will feel a little popping sensation as they move through each layer of muscle. I feel them. He calls frequently for a new picture. The CT scanner hums. Now, some level of discomfort when he touches the bone. It is most important now that I be very very still. There was a deep ache, but not sharp pain. Nothing that made me jump. But everything that is me was afraid. He asked me several times as he adjusted the position of the needle to wiggle my fingers and toes, and confirm that there had been no change in sensation. I wiggled them all without moving my head. Phyllis and I adjusted our grip. I tried to stop strangling her fingers.

The injection took only a moment and he removed the needle. Phyllis let go and the bed slid out of the CT scanner. The world seemed to spin back up to speed. Like we had stepped out of time for a minute. We had been running between the raindrops. The doctor told me I had done a great job. I told him he had, too. Everyone laughed.

My balance was off. And my face felt really weird. They waited a moment before they transferred me to the wheelchair. Phyllis had me speeding back toward the elevators. Upstairs, she handed me to the recovery nurses and disappeared. I was sad. However short a time it had been felt like an eternity in that scanner, and her hand had been like the hand of God. Did she know that? It leaves me feeling like a “missed connection.” I’ll never forget you, Phyllis.

Still, my face feels weird. I look in the mirror and my left eye is drooping and bloodshot. “Is that normal?” I asked the recovery nurse. She said, “You’ll have to ask the doctor. He’ll be here soon.” If you’ve ever been in the hospital you know that’s not the answer you want.

Soon, the doctor arrived and he didn’t seem happy with my eye. It’s ok though, he told me. It’s just a very unusual reaction to the local anesthetic. I’ve only ever had this happen twice. Your face will return to normal when it wears off later today. (Ever the outlier.)

I texted Bryan to warn him that I would be in a wheel chair and that the left side of my face looked like I’d had a stroke, but that I was ok so he shouldn’t panic when he saw me. We got out of there and headed back to the AirBnb. Our work in Minnesota was finished and we were back on track to depart on Saturday.

After spending the night in the ER I was exhausted. We all were. I took a long nap and when I woke up my face was thankfully normal again, though Bryan assures me that he would have loved me either way. I had been warned of possible steroid mania. The doctor said I might not be able to sleep Friday night. The exhaustion of everything balanced that perfectly. We got a good night of sleep and had plenty of energy to pack ourselves up and get on the road the next day.

Now, I’m keeping a detailed pain/sensation diary for the neurosurgeon. The effects of the lidocaine were what he was most interested in though, and it did knock out all the pain on my left side. My right side is compensating now, though. There’s a burning pain that just won’t stop. And my neck gets tired of holding my head up fairly quickly. Typing isn’t helping any of it, but if I don’t write all of this now I’ll lose half of it to the brain fog.

Time to go lay down for a bit and give my neck a break. I have some things to say about the word anxiety. That’s coming up this week. Thank you for listening.

Love and Gratitude.

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Day 4

Day 4 Mayo Clinic

I had the ultrasound of my finger and they didn’t detect any foreign bodies. Some strange remodeling, possible old ligament injury, and a mass of scar tissue. If anyone can remember me doing something terrible to my finger in the last decade let me know. Lol.

Note: This doesn’t mean there isn’t anything in there, just that nothing is being detected through x-ray or ultrasound.

I got to have a great big hug, from a woman I’ve known online for 15 years or so, in an adorable little stone shop here in Rochester. Somehow we both ended up near here at the same time and the stars aligned. She’s been dear to me for a lot of years and finally getting to be in Jillene’s physical presence was exactly like hugging a lifelong dear friend. She was with a lovely friend who took time out of their visit to drive Jillene down to meet me. We all had a lovely lunch while the kids played. A real highlight from this week. (Thank you for documenting the moment, Jeanice!❤️)

Later last night I was having some discomfort and I could tell my BP was spiking. It was very high when I took it, and I hadn’t been feeling well on and off all week, so off to explore the Mayo/St Mary’s ER here in Rochester. The ER clocked my BP at 164/122 when I arrived. They cycled me through some meds for pain and nausea, and finally gave me nitro. That brought the BP down and alleviated the chest pain I was having. No signs of heart attack or anything cardiac related. Since I’ve already had tests for more of the crazy stuff that could cause that, they kept me for observation and released me in time this morning to go to my other appointments.

