ldquo;Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the graduating class of 1995!rdquo;
I wanted to be excited but the emotion just wasn't there. Mostly because I always felt so exhausted and didn't understand why. I was losing hope in living. I couldn't see the reward. Everything I did seem to be in vain. To be honest, I didn't really want to live!
I'd been down that road before. It was my junior year of high school. I was striving to excel in school and in extra-curricular activities. I was a good kid, trusted by all the adults in my life. I had a lot going for me, but I was lonely and sad. I started having outbursts of anger at school and at home. After pushing everyone out of my life, I knelt at my bed and cried out to God.
ldquo;God if you are real, then make yourself real to me or I'm checking out.rdquo; I had decided at that moment that God had a week or I would kill myself. It's hard to recall the exact details of that next week, but I can tell you that God's hand was undeniable. At the end of that week, I found myself in Sunday school with a new life-long friend, Heather Cleversey. We are complete opposites, yet other than God and my husband, she knows me best. It was her that God used to show me that He was real.
The first time I felt this lonely and down, I didn't know God and now the second time I knew God. I questioned my faith. If I knew Christ was ldquo;The Way, The Truth, The Liferdquo;, then why wasn't I living it? Again, I found myself knelt at the side of my bed crying out to God. ldquo;Something isn't right, I need you to intervene and show merdquo;. That was Friday night. Sunday, after church, I was gearing up to go work out. I was fighting fatigue and the desire to just sleep. From start to finish, it took me two hours to get ready to go work out. When I say get ready, all I had to do was put my hair in a pony tail and change into shorts and a t-shirt. I had to take breaks in between everything and then I had a snack in hopes to charge myself up. No luck. All it resulted in was making me angry. So I left a note for my roommates in case they came home early from their weekend events that said, ldquo;Went for a run, if I'm not back, I'm dead!rdquo;
On the way to the gym, I contemplated what I wrote, almost as if I couldn't figure out why I would write such a thing. On one side, I did want to die, because I was tired of working so hard and feeling like I was getting nowhere and not making a difference anywhere. On the other side, I thought, ldquo;I couldn't get that lucky!rdquo; Dying was the easy way out. I was pretty sure that God had more in store for me, so going to heaven and escaping all the struggles and trials of life on earth wasn't the answer.
I ran a mile to the school and jumped on the health rider for some more cardio. After every 5 minutes, I would tell myself just 5 more minutes. After 20 minutes I couldn't go anymore. If there wasn't a professor in the gym, I would have laid down and went to sleep. That professor doesn't know it, but he played a part in saving my life by being there that day.
I decided that I didn't have enough energy or desire to lift, so I headed for the parking lot. When I arrived there, I was reminded that I didn't drive there and that I would have to run home. Obviously, I did not plan this out very well. I had decided that there was no way I could run, so I decided to walk. Within a minute or so, I felt somewhat recovered and a desire to run only because running would get me to my bed quicker and that is all I could think about. As I started into the jog, I said to myself, ldquo;It's going to hurt, but it won't kill yourdquo;.
When I was within 500 yards of my apartment, I stopped due to the immense side ache that I could not shake. Of course within a minute, I felt better and reminded myself what a wimp I was for not finishing the last 500 yards.
At the bottom of my apartment stairs I remember stopping and planning out my route to get to the couch. My energy was so depleted; I couldn't chance wasting any of it. When I walked in I was greeted by one roommate (which I don't remember), then I followed my plan and made it to the couch. Where I stood in front of it, sighed and said, ldquo;I'm so tired! I collapsed on the couch and that's the last thing I remember.
Stories from my roommates and the actual tape recording of the event, tell me that I went into a full cardiac arrest and put my roommates in a very scary situation. They responded quickly. Ginger was on the phone with her back to me. She heard me kicking the coffee table, but didn't turn around. Both Ginger and Chris were aware of my foul mood by my little note that I left them. At this time in my life, when I was angry it was better to stay clear. They were following that advice and avoiding any confrontations, so she continued on the phone with her back to me until she heard a raspy, girgling attempt for air. She turned around and saw that my face was white, my feet were trying to plant on the floor. My hands were trying to plant on the couch to lift myself up to get air. It's amazing that the body acts without conscious decision to fight for life. Ginger hung up and called 911 and immediately reports that I'm not breathing, she thinks I'm dying and gives the operator our address and then panics and repeats that information several times. Her twin sister Chris ran downstairs to get our landlord Chris. Together they moved me off the couch. My roommate Chris was holding me at the shoulders and my landlord had my feet. As they were moving me, my roommate looked down at me and saw a line across my nose. Below my nose was purple and above was white. My eyes were rolled back and the line was slowly moving down my face. Another way to put it was the blood was draining out of my head. That freaked her out, so she said she dropped me.
