For those of you who regularly visit my blog, you’ll probably have noticed that I seem to have disappeared a little over a month ago. Well, I should start at the beginning. My job has always been extremely stressful, I had a lot of holidays banked and I’ve worked stupid amounts of hours for far too many years. I had expressed my concern to my supervisors for years, and it went on deaf ears for the most part. Finally in February I made the decision that I needed to walk away and I handed in my resignation. I was asked to stay for 3 months to transition and I agreed out of respect for my employer. I shouldn’t have done this as it turns out, but hindsight is 20/20. My last day of work was June 2nd, and I was extremely excited to start a new chapter of my life. I had plans to travel, I had plans to sleep late and spend time in the sun reading. Oh how life can change in a split second. By June 5th, I had a terrible double ear infection with vertigo. I went to the doctor and got medicine, but it didn’t seem to subside. I visited the doctors a few times over the next few weeks, but was told to just rest and it would get better. On the morning of June 20th, I woke up early and actually felt better than I had in weeks. I went to the grocery stores and grabbed groceries, came home, threw food into the slow cooker and decided I was going to watch a bit of television. After about 30 minutes, I started to feel a bit of pain in my right shoulder, so I sat up and figured I had a pinched nerve or something of the like, but then I felt a crushing pain in my chest. I thought it was indigestion as I had been sick for so long with the vertigo (I won’t spell it out, but I was incredibly nauseous and spent the previous weeks surviving on ginger-ale and crackers). Needless to say for the rest of the day I rotated between a pain in my shoulder, pain in my chest, throwing up and feeling better. By about 5:30 I decided that enough was enough so off to the hospital I went. I literally thought the doctors might give me an IV to hydrate me and some heavy duty indigestion medication and then send me home. About 10 minutes from the hospital I started to feel worse and I verbally stated “I think I’m having a heart attack”, which was responded too with “nahh, couldn’t be, you’re not old enough”. Well…I might be perceived as too young, but I’ve learned that heart attacks happen at any age. I. arrived at the hospital, go to admitting and told them I was having chest and arm pain. The nurse sort of scoffed at me and told me to have a seat, they were busy and they’d see me when they could. By this time I was so scared that I started to cry and hyperventilate. Finally they took me into triage and hooked me up to the machine. First thing the nurse says to me is, “you’re having an anxiety attack”, to which I respond, “never had one before”. Shortly thereafter the machine started beeping loudly and rather fast, to the point that the nurse had a look of terror on her face. She proceeds to give me two baby aspirins and grabbed me a wheel chair. That’s when shit got real. I get wheeled into a private room and the doctors and nurses started to hover. Blood, oxygen, monitors, questions, rushed movements, anxious orders. My heart rate and blood pressure were high, but not scary high, and finally they gave me something for the pain. I started to feel better, I thought I could go home soon, nope, not happening. First blood test finally came back two hours later and all seemed fine. They were going to release me, but then the attending decided to keep me for a second blood test. I had to wait 4 hours for it to be done, so I then realized I would be there overnight. I’ve never been able to sleep in hospitals, but I gave it a try. After tossing and turning, finally they came back to get my blood again and within 30 minutes the attending came back into my room, told me that I had had a heart attack and that she had already reached out to a cardiologist in the city (he responded in the middle of the night – class act). I was told that I would be going to the city by ambulance to a different hospital and there I would see the cardiologist to determine next steps. After about 10 minutes the ambulance arrived and off I went. About an hour later, I was being wheeled into the city hospital, into the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and then surrounded by nurses. Queue the chaos, queue the panic, queue the fear. Fortunately I had amazing nurses that took superb care of me and kept me well informed and explaining every step that was to be taken. It made no sense to me as I felt good, I had no pain, I had no shortness of breath, how was it possible? The decision was made after I saw the cardiologist that I would be having an angiogram and depending on what was found possibly an angioplasty. Due to my age and lack of risk factors, I became something of an interesting case for my cardiologists and his students. They all had a zillion questions, they