I know some of this sounds scary. I don’t write about all the crazy BP episodes that I have anymore because it has become redundant. It happens regularly enough that I call these trips “routine ER visits” so that my family understands that I didn’t go because I thought I was dying, but with my history we head back each time it gets this bad because the risk of complications from prolonged high BP are many. So better to go get tested. And I keep hoping someday the magic pair of eyes is going to see my symptoms and know what is causing all off this.

My secret hope is that this is connected to my spinal issues. Neuro folks always say it is unlikely, but that isn’t a straight up no, so I’m hoping that once we get everything to stop irritating my spinal cord that the strange parasympathetic stuff will stop, too.

So, don’t let my ER visit worry you too much. They happen fairly often, and while no one likes to go to the ER, they really have become a “routine” part of managing my ongoing health issues.

********

I’ll have to write about our last day here tomorrow as I am very tired this evening. Know that I’m feeling pretty well, and looking forward to a solid night of sleep before we pack up and get back on the road tomorrow.

#MayoClinic #OnAMission #fixmyspine #verystraightspine #straightcspine #xray

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Day 3

Mayo Clinic Day 3

For at least the last 7 years my right dominant hand index finger has been swollen. I’ve been thrusting it forward at every doctors appointment since it began. Sometimes it is much worse and swells like a sausage. Sometimes it turns purple. If I eat a lot of sugar it gets worse, as does everything. It’s more swollen in the morning when I can’t close my fist. At it’s worse I can’t even bend it. Doctors have glanced at it and maybe given it a pinch over the years, said maybe it’s arthritis, or maybe Raynaud’s, but I’ve never been able to get them to go any further. The finger is so unusual and unpredictable it has been nicknamed “Fat Finger” by my family.

Most recently I told my primary care that this was the year of the finger. I wanted to get this finger figured out. She told me that she didn’t want to discuss my finger until I had gone back to see the neurosurgeon – the panicky one that scared the pants off of me about needing to do surgery immediately, almost 3 years ago. So, I went to an acupuncturist who stabbed it a few times over the course of my first few appointments and then basically ignored it to focus on my hip and my neck. To her credit my hip pain of more than a decade has been completely gone for several weeks now. (Knock on Wood). To my disappointment every time I let her touch my neck the symptoms get much worse for a time.

I was meeting with the neurologist yesterday and she was asking “what else?” It felt like she asked me fifty thousand times. Bryan and I kept telling her more things until we couldn’t think of any more (we still forgot some that we remembered later). One of them was my finger. She asked if I had shown it to a doctor. I told her I had shown it to all of them. She said she thought it was probably arthritis, but she ordered and x-ray and arranged a visit with the hand clinic.

Today we saw another amazing, brilliant, funny and personable physician. If you are wondering where they all are, I think they are hiding in Minnesota. First, though, we met his very kind resident…

#MayoClinic #OnAMission #FixMySpine #FixMyFingerToo

This young doctor looked at my x-rays and examined my finger and in the end said that he was really stumped, but that we were about to meet with the expert.

He left and returned a few minutes later with “the expert” who promptly exclaimed that my finger appeared to by “very mysterious.” Again the exam and the poking and prodding and he showed me the x-rays of my finger and said that from what they could see there is no arthritis and no reason for my finger to be in this condition. The only thing he could come up with is that there must be a foreign body in my finger causing this. He said it most frequently happens to people who garden. Typically they will find a thorn from a rose bush or something similar.

Tomorrow I’m having an ultrasound of my finger to try and find what has been causing these problems from the last seven or so years. I’m excited, and curious, and really on the brink of hysterical hilarity over it all.

P.S. Included are Lily’s snapchats. The kid has been awesome about entertaining herself through all of this.

