A couple of weeks after my surgery I went to the emergency room. I had woken up the day before with chest pains. It was this severe pain right above my heart. I felt dizzy and out of breath. My mother was insistent that I go to the doctor’s. I had just returned to work and couldn’t miss a day. I figured I would be fine. After all it was a Friday.
Later that night I tossed and turned trying to get comfortable. I couldn’t find a position that helped. I finally dozed off only to wake up the next morning feeling like crap. My chest hurt worse. It felt like an elephant was stepping on my chest. I was struggling to breathe now. I was scared.
I caught my mother before she went about her normal Saturday activities. I needed her to take me to the emergency room. Something was wrong. We got in the car and headed to the hospital. The doctor scared the hell out of me when she mentioned that I may have a blood clot because I had just had major surgery two weeks earlier. I started to cry. I said “I have a 10 year old son. I can’t die.” She said “Sweetie, if it’s a blood clot, you’re in the best place and we can test and treat it immediately.” I just laid there praying that it wasn’t a clot. Munch needed me.
I started thinking about life and death and all the in between moments. The times when I was too tired to do anything because I was busy burning the candle at both ends. The times when I forgot to feed my own soul. My family has a history of heart problems and what if something is wrong with my heart? My heart history is bad on both sides of my family.
This was bad. I was only 43. I needed my heart to be okay. I prayed.
Many tests later, I found myself in a morphine haze and still in pain. The nurse said if the morphine wasn’t working then it probably wasn’t a blood clot. She was saying that morphine increases oxygen in the blood. Okay, I just remember that morphine was the good stuff only reserved for end of life patients and here was the hospital giving it to me like candy. The doctor came in and said that everything looked good. It didn’t look like I had a blood clot and my heart looked fine. She suggested that I follow up with my primary care doctor and apologized for scaring me.
I sighed. At least I wasn’t going to die. Not today.
I left the emergency room in pain and went home to sleep. I was exhausted from the day spent in the ER and drugged up off the morphine. I just wanted the pain in my chest to stop.
I spent the weekend in bed and sent an email to my doctor’s office for an appointment. I spent time with my primary as he accessed my hospital test results and informed me that everything looked good. I told him about my dad’s and my family’s history of heart issues. I explained that I was scared that something is going to be wrong with my heart and he’ll tell me too late.
I told him I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want to have a heart attack and I wanted to watch my son grow up. I needed him to make sure that I was okay. That my heart was fine.
He said he would. He recommended a stress test based on my family history and then repeated what he’d being saying to me the last couple of years. I need to get the weight off. I need to stop letting people and situations stress me the hell out because my blood pressure is getting higher and stress can affect my heart health. He suggested a low dose blood pressure medicine. He needed me to get control of my weight and stress.
I had no choice now. No more excuses. It was time to put up or shut up and do what needed to be done. He said we can wait until I get the all clear from my surgeon to resume exercise. We scheduled my stress test and it was time for me to make a change.