January 6, 2016 (Back Then)

My life was busy but not really stressful.

When I was diagnosed with COPD in October 2015, I quit smoking and was waiting to see a specialist.  I had been sleeping a lot lately and afternoon naps were becoming my norm. I could sleep from noon until 5:00pm and go right back at 11:00pm with no problem at all.

On January 6th around 10:00 pm, I was suddenly in distress.  Thank the Lord that I was not alone. I felt like my heart was coming out of my throat. I was sweating and struggling for air. My feet and legs were burning from what I would later find out was lack of oxygen. My daughter tried talking to me, I told her I thought I was dying and thankfully she called an ambulance.

By the time they arrived, I was VSA (vital signs absent). The attack lasted a mere 20 minutes and threatened my very existence. The paramedics revived me twice on my kitchen floor, got me stabilized and ready for transport.

About half way to the hospital I lost vitals again and they had to pull over the ambulance to get my heart started a third time. Unfortunately, my kids in the car behind the ambulance were frantic and knew exactly what was happening.

The emergency room doctors worked from 10:30 pm until 6:00 am to get my heart and lungs stabilized. My carbon dioxide levels were 3 times higher than they should have been.  The doctors believed I was a retainer.  I was placed in an induced coma and on life support for 3 days and waking after 5 days. I was placed in ICU.

I was so weak when I came out of the coma that I couldn’t even push the blankets back or sit up without support. I was propped up in the bed with pillows under both arms.

That month of January of 2016, would see me spend 5 days in a coma, 18 days in ICU and 23 days total in hospital. I was sent home on oxygen for the first time in my life.

 

I was lucky enough to obtain a referral

and an appointment with one of the best doctors at The Firestone Institute for Respiratory Health.

I didn’t know it then, but that doctor and his team would save my life and thankfully he would become my Pulmonary Specialist. I will be eternally grateful to him and his staff for their supportive care. He had me on an action plan to be admitted back to hospital and attend Rehab but before I could attend I had to be stabilised. He and his team achieved that in no time and I was soon on the mend.

While I was in Resp Rehab,

I was introduced to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy but I didn’t fully grasp the concept.  My daughter, who is my savior, encouraged me and reminded me to be mindful of my actions and my environment as a means of returning to life.

She had been teaching me Mindfulness to manage stress, encouraging me to journalize, to meditate, to stay in the moment and enjoy the moment as it is without trying to change it.

As I walked around the block every day I am being Mindful. I am mindful of the flowers and the trees, mindful of the cracks in the sidewalk, of the sights, sounds and the smells. I was drinking it all in and enjoying my new-found mindful freedom.  I was feeling encouraged and grateful. I was grateful for life, for the family that is supporting me to get better and to return to them.  Mindfulness helped me to return to the same life although now with a few restrictions.

 

June 4, 2016 (Back Then)

That morning I had walked my usual mile around the block and talked to a few neighbours, who hadn’t seen me since my cardiac event. I sat in my walker and watched my husband gardening. Then I came in to lie down for a few minutes to get ready for the evening.

I was very excited to be back to the land of the living as I was resuming activities I used to take for granted. Since I had vowed to start leaving the house socially, this weekend would be spent with the girls.

I was just about ready to go and I began to feel a pulse in my neck. It continued and I started feeling palpitations in my chest and I called my daughter. She asked me if I felt like I needed an ambulance and I said no, let’s wait, I did not want it to be that again.

My heart rate was increasing and I didn’t know how to control it, so I agreed to have her call and get the paramedics to check it out. And a good thing I did, because by the time the paramedics got here I was, once again, VSA (vital signs absent).

Bam, I was right back in ICU. I woke to intubation. It was not nice. I felt like it was Groundhog Day. It happened again at the same place, in my kitchen. I had been saved a second time, as I would find out later; by the same paramedic team. I really do thank God for them every day; however, this time when I woke I was a little less grateful.  I’m not totally ungrateful but really….. Is this going to keep happening every 6 months?

As I became conscious, and before I lost my mind, I started to use the lessons from Mindfulness and it got me through that first night. I wasn’t thinking about the future or about what happened but of my walks and the sights and sound and smell that I love. I can feel every crack and bump in the sidewalk as if I was right there. Thank God for Mindfulness and for the calming voice of my daughter that I heard playing over and over again in my head. It saved my sanity that night.

I regained consciousness in about 8 hours.  When I woke my family was there, my husband, my daughter and son’s who had never left my side. Soon the tube was removed. I was then transferred to the step down ward and then to a regular ward. Doctors did not know what to do with me. For now I was on Telemetry and would stay put so they could monitor my heart.

After a 3 week and several doctors later, I finally got my answer.

The Cardio team would be willing to implant an Implantable Cardio Defibrillator (ICD) with a pacer. ALthough my main issue was COPD, apparently my heart was also having issues.

The ICD would offset any further SCA (Sudden Cardiac Arrest’s) and allow me to continue living.

Once the decision was made the surgery was scheduled pretty quickly and I was discharged the next day.

That month of June of 2016, would see me spend 1 day in a coma, 27 days in a ward and 28 days total in hospital. I was sent home on oxygen for the second time.

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