The ambulance took me to Newberg Hospital. My condition had the nurses and doctors on edge, because they couldn't figure out why a healthy, 21 year old athlete had collapsed with heart complications.
When my sisters and Dad arrived, the nurses shuffled them into my room where my sister said I looked dead. I was all white and cold and hooked up to a ton of wires and tubes. As soon as they arrived, they were just prepping me to be moved to St. Vincent. I was life-flighted to St. Vincent's where I met my Cardiologist.
Later that evening, Dr. Daniel Oseran diagnosed me with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. It's a thickening of the left ventricular wall causing a deficient amount of blood to the body.
It wasn't until Tuesday that I regain any memory of the whole incident. In fact, I suffered from short term memory badly. It became a little game with all my visitors. I could only remember seconds of information and as soon as my attention was drawn to something new, I would forget everything prior to that event. For instance, a memory of my friend Annette, and her mom, Sharon, one of the times I woke up. I was so surprised they were there, because they lived in California. At the time, I didn't really understand the magnitude of what happened to me, so I was amazed at all the people that were visiting and showing me that they loved me. So I woke up and saw Annette and her mom and I said, ldquo;Annette is here and her mom!? When did you get here?!rdquo; I turn and saw another visitor, repeat the same line with their name in just as much amazement as before to only turn and see Annette and her mom again, where I repeated with as much astonishment as before, ldquo;Annette is here and her mom! When did you get here?rdquo;
As you can see, this could be a fun game. Every time you get into my eyesight it's like I'm seeing you for the first time and I'm so excited to see you. So picture this if you will. A small roll of pictures from my graduation a couple of weeks prior was given to me from my mom. It was a small roll of film, 24 pictures, before everybody had digital cameras. Now I remember looking at the pictures and making comments about them and then I remember my sister ripping them out of my hands telling me that I had already seen the pictures. I remember thinking, ldquo;How rude! I'll have to look at those later!rdquo; It was months later when I was visiting my mom in Alaska, I was looking through her photo albums and I came across this small roll of pictures and I said to my mom, ldquo;How come I've never seen these pictures?rdquo; She looked at them and then at me and said you saw them when you were in the hospital. I could of sat all day and looked at those same pictures like it was the first time every time if my sister had not taken them from me and then still never remembered what pictures they were.
Later in the week, Dr. Dan came into my room and the room became a little tense. I knew he had something serious to say and everybody else knew about it but me. Now remember my degree was fitness, so the human body is a fascination to me and at this time in my life I loved the TV series ER. This was before it was such a soap opera, but more about ER gore and mysteries. So I asked him, like a little kid, ldquo;Did I go into Cardiac Arrest?rdquo;
ldquo;Yes you did.rdquo;
ldquo;Did they have to shock me with those paddles?rdquo;
ldquo;Yes they did.rdquo;
ldquo;Did my body jump up off the ground, like it does on TV?rdquo;
Now slightly irritated, ldquo;I don't know. Probably! Back to the issue. You have a serious heart condition called Hypertrophic Chellip;hellip;hellip;.rdquo;
ldquo;Cardiomyopathy! I know what that is! I just finished my Senior Research paper on it. I know all about it. The lead researcher on the condition is Barry Maron. He was my main source of information.rdquo;
He preceded to tell me that he worked with Barry Maron on his research and was interested in reading my paper. I wasn't real proud of my paper, because I'm not the best writer and during the time I was writing it, I was suffering the vague symptoms the condition causes. I was always so tired, that when I would work on it, I didn't have the energy or desire to sharpen the writing up, so it didn't flow and it was choppy. I got a ldquo;Brdquo; for the grade. Personally, I would have given myself a ldquo;Crdquo;. I wasn't impressed. I reluctantly passed the paper onto him, but I was embarrassed by it.
By the end of the week I received a defibulator and was put on daily medication and later released.
It took me about 5 years to finally get a handle on my full limitations. I realized that I was getting sick all the time. I finally figured out that I was working out too hard, over training and making myself sick, which in turn would result in not working out for a few days and then get back into it too strong and get sick again.
Ten years later, I was managing very well. Back to working out 5-6 days a week, lifting and playing softball with nobody the wiser on my vulnerable health. I was 6 years into an awesome marriage; we sought medical counsel on the safety of getting pregnant. With approval we started trying. After 2 years, we finally conceived. For the first 12 weeks, it was a normal healthy pregnancy. After that, I spent much of my time, either in a hospital bed or my home bed. It started with an incarcerated uterus. That means my uterus was upside down and sitting so low that it was blocking my ability to urinate. I spent 6 weeks with my behind in the air trying to get the uterus to gravitationally drop or rise into my upper abdomen. Finally after 6 weeks, I felt the baby move into place at about 1am. The next two days were awesome! Then the 6-7 fibroids that I had, started acting up and were so inflamed that I couldn't be touched or move without wanting to cry. So I was placed on Vicodin to stay functional.