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Day 2

Day 2 at the Mayo Clinic

We met with neurology in the morning where I was stabbed with many needles and touched everywhere with a tuning fork. Turns out I have lost some sensation in my left leg. The most conservative course recommended by her was to wait and see if it gets any worse, with the provision that intervention never reverses progress, it will only stop it from getting even worse. She took note of my swollen index finger and referred me to their hand clinic.

In the afternoon we met with the neurosurgeon. He had Bob Ross socks on with floating Bob heads and Happy Trees. His nurse had done a long interview before he came in. He had her review the highlights of our conversation and then he talked non-stop for at least 30 minutes while referencing my scans and x-rays and explaining things to my with technical terms like “nerve funniness”. This made me very happy since I’ve been chided by docs for saying things felt weird or funny. He said, “sometimes there are no big people words for these feelings.” Ah. Wisdom.

So…

When considering fusion, I won’t lose any additional mobility, because my neck has already fused itself trying to manage the damage. I received a lot of validation as many docs have said that my damage couldn’t be causing my right sided symptoms. This doctor disagreed. He also acknowledged the chest pain that I have been having and said that the spinal compression is in an area that causes this, and acknowledged how frightening that must be for someone with cardiac history.

His recommended first step is a CT guided injection to the area. Diagnostically, this will help him narrow down the cause of some of the sensations, and it will give a preview of the potential for results from surgery. I have an appointment on Friday to have that done if they can’t squeeze me in earlier.

There is so much more that I don’t have the time or wherewithal to jot down right now. Know that I feel good about the care that I am receiving up here. I wish we could all receive this level of care in our own communities. I am grateful for the privilege of being here, but I miss my bed and my house and those kittens. We’ll be headed home this weekend to mull over all the new information I and let the injection do its work and give the surgeon the additional information he needs.

Thank you all for being on this ride with me. I feel all the prayers and juju.

Love you all. Xoxoxo

Sasha Lynn

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Day 1

Day 1 at the #MayoClinic. I had some x- rays. We meet with #neurology and #neurosurgery tomorrow to see what they have to say. #onamission #fixmyspine

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Posted in Autobiographical, Health, Uncategorized, Wholeness

It didn’t start out like that.

IMG_8657I was barely seventeen when I met him.  Most of my kids are older than that now.  We were both army brats on Biggs Field in El Paso, TX.

He was tan and handsome and had amazing eyes.   I thought I could drown in his deep voice.  Life was leisure living with our parents.  We spent our days running around the desert catching  lizards, and our nights around bonfires with our friends.

Sometimes we’d play fight.  At more than a foot taller than me I didn’t stand much of a chance, but I thought I was a tough girl.  I remember my mother trying to warn me.  She said that play fighting could easily turn to real fighting and that perhaps we shouldn’t be playing so rough.  I thought that was funny.

I remember watching some domestic violence episode of Jerry Springer.  I thought those women were weak or stupid.  Why would they stay with someone that hit them?  I thought that could never be me.

I wasn’t 18 yet when we moved to Colorado.  Our fathers had gotten orders.  My parents were moving to Alaska. His parents were moving to Colorado Springs.   We knew we couldn’t bear to be parted.  He and I packed what we could into my little red 1981 Toyota Corolla Tercel and drove to Aurora, Colorado with about $400 to our name.  It was just enough to rent our first apartment.

A friend helped me get a job at a car rental place at the airport.  We took in a roommate we had known in El Paso.  A month later I was still the only one working.  We fought.  He started calling me names.  Stupid fucking fat lazy bitch.  I tried to leave.  He had disabled my car.

He begged my forgiveness and we made up.  I loved him.

He wanted to tie me to the bed with my pantyhose.  He said it would be fun.  He left me tied to the bed and went to the store.  I don’t remember how long he was gone.  It was long enough to leave me feeling humiliated.

I loved to play piano and sing.  I had brought a keyboard to Colorado with me.  He told me I was awful and embarrassing and that he wished that I would stop.  He said he loved me enough to tell me the truth.  So I stopped playing and singing.

