In between the first two of my heart surgeries I had about a month and a half of downtime. All of it spent at home. Waiting for the blood thinners to kick in to the right level to make it safe to have another heart surgery.
It was a rough time.
Especially since I was still having serious physical issues. So serious that some days I literally could not stand up without blacking out. I would have to crawl to get to the bathroom.
I couldn’t drive at this point in my life, obviously. I couldn’t even walk. So I had to convince people to drive me around. But it wasn’t actually that hard. People tend to pity you when you have heart surgery.
One day, my little sister came to pick me up to drive me to the cardiologist’s so I could get my blood levels checked. It was a particularly bad day. It was one of those days where I couldn’t stand.
While we were driving to the doctor’s office I started feeling really really bad. My breathing started to get ragged and my sister started freaking out. She could see my heart pounding through my t-shirt.
We called my nurse and asked if we should go straight to the hospital. I was having trouble breathing. But she said to just come to the doctor’s office.
When we got there, my sister had to get me a wheelchair and wheel me in across the parking lot. By the way, if you have motion sickness (like me) never use a wheelchair if you can help it.
Before you start feeling too bad for me, you should know something. When I am feeling that badly physically, I feel incredible emotionally and mentally. It’s probably the lack of oxygen going to my brain. But I feel amazing I am cheerful and happy and upbeat. I tend to make a lot of jokes. The nurses over there love me. I am the youngest, happiest person they see.
The nurse checked my stats. My heart rate was so high the EKG couldn’t track it. My blood pressure was 60/30. The nurse felt my pulse and said it was somewhere over 200 bpm.
She left the room to cry away from my sister and I. She thought I was dying and didn’t want to upset us. It turns out I was only having a stroke.
My cardiologist came in and told me that I needed to go to the hospital. But first, he wanted to do a stress test. I had never done one before. And being super high and hilarious in my delirious state; I couldn’t refuse. I was ready for any adventure, as long as I could do it lying down.
So they injected me with some crazy shit to do a chemical stress test. My heart began beating even more rapidly. I was sweating. I still couldn’t breathe and now I couldn’t talk.
My sister was sitting in the room. Watching me. There were several nurses I didn’t know. One I did. And my cardiologist.
My cardiologist began rubbing my throat. It felt really weird. I remember thinking this is what you do to a cat to get it to swallow medicine. But the medicine I was getting was via an IV.
I’m going to level with you here. I was 100% convinced that I was dying. I’d already had two heart surgeries by this point and I knew what abject misery and pain felt like. This was different.
I couldn’t talk. All I could do was look my little sister in the eyes and wonder how scarring it was going to be for her to watch me die. Because I was dying, guys. Really and truly.
Once I could speak again, the nurse that injected me asked, “How do you feel?”
And I told her. “After both of my heart surgeries I wished I had died on the operating table because I felt so awful. If I had had the energy and ability to kill myself, I genuinely would have. And this is the worst I have ever felt in my entire life. I didn’t think it was possible to feel worse than I did after those previous surgeries. And you have proven me wrong today.”
Then they called the paramedics. The were both young and super friendly and I asked them if they would pull a sheet over my head when they wheeled me out through the crowded doctor’s office lobby. They wouldn’t. Those guys don’t like to joke about death.
I got to ride in an ambulance, across the street, to “my” hospital.
When I got there, I was like returning royalty. The charge nurses remembered me. I was the only woman on the entire cardiac floor. And also the only patient under 60. But the high point of this experience was my cardiologist making the hospital let me wear my street clothes instead of a gown.
And also, being high from almost dying.