When I was 6 months pregnant, I received a flu shot and ended up getting the flu and being hospitalized for 3 days. When I got home, I was still under the weather for another couple of days and by the end I stated to my husband, this is it, ldquo;starting tomorrow I will be better, no matter what!rdquo;
The next morning I woke up with my SI joint knocked out. The doctors couldn't fix it until my little baby girl was born, so I was put on 3 more pain meds and bedridden for the next month. Things were progressing very slowly. All I did was sleep due to the drugs and activity of any kind cause more pain. After a month of doing nothing, my defibulator battery was low, so it shocked me for no reason. Three days later it shocked me again. After calling my cardiologist at midnight, he said ldquo;get some sleep and I will see you in the morningrdquo;. Five minutes after getting off the phone with him, it shocked me again! This time I cried. For reasons of pain on top of pain on top of pain and on top of frustration and complete surrender. I was taken to the hospital by ambulance where my cardiologist shut my defibulator off and then informed me that I would need to stay in the hospital until the baby was born so he could replace my defibulator. As we waited for a room, believe it or not, our baby girl decided that she was done being shocked. My water broke and I was immediately dilated to 4. They gave me medicine to slow down contractions and transported me to Emanuel to have a c-section.
I arrived at Emanuel with my team assembled and ready to deliver my little girl. They put me completely under and she was born at 6:42am on December 10, 2007. She was 3 pounds 12 ounces and other than being small, she was completely healthy. She is a total champion.
After waking from the whole deal, I stood and walked with no pain for the first time in months. I had no energy or strength, but no pain was a great celebration. I stayed in the cardiac unit for the next week. I saw Keeley once a day with supervision from a cardiac nurse who escorted Denny and I to the NICU, along with all the cardiac devices attached to me, in case I suffered Heart failure. During that weeks' time, I received two blood transfusions and was very weak. When the week was up, I was transferred back to my heart hospital, where they took out my old dead battery and put in a fresh battery. Denny and I went back to the baby hospital and stayed with Keeley the next two weeks. Three weeks after she was born, it was time to take her home, but we didn't have a home to take her to. In the midst of all my physical trials with the pregnancy my husband was trying to work and build us a home. My health caused several large setbacks for him.
We had two families who offered us their home to come stay. We went with the Nelson's. They welcomed us and made us feel at home, despite the inconvenience it must have been. I had only been home 5 days when I finally couldn't shake spiking a 102 fever, night sweats so bad that I would have to change my shirt, because it was so wet, and body shivers that kept me from feeding the baby in the middle of the night.
I went to the hospital with the idea that I had an infection in my uterus from the c-section. Apparently, that is very common. When they couldn't find it in the uterus, but my symptoms showed I was fighting something, they did a full body scan and found the infection in my heart. I was immediately put on tons of antibiotics and thoroughly examined for the next week. The next week I was transported back to my heart hospital, where they removed the new defibulator in fear that the infection would spread further to the device, then I was sent home for 8 more weeks of infusion treatments 6 times a day. Keep in mind that I'm a new mom. I didn't see much of Keeley or take care of her for the first 3 months of her life. My mom, Denny and other family members and friends cared for her the most.
After 8 weeks of treatment, I was certain that I was all cleared up and I was ready to get my device put back in and move on with life. They re-examined my heart and discovered that the damage was irreversible without open heart surgery. On March 11, 2008 I received two mechanical artificial valves. One Aortic, and one Mitral valve and they placed a ring on my Tricuspid valve. On an x-ray, it looks like my heart got married with the circle band on it.
A couple of months later, on May 13, 2008, I received my new defibulator. By July 1, 2008, I was back to work. I was exactly 20 days shy of being off work for one year. It was great to be back to work, but hard to be away from my little girl. For the next two years our family was working on living a normal life with no incident.
Unfortunately, a small set back came on June 8, 2010. I woke up, stood up, did my morning stretch and ldquo;bang!rdquo; I got shocked. I felt okay, so I was confused why my defibulator was shocking me. I called my husband home and called the doctor and into his office we went. After I had calmed down from the fear of being shocked again, I figured I would just get a little adjustment and then off to work I would go. That was not what happened. When I got in there, they figured out that my lead wire busted and was causing friction that was telling the defibulator to shock me.
I am now recovering from that surgery. It was my 8th heart surgery. Some people respond with frustration for me that the device should come with some warranty or something. My response is I'm just thankful that such hardware exists. It saved my life 15 years ago and it's been a great assurance for this long. Unless I tell people that I have a serious heart condition, nobody can tell. I'm very blessed to be as active as I am. I'm thankful that I'm still around to be a Mom to my little girl and a wife to my best friend.