We lost the apartment.  His parents said if he moved home and went back to school they would pay off our mistake.  So we broke up and he went home.  I stayed in Aurora living out of my trunk and couch surfing.  I made friends and we got an apartment.  I dated someone for a month that quickly ended up cheating on me.

So, to console myself, I drove to Colorado Springs and brought him back with me.  It was winter.  I turned 18.  My roommate had gotten me an ice cream cake.  He refused to come out of the bedroom.  I remember his slice slowly turning into a puddle.  He was calling for me to come back to the bedroom with him.  I just couldn’t.  Stupid fat fucking lazy bitch.

He begged my forgiveness and we made up.  I loved him.

We both got jobs at fast food and gas stations.  We were totally grown ups now.  He asked me to marry him.  I said yes.

I don’t remember why we fought.  I still make excuses I know aren’t real and don’t matter.  I say he was hungry.  We didn’t have enough money to feed him.  He burned calories faster than anyone I’ve ever seen.  We were young.  We didn’t know how to communicate.  We were both hot headed.

The play fighting had stopped being play.  Lamps were broken.  He punched holes in the walls.  He threatened to leave me.  I was naked.  I was begging him not to go.  I tried to hold on to him.  He put me in a head lock.  I remember the fight draining out of my body.  I remember the darkness closing in.  I remember thinking he was killing me.

I was on the floor.  He was tying his shoes.  I was crying.  He was walking out the door.  I was begging him not to go.  Please don’t leave me.  Please don’t leave me.  Please don’t leave me.  Please.

He begged my forgiveness and we made up.  I loved him.

IMG_8661The wedding was in a week.  My back was bruised and my fingernails were ripped and bloody from trying to push him off me.  My family was coming.

My friend helped me put on acrylic nails to cover the mess.  That stuff stings when you have to glue it to the nail bed instead of the nails.  The cut of my dress wouldn’t show the bruises.  No one could know.  They wouldn’t understand.  They would judge him.  I love him.

June 20th, 1992, torn and bruised, I married him.

Another fight.  My friend was there.  I thought being married would change him.  It hadn’t.  I was now Mrs. Stupid Fat Fucking Lazy Bitch.  I told him I was leaving the apartment and he needed to be gone before I got back or I would call the police.

Four hours later we returned to the apartment.  He was gone, but all of his stuff was still there.  The phone started ringing.  They asked for Mrs. Him.  It was the hospital.  My husband had attempted suicide by swallowing a bottle of aspirin and getting into the bathtub.  Then climbing out and calling 911.  They had pumped his stomach.

I called his parents.  I tried to tell them what was going on.  They said, “You married him.  He is your problem now.”

He begged my forgiveness and we made up.  I loved him.

Then my cousin died.  I needed to go to California to be with my family.  He needed to stay and work.

A week away from him.  The fog lifted a little.  No one was calling me names.  I wasn’t scared.  I told my mom a little bit, though certainly not the extent.  My aunt said cut and run now, more time makes harder.

When I got home, he was waiting.  He was all smiles and promises.  It was going to be better now.  He was going to be better now.   He had a gift for me.  It was jewelry.  Emerald cut blue topaz set in 18K gold.  Beautiful.  But it wasn’t enough.  I didn’t want it.  And I didn’t believe him.  I didn’t want to be the Stupid Fat Fucking Lazy Bitch anymore.

I thought this was it.  I thought it was over.  I thought this was the beginning of a new life for me.

When he left he walked across the courtyard and moved in with a friend of his.  Their balcony had a perfect view of ours.  He was sitting out there watching me. Every day I came and went and he would be there staring at me.  It was scary, but what could I do?  I enrolled in school and tried to get back to where I had left off when I met him.  It doesn’t work like that.

He kept calling.  He wanted his wife back.  One night he came knocking on the door.  I wouldn’t answer.  He wouldn’t leave.  He got angrier and was screaming through the door.   And then he was on the balcony. Beating on the glass doors.  I called the police.

Have they changed since then?  I hope so.  They came and they told me that he had every right to be in that apartment if he wanted to be.  They didn’t care about the holes he had punched in the walls and didn’t want to be part of our little dispute.

