Friday, February 1, 2008


Today is national "Red Dress Day", reminding us to wear red for Women's Heart Health. I decided that today is the right time for me to write about my heart "episode" which is what all my friends call my brush with death. Even in naming it "my episode" we decided to make light of it, but it was a very serious time in my life.

I was in my early 50's, working at a job I loved, but in the middle of writing a grant to help fund a building a our new library. My brother, who I loved with all my heart, had committed suicide three weeks earlier. I remember in those three weeks following his death being able to concentrate on my work, but in any moment when my mind wasn't fully engaged, I found myself thinking about my brother. And I was exhausted. I chalked my tiredness up to depression. I certainly knew I had reasons to be depressed. In the last two years I had lost my father, my mother, my husband's dear grandmother and now my brother. I guess, looking back, it was probably the most stressful time in my life.

My friend and co-worker thought I needed a distraction and so she persuaded me to take a day trip provided by our credit union to a Christmas show and luncheon. It was a relaxing and fun day. The food was heavier than I would normally have eaten for lunch and so I really didn't think much of it when while talking on the phone to my daughter that evening, I felt a fulness in my chest. The chest tightness turned into a pain in my neck and chin, followed by clamminess.

I knew something was really wrong, but talked myself into thinking it was indigestion. I did decide to call a friend whose father I thought had a heart attack and ask her his symptoms. Turns out, he never had a heart attack and she urged me to call the hospital which I did. They told me to get there immediately.

At that time, appearances were more important to me than they are now and I didn't want to look silly so I just went upstairs and laid down. It was no time at all before my friend was knocking at my door checking on me. I assured her I was okay and sent her on her way, but I wasn't okay. Finally, I did what I should have done in the first place. I prayed. I knew that people had pain in their left arm when they had a heart attack. I asked God if I should go to the hospital that my arm would ache. IMMEDIATELY my right arm began to ache. It felt as if it was encased in cement.

We were out the door in a matter of seconds. I knew I was in real trouble on the way to the hospital. Within fifteen minutes of being in the hospital, my heart went into ventricular fibrillation. Had I delayed at home, had I called the ambulance which didn't at that time have a defibrillator, I would have been gone.

The next days were full of tests, procedures, medicines and finally the installation of a internal defibrillator. I won't write about all of that. In the end, it was determined that I do not have heart disease - that's the good news. I guess the bad news is that they really don't know what caused the "episode". My cardiologist finally did admit that in the face of no medical answer, he thinks it could have been the stress.

Needless to say, I am delighted to be here writing this post. Of course, as I told my dear pastor the day after, "It really didn't make a lot of difference. If I had not been here, I would have been in heaven with Jesus". It really was a win/win situation. Many things have happened to me in the years since this incident. Many days, I have been discouraged and downhearted, but when I stop and think, I know that I have so much to celebrate. I have been given an gift of time and I need to praise God for every moment of it.

And so here we are, enjoying our retirement, travelling while we can still carry our own suitcases, remembering to be say "I love you" many times a day, and hopefully, guarding our hearts.


Gretchen said...

I had to hop over to your blog from Cheryl's because I noticed that your daughter's name is Gretchen. I don't hear of my name being said very often, so I wanted to say "hi".

I just read your red dress heartfelt post. What a good reminder to pray and to listen for that still small voice.

Have a great weekend.


Mississippi Songbird said...

I'm so glad you are okay. God bless you.. Yes, I tell my loved ones everyday how much I love them.My sweet Momma taught me that and I am teaching it to my children.. I hope you have a wonderful weekend.. Bunches of hugs....Stephanie

camport said...

Wow. What a story! How awesome that it really is a win/win situation with Christians. Regardless, I'm glad you won on this side for now, so I get to have you for a friend.


Nancy said...

Oh, my! I did not know this happened to you! I had the same thing happen to me the week right after my mother passed away. I was told that mine was caused by stress, also! And yes, I like you, thank God for every day he has given me since! The last thing I say to my children whenever we part, or say goodbye on the phone, is "I love you." If anything were to happen to me, I want them to remember the last words I ever said to them was "I love you." God Bless You, Pam! We go way back to childhood, and your story brought me to tears!!! I love you!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for sharing your story and that it was wear red day. I didn't know about this until today. Next year, I'll be looking for the day and wearing red for sure!

I'm so glad that you survived and think that for us, your survival is a win because you have so much to teach us (and do, all of the time). Thanks again!