This photo was taken three days before my heart attack.
As you can see, I was feeling pretty good that crisp September day. I was celebrating the new chill in the air and even posted the photo to Instagram. Two days later, I was reaching to turn off my morning alarm clock when the pain ripped through my chest. I was flattened, laying there in bed, my mind racing, trying to figure out what was happening and what I should do. Two minutes can feel like hours when you’re scared. When the pain didn’t subside, I knew I was likely in trouble and found a way to the ER, terrified and confused and hoping the prognosis wasn’t too awful. It was. I had a 99% blockage of what they call the widowmaker artery and found myself heading into emergency heart surgery before I could blink at the news. There was apparently no time to waste.
I write to you now from the other side of what could have been a tragic day. Reading the statistics back now, I had a 12% chance of surviving the kind of heart attack I had. But somehow, I did, and that matters.
I’ve tried to focus on the takeaway: I’m meant to be here. That’s more important than the scary part. Waking up on a ventilator is an experience I hope to never repeat, but I was well taken care by my surgeons and hospital staff and back up on my feet in record time.
Not to worry. I’m doing really well. Recovery from surgery has been big but steady, and I’m returning to myself more and more with each day that passes. My doctors are a little floored at my progress, in a good way. If you saw me in Provincetown, you likely had no idea what I’d been through just two and a half weeks prior or that I was still very much in recovery. But it had been important to me to be there, doing something I loved, embracing a part of life that made me happy and getting back in the swing of things. For my mental health, coming off the bench was going to be key. (Don’t worry. I went slow and took it easy the whole time I was there. Great friends took care of me, shuttling me to and from the airport, checking in on me, even carrying my lightweight bag).
But as you can imagine, that kind of event will certainly give you new perspective. I hold my kids a lot tighter and take time to smile at the sunset— as cliché as that may sound. It makes me appreciate each little life connection I have and that extends to you, too. If you’re reading this, then we’ve connected in some way – either personally or on the page. Thank you for that and for all those exchanges of energy from nearby or far, far away. I won’t be taking one minute of it for granted. I won’t take you for granted, either.
So onward we go through life’s journeys, unpredictable and scary and beautiful and exciting. Life is most certainly a ride, and I’m excited to see what’s next.
I hope you’ll stick with me.
PS – For the purpose of helping others who might go through something similar in the future: It wasn’t the first time I’d felt chest pain. In fact, because I’d had a few incidents of it in the weeks prior, I’d gone to see my cardiologist who’d ordered an echocardiogram and treadmill stress test. Both of which I’d passed with normal results. Puzzling. I even did a Spice Girls spin class 48 hours before this happened. Everyone is still scratching their heads about these anomalies. The moral of the story is advocate for yourself even if the tests don’t back you up. You know your body and what feels normal and what doesn’t.
PPS – If you’re ever in my situation, don’t find your own way to the hospital. Call an ambulance. Knowing what I do now, I would definitely do that part differently. It could have been a costly decision.
PPPS – I love you all.