I’ve always loved the tough customer phrase, Serious as a heart attack, (Think cop novels, police procedurals, whodunits.), but I didn’t really understand it till last Friday morning when I lay on an ambulance gurney, with 5-6 (appallingly attractive) EMTS yelling the numbers of my vitals back and forth to each other. Maybe twenty-five minutes later, I was on an examining table in the Flagstaff Medical Center Catheterization Lab. The Cath team shot lidocaine into the area around my femoral artery, made an incision in the artery and sent a tiny device (I keep imagining an earnest little robot) up through the artery into my heart.
I had thought I was on that cath table just for an evaluation. I was in the Cath Lab so the Cath Team could give me the next part of my life.
“How ya doing?” one of the techs asked. “Mostly I’m kind of bored,” I said. The Cath Team laughed. A little later, I heard the head doc say, “Success!” He took off his mask and walked to my side. “The artery into half of your heart was completely blocked. We cleared the blockage completely (Author’s note: blockage composed of remnants of Freddy’s french fries; cheese enchiladas; and the alluring Delizza frozen miniature cream puffs.) and put in a stent. The other side of your heart was free from any blockages.”
“There was no damage to your heart.”
Later, or maybe earlier – I’m a little fuzzy about time, a brotherly telemetrist read the results of the echocardiogram that had been done and told me my heart was not only undamaged, it was strong, very strong.
I was discharged two days later. I’m still working with saying good-bye to Freddy’s french fries, cheese enchiladas and the alluring Delizza frozen miniature cream puffs. I’m making myself swallow 6-7 pills, some off them twice a day – medications which can have side-effects that terrify me (Thanks, Doctor Google). I’m discovering how loving the people in my life are – and how resistant I have been to letting people love me, even more resistant than I have been – for the last ten years – to my wise doctor’s suggestions that I take a cholesterol-lowering medication and work with a dietician to find a way to enjoy eating without it being a suicidal act.
I will write more about this time in future Breakthroughs. More than anything, I want to tell the stories of the nurses, nurses aides, nurse practitioners, social workers and staff who treated me as an intelligent woman, a member of my own healing team. And. how it feels to allow myself to be a worker among workers in an enterprise fueled by love.
Note: I imagine some of you may want to react to this Breakthrough. I find my post-rescue-from-the-jaws-of-death time crammed full with appointments and swallowing pills. If you want to react, please write us – the Breakthrough readers – your story. Better yet, hear the embedded message in this Breakthrough, the message specific to your own mortality, and write the words you came to this planet to write. Yeah, I’m talkin’ to you.
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