I was too scared to leave the apartment after that.  I called in sick to school and work until we all figured out I wasn’t going anymore.  Eventually his welcome with his friend wore out.  He moved back to Colorado Springs with his family and my life began to recover.

The next year my parents helped me hire a lawyer.  He told me that due to the brevity of our marriage we had a good case for an annulment.  I just had to be sure that my husband would say the right things to the judge.

I hadn’t seen him in a year.  I felt better and I guess I thought he would, too.  We had both had time to come back to our senses and get on with our lives.  I called him and told him we should meet and talk.  I made plans to drive down to Colorado Springs to have lunch with him.  He sounded really grounded and reasonable on the phone.

The day I was supposed to meet him I had a flat tire.  I didn’t want to miss this meeting, so I borrowed a spare from my neighbor.  I remember my friend standing on the tire iron tightening the lugs.

We met in a parking lot.  He was in his roommates truck.  He talked me into getting into the truck and he would drive us to lunch.  I was wary, but because of my tire I did it.  That was, of course, when the plan changed.  We had to stop by his place to check in with his roommate.  When we got there they both had a beer.  Then his roommate needed to leave with the truck.  We were going to have to hang at the apartment for a while.

Aside from beer cans the whole place was immaculate.  It hardly looked lived in.  When I went to the bathroom I could see from the door of his room the only personal item was a picture on the dresser.  It was a framed picture of us at our wedding.  I was getting a little scared.  He was having another beer.  He started telling me that he missed me.  I was his wife.  It wasn’t too late.

He begged my forgiveness.  Didn’t I still love him?

As gently as I could I stood my ground.  I said I really needed to head home.  Please, please, get me back to my car.

He said the car was a few miles away, but since we had no ride I could wait there and he would go get it.  I gave him the keys.

Two hours later he came back – without the car.  He said he realized on the way there that he was too drunk to drive.  He called his dad.  I got a ride back to my car.  Finally, I could breathe.

No one hung around to watch me leave.   My car door was unlocked and the seat was slid all the way back.  The mirrors were all adjusted.  I knew he had been at the car.  My heart was racing.  I popped the hood to see if he had tampered with anything.   Was I just being paranoid?  I didn’t see anything amiss.

I made the hour drive up over Monument and back to Aurora.  I was relieved to be back.  I knew that except for a court date I didn’t need to see him again.  I had friends over that night so we weren’t surprised when there was a knock on the door.  It was him and his roommate.  Who knows how much more they had to drink that day.  They said they were checking to see if I made it home ok.  Of course I had.  Why wouldn’t I have?  They weren’t invited in and thankfully didn’t stick around.

The next day when my neighbor went to take his spare tire back all the lugs came off with a single twist of his fingers.

I wanted to pass it off as coincidence.  But the late night road trip to see if I had made it home ok was too much to ignore.  Would this ever be over?  I was tired of being scared.

As it turns out it was mostly over.  We had our day in court and had our brief marriage annulled. He showed up in my life in little ways for a while – like partying with a roommate and sleeping with her and calling up my parents trying to track me down.

Just a few years ago his current wife contacted me on Facebook.  She said she was throwing him a big birthday party and was hoping I could provide some significant dates for a “This Is Your Life” slide show he was planning.  For several days I stared at that message trying to summon some way to respond and decline without venom.  Before I could manage that I got a message that said, “I guess everything they have said about you is true.”  I blocked her.

Being scared never completely ended though.  When I see a man with his build on the street I nearly shrink into my floorboard.  I’m still embarrassed and I feel the blame and the shame of letting that happen to me.  It doesn’t matter how logically I approach it – I feel that.  Telling me I shouldn’t doesn’t help.  It adds one more layer of guilt and shame for what I shouldn’t be doing.

I wonder if his next wife (or the next one) or his daughters have suffered at his hand.  I wonder if there is something that I should have or even could have done to prevent that.  I wonder if getting support or joining a group would have helped me at all.  It might have.  But I don’t remember thinking that I was a battered woman while it was going on.  I’ll bet that most women in the middle of it can’t see it clearly for what it is.

