09 February 2010

"You would know the secret of death. But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life." - Kahlil Gibran

I don't know how to instigate this entry, or how to justly communicate the way yesterday made me feel.

Sunday night I tossed and turned until 3AM. My legs were swollen and sore. After sleep finally took me, a night sweat roused me soon after. It happens; I didn’t give it much consideration. I went about my routine. All day at work I felt as though a heavy text book was laying across my chest, every so often an odd compressing, pulling, or squeezing sensation in the right side of my chest would pester me. I was dizzy, light headed. The aforementioned chest sensations provoked gradually throughout the day, so I gradually worked myself up to the point of alarm. Consulting with my tried and true method of health care, Google, I Googled my symptoms and results offered recurring links to “Heart Attack” information, imploring anyone with the symptoms to stop ignoring them fool and get help post haste. Incredulous, I shut the web pages down and went back to my work. The sensation, again. The Googling, over again. Suddenly, this understanding, I need to get to the doctors, I could be having a heart attack at the age of 26. I snuck out under the work radar and drove to urgent care clinic. In the waiting room, I couldn’t remain in my seat. I paced around; it made me feel in control. The dizziness worsened and swept my vision up with it, I felt like I was stuck in a vacuum or on some sort of psychadelic drugs.  My fingers tingled then went numb, I couldn’t catch a breath, and my jaw froze up. I was going to pass out any moment. Something serious was really happening. I was dying and I was all alone. The nurse took me back to a room immediately. She left the room to get the doctor. I sat with my head bowed and erupted into a sobbing fit.  What is happening to me? He calmed me down and told me he thought I experienced an anxiety attack, but wanted to run an EKG on me just to be sure, since I have a family history of heart disease.  I'm 26, I eat healthy (besides aforementioned breakfast), I'm not overweight, I don't smoke or do drugs, I'm in decent shape. The EKG was run twice, both times it turned up “unspecific -- may be due to myocardial ischemia” (loss of oxygen to the heart caused by blockage). Unbelievable. The doctor sent me to the ER to get it looked at closer. What. The Hell.

Bj met me in the hospital triage, my sister took the baby. I sat feeling astonished and doomed with my head on his shoulder. When we got placed in a room, they ran another EKG and took my blood and wired me all over with an assortment of sticky monitoring devices. The new doctor confirmed that the EKG really was looking unusual, but he didn’t know why. He was concerned about a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs), too. I got a chest x-ray and was told to wait for 1.5 hours to receive the reading of my fate. BJ sat at my bedside in the hard chairs. He kissed me and we tried to banter as if nothing was wrong, we watched Pawn Stars on the broken hospital television and I saw everything differently, jealously, these living, healthy people taking their lives for granted…all of us. I would miss all of this, even dish washer detergent commercials.  He held my cold hand and the IV stabbed me every time I stirred. I thought about Zoe’s upcoming first birthday party, what would happen to her if I died. Would she have a flattering picture of me on her dresser that she’d look at & hug like in the movies? Would BJ be able to raise our little girl alone? Would my mother or sister take her in?  Would she become a shopper like them? Would she remember the way I loved her, the bond we had, our smiles and laughs? And my future…can you get pregnant after you have a heart attack? I can’t die yet, I am supposed to start nursing school. February 8th, huh? This is the date I die? Why do they have to call it a heart attack?  It sounds too serious...I want it changed for this situation.  I vacillated between acceptance and denial, fear and valor. I burst into another fit of tears, overcome with desperate emotion, muttering to BJ, "I can't die...I can't abandon Zoe in this world". BJ and I prayed together. I prayed silently to myself over and over. I watched the screen next to my bed blink and display disturbingly high numbers on my vitals. We waited, and waited…for what seems like forever. I researched pulmonary embolisms on my iPhone and realized I had every single symptom of that, too, wouldn’t you know. My friend Jenn, a nurse, texted me continuously asking for updates and giving me happy thoughts.

Three hours later, the doctor came through the curtain. He sat next to me and gave me a steady look, I froze, bracing for the news. He told me that all my blood tests came back great as did my chest x-ray. I didn’t have a heart attack, nor is my blood clotting. The buoyancy I felt in that moment was palpable. He explained that it’s a mystery why I have the chest pains, but not a life-threatening one.  And the other symptoms were probably an anxiety attack. I jumped up and hugged him.  I had sincerely thought my life was over or ending and now I hear that it isn't.  BJ and I checked out and went home to eat comfort food and sleep (semi ironic, yeah). What a crazy day. What a crazy thing. My head is still trying to process it.  And now I sit at work as if none of that ever happened.  I really like life, I wasn't ready to lose it.

I went to the store on my lunch hour, the sun was shining and Bob Seger was on the radio. The storefront was displaying colorful tulips for sale that were just starting to peek open.  I'm still really scared knowing my heart is unsteady, the odd pains haven't stopped and my vision remains slightly shaky, but it's okay. I think it will all be okay.


themrrogers said...

Jen, my prayers and energy go out to you. What an amazing experience!

There is nothing like staring death in the face to put perspective on life.

Thank you for sharing this experience with me. It inspired me to pause and reflect on my life through the eyes of death... but lets both live forever... okay?

Heidi and Judd said...

My poor Jenn!
I'm so sorry you are going through this! How horrible!
Let us know if there anything we can do! You are in our thoughts and prayers!
Love you!

Mimi, that one girl said...


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I guess you're just what I needed.