August 15, 2016
On May 22, 2016, my husband and I were at the beach and wanted to see our youngest son for a few moments before he returned to a weekend long beach festival. We brought he and his friends a bag of biscuits for breakfast because it was his 18th birthday. After leaving we headed back to our condo and then to the beach. I reached down to stretch out the sheet in the sand and felt an awful burning in my chest. I couldn’t raise my arms over my head to lay out our sheet and it felt funny to breathe. My husband took me back to the room and I showered off.
I then felt exhausted as if I had an awful case of the flu. I quickly dressed and we headed for a nearby urgent care type facility, only we didn’t make it out of the elevator. I collapsed after my husband hit the down button. When the doors opened a precious woman looked at my husband and said, I am a retired nurse, your wife is having a heart attack. She started CPR and my husband called 911. Later I would remember bits and pieces of these events.
I coded outside the elevator, then taken by the ENT’s to the nearest hospital, South Baldwin. We were in Orange Beach, Alabama on vacation after our son’s graduation from high school. The cardiologist did a stent (I believe) and realized it wasn’t holding and ordered me to be taken to Thomas Hospital in Fairhope where a surgeon could operate. I coded after being removed from the ambulance for 45 minutes, later my cardiologist read a report that stated “well over an hour”. I was then prepped for surgery and while waiting on the surgeon I coded a third time. Next, the same cardiologist from the first hospital (he followed the ambulance in his own car, for fear I would not make the trip) opened up my chest and did hand compressions until the surgeon arrived.
I believe I had a bypass then my chest was left open for two days. The first night I was given a 50/50 chance, the next night my family was told I was brain dead and then my liver and kidneys shut down. I was given a DNR and my family was in shock. During the wee hours of the following morning I started showing signs of functionality. I had made it through multiple strokes and seizures to waking up having no idea what had happened. My toes burned and eventually blistered and turned black due to the pusher medications given when my heart stopped. The doctors could not explain, but my family knew it was prayer and God’s grace. I was told that it was a SCAD and most likely my hormone replacement therapy and sumatriptans taken for my migraines were probable contributors.
On June 6, 2016 I was sent home and told to follow up with my cardiologist. It took two more weeks before anyone would address my toes and another month plus before I could get help with the repercussions of stopping hormone therapy after 16 years. To say that I felt bat crazy is an understatement. I look forward to connecting with other women who can help me find my “new normal”.