I spent several more years cycling in and out of really abusive relationships before I took a long enough break to learn how to love myself.  I survived.  I am in an amazing place in my life now.  It’s possible to change your stars.

Relationships don’t start out terrible.  People don’t typically lead with their fists.  If you think that you may have ended up in an abusive relationship there is help.  In many communities, including mine, A Woman’s Place is serving that purpose.  They have help for those suffering abuse of many kinds besides physical including verbal abuse and stalking, and they serve women, men, transgender, nongender conforming people and families who have experienced domestic abuse.  Find them here: http://www.awpdv.org/

If you don’t need them perhaps you could help their mission.  On the website there is a link for cash donations as well as lists of items that are most needed in their shelters.
http://www.awpdv.org/donate.html

And don’t think that it can’t happen to you.  Or that these women are dumb.  Or that they want it if they don’t leave him.  It’s crazy to wake up one day and see the slow and lazy spiral that dragged you into a place you never thought you’d be.  It’s hard to seek help when you are ashamed and embarrassed.  It’s almost impossible to fathom that you might not make it out of this relationship alive.

Because it didn’t start out like that.  It never does.

 

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28 Days

4 weeks ago I had a heart attack.  I suffered an actual myocardial infarction. I am a 42 year old woman.  I am 5’4″ tall and weigh 150 pounds.  I had high cholesterol in my twenties and corrected it with a low carb lifestyle and exercise that I have continued over the last 15 years.  I smoked for 17 years, but I quit 7 years ago.

5 years ago my partner Bryan asked me to go to the doctor.  I had developed a level of fatigue that worried him.  I went to the doctor and was told that this was normal for the mother of a small child.

2 years ago I began suffering intermittent chest pain, palpitations, and episodes of blood pressure that they refer to as paroxysmal hypertension.  It’s rare enough that they tested me for pheochromocytoma twice.

1 year ago I went to the emergency room three nights in a row.  I was given ativan in the ER.  I told Bryan it was to shut me up.  They sent me home with a prescription for xanax and a diagnosis of panic attacks.  I’ve had panic attacks that felt nothing like what was happening to me.  No one would listen.

4 weeks ago, on an airplane between Seattle and Denver, returning from a 2 week trip to visit my parents in Alaska, I had a burning pain in my chest that had been coming and going for several days.  Since the doctors had insisted there was nothing wrong with my heart, I breathed my way through it as it radiated down my left arm and up the left side of my face. My brain was screaming, “Holy shit, I’m having a heart attack!”  But I didn’t think anyone would believe me.  And I didn’t want to scare my six year old sleeping in the seat beside me.  My whole world closed down to a single goal, to put my daughter into the arms of her father.

I breathed and the pain subsided again.  The plane landed and I gathered our things.  I made it through the terminal, and the train, and up the escalator to Bryan.  I dropped everything at his feet and told him I couldn’t go any further.  I needed to go to the doctor.

At Urgent Care they did an EKG.  It was normal.  I’ve still never had an abnormal EKG.  They told me that they were sending me for blood work at the hospital lab, but didn’t expect to see anything so I should just head home and they would call me.

Half way home I received the call from a panicked doctor telling me to return to the hospital and head straight to the ER.

I had a heart attack.

I am not crazy.  They made me think that I was and it almost killed me.

I am a 42 year old woman who looks remarkably healthy, and I had a heart attack.

I have so much more to tell you.  Let’s start here.  If you think that there is something wrong you aren’t crazy.   “Anxiety” is a symptom as often as it’s a condition. If you think you are having a heart attack don’t let them send you home without running all the appropriate tests.  Troponin levels, to begin with, which don’t elevate until 6 to 12 hours after the attack.  This is important to remember.  Women are not treated as aggressively as men.  We have to advocate for ourselves until that changes.  Let’s start here by sharing the information.  I’m gathering more to pass along.

Happy 4 weeks to me.  Tomorrow is never promised.  Live and love every moment.

Xoxo S.L.

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No Guts…No Story
“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ~ Sylvia Plath
Sasha Lynn


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