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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Oh What a Night

To my dear blog readers - I'm finally back with you following a rather scary event. My DH took me to the emergency room very early Tuesday morning where an EKG indicated I'd previously suffered a heart attack - probably in the past few weeks. It was decided I should go directly to the heart catheterization lab for a look see at my arteries. The right coronary artery was blocked in two places - one at 70% and one at 100%. During the lengthy procedure plaque was roto-rootered and blood clots sucked out before two drug coated stents were implanted. After 12 hours of bedrest in which my right leg had to remain immobile, followed by several more hours of monitoring, I was able to come home.

There is a lot of heart disease in my family, but nearly 100% in those who had smoked. As a non-smoker with normal cholesterol and excellent blood pressure, I didn't feel my risk was high. But other factors, such as being overweight and not physically active (unless we count moving from the sewing machine to the design wall) are very important. But putting me at highest risk was my Type 2 diabetes.

When first diagnosed nearly nine years ago, I was extremely diligent, putting myself on a strict regimen of diet and exercise and losing about 40 pounds. With my blood sugar numbers in the totally normal range, I was pronounced cured by my doctor. Believing I was cured was reckless, as I slowly slipped back into my unhealthy habits allowing the weight to creep back on. And my exercise program came to a halt when I injured a knee badly.

For several months I'd felt a little off, frequently complaining of nausea and fatigue - so much so that each night my DH expected me to say, "I'm so tired and I feel nauseous." His response was always, "Honey, you're always nauseous." I'd also noticed I couldn't walk as quickly without becoming really winded. I chalked it up to being out of shape.

I think the actual heart attack happened at the end of July when we were in Minneapolis. We'd decided to run to Ikea (since we don't have one here) on a free Sunday afternoon. There were about 18 steps from the parking deck to the store. It took me a long time to climb them after which I collapsed over a shopping cart feeling extremely ill. After resting for several minutes, I was able to continue exploring the store. The next morning at the airport, I had great difficulty pulling my heavy bags, legs like lead, gasping for breath and once again feeling ill. My thoughts? "Man, I'm more out of shape than I thought!"

Once home, I noticed a continuing dinner-plate sized pressure in my chest - not discomfort but something I knew was a bit different. But because the Charlotte air is sometimes bad and I have asthma, I chalked it up to that. It wasn't until early this week my DH and I realized something serious was going on. His clue? I had discomfort in my left arm, was overwhelmingly nauseous and apparently as white as a sheet.

I'm just beginning to realize how extremely fortunate I am. I could have had a massive coronary, I could have been left disabled, I could have had brain damage, I could have stroked, I could have thrown a clot which would have killed me. How often have we read that women's heart issues are ignored because they're so different from men's? The differences are real - I never did have what I'd call pain.

We are so lucky to have one of the top ranked heart hospitals less than two blocks from our house. I'm so lucky to have been taken seriously in the ER and to have gotten to the cath lab quickly. The results could have otherwise so easily been dire.

Listen to your bodies. If something feels odd, don't put it off like I did. Get help immediately. The life you save may be your own.
Love - Ellen. xoxoxoxoxo


Exuberant Color said...

I am SO happy you listened to your body. It is so much harder to get the exercise we need as we get older. I think it is the notion that we deserve rest after years of hard work. It does get you thinking though when you come so close to total collapse.

Patty Cramer said...

My Dear Sister,

How lucky we all are. Just going through those moments of waiting and wondering, my heart was heavy, my eyes filled with tears.

You are and will always be special to me.

Please take care of yourself - you are special cargo!!

I love you!!

MyNorth said...

Scary stuff heart disease. Thankfully medical science can help us through it. My DH has 8 stents which were put in after 5 by-pass grafts failed. He's fine now and listens attentively to his body. His family is ripe with heart disease like yours, so for both of you, I guess it was inevitable.
Proper diet, exercise and a good out look on life is the key to getting better. Oh yes, and lots of sewing too!
Glad you're okay Ellen. I enjoy reading your blog and seeing your many projects, it's great inspiration. And for your readers who haven't been listening to their bodies, perhaps you've now been an inspiration in that area too!

Susan Brubaker Knapp said...

Oh, Ellen, I just read your post, and I'm so glad to hear that you are okay! What a scare. I will try to keep you in mind as I try to get in shape and eat right... I have Type II diabetes as well, and like you, have been ignoring what I really need to do. You be good to yourself, okay?