all assumed things because “this is the norm for heart attack victims”. I just didn’t fit as a victim of a heart attack, until they started to ask about my stress factors, my job, my life. I explained that I had just quit my job, the hours I worked, the time it had been since I had a vacation, my incredible level of stress. At that point they all nodded at me and said “now we understand” and that I was “typical” for people who retire. I’m like, guys I’m not retiring, just taking a break. They said “no no, what we mean is that it’s typical for people who leave their jobs due to stress or retire from a stressful job to have a heart attack shortly after.” I guess they had found the culprit; too much stress for too many years. Needless to say, they spent a significant amount of time with me and while it normally takes a day or two to get sent for an angiogram, I actually was sent that afternoon, by ambulance, to yet another hospital for the procedure. The paramedics that transported me were absolutely amazing and made me giggle the whole trip. This was a good thing for me as I was terrified and my depression had started to kick in. When I arrived at the cardiac catheterization lab, one of the paramedics knew the cardiac surgeon and literally sweet talked her into getting me in immediately. Basically, I was wheeled right into the procedure. I have to admit, while I was terrified, the procedure was extremely cool. They froze my arm and made the decision to put the catheter through my wrist into my heart (normally they do it through the groin, but were able to do it through my arm). I watched on the screens as the catheter moved up through my arm and into my heart. Then they released dye and watched my heart, which I found to be incredibly cool (though the dye release made me feel like I was peeing my pants – quite normal). It was shocking to see the first blockage in my heart, and then the second blockages in the same artery (they weren’t far from each other, so one stent worked for both blockage). It appeared that the blockage was related to infection (which wasn’t terribly surprising as I had been sick for three weeks prior to this while adventure). Needless to say, they then inflated a balloon through the catheter and placed the stent in my heart to hold the artery open. The cardiologist asked me if I felt better and all I could say was, “I never really felt bad before, just the chest pain”. Apparently most people in my circumstance (90% blockage in one area and 75% on the other) have shortage of breath and feel tired; I didn’t have either of those. The whole procedure took about an hour, and when I was wheeled out into recovery, guess who was waiting for me? My two amazing paramedics. They didn’t have to wait to take me back, but they decided too. This, I have to admit, made me feel so good, I nearly cried. Of course, they were both gentle and concerned about my well being and made sure to tell horribly terrible jokes the whole way back to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at the other hospital. I was back in my hospital bed and recovering within 22 hours of originally presenting myself thinking I had indigestion. This apparently is unheard of, but once again, I was doing well and I was “neat”. I was up and walking around quite quickly and while I had a few bumps and bruises with the doctors trying to get my new medications regulated (going from taking next to no medications to now taking nearly a dozen) my cardiologist decided on Friday morning I could go home. All in all I spent next to no time in the hospital (went in Tuesday around dinner and was home by noon on Friday). Now, that’s not to say that I don’t have heart damage. It is right now quite severe, and with a heart attack part of the muscle dies from lack of oxygen and blood to that area. Healing of the heart muscle starts right after a heart attack and takes about 8 weeks to heal. Just like a cut on your skin, the heart wound heals and a scar will form around the damaged area (the scar doesn’t contract though – which is where the problem rests). Basically the heart’s pumping ability is lessened after a heart attack and the amount of lost pumping ability depends on the size and location of the scar (the size is still to be determined, but we do know that it’s at the bottom of my heart). At any rate, my prognosis wasn’t good originally, but by the time I had left the hospital it was a bit better. I am actually saw my cardiologist on Wednesday for my 4 week checkup and he was happy with my progress. There’s a ton of other things that have happened (another hospital visit this past weekend as I had chest pain, ignorant medical professionals who should no have jobs, and a lot of depression, and a lot of misinformation, which has made my head spin over an over) but I started cardio rehab today and while my life will be forever changed and there are a lot of things that I won’t be able to do again or in the future, I’m alive.