What I want you to know about having a heart attack

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by Kimby.

I want you to know that I was 38 years old, a little overweight, but overall healthy. On Monday, June 16, I had what I thought was a gall bladder attack. Two weeks earlier, I was diagnosed as having gall stones, so I had already scheduled an appointment to have my gall bladder removed. The pain was unbearable. It started out as severe burning in my chest, like heartburn, and engulfed the entire top half of my body. I couldn't find a position that would make the pain go away. Then I broke out into a sweat and started shaking. I knew something was NOT right, and fearing for the worst, I contacted a colleague (I was staying in a local hotel for work) who dialed 911.

Once the paramedics arrived, most of the pain had gone away. They took my vitals and checked my heart, and they dismissed it as a gall bladder attack. They gave me the choice to go with them in the ambulance or come to the hospital later if I started feeling bad again. I chose not to be transported by ambulance, and the paramedics left. A friend of mine bought some heartburn medicine for me, which I took immediately. However, the pain came back. I concentrated really hard to make the pain go away again, and it did…mostly. I contacted my GI doctor to get seen immediately. I could hardly walk and couldn't drive, so another colleague drove me to the doctor's office. There, I was prescribed heartburn medicine, pain medicine, and sent for blood work. I also rescheduled my gall bladder surgery to Friday, June 20 (originally scheduled Wednesday, June 25, due to my work schedule).

The pain medicine seemed to help, and by the next morning, I felt I was okay to go into work and just take it easy most of the day. That idea was quickly squashed, as another attack came on mid-morning! This time, the pain was centered to my sternum and had moved to the left. I also had shortness of breath, and it hurt to breathe deeply. I immediately contacted my GI doctor who told me that my blood work had come back with elevated levels of WBCs, therefore, I had an infection…most likely, gall bladder infection. This made my situation urgent. We contacted the GI surgeon to see if he could work me in that day, which he did. My surgery was now scheduled for 4:00pm that day. Before leaving for the outpatient facility, the surgeon contacted me and said he didn't feel right about sending me to the outpatient facility in case something went wrong - since we already knew there was an infection - so he wanted me to be admitted to the hospital instead. He would do my surgery and I would spend the night so they could check and make sure all was okay before releasing me the next morning. This would be my first surgery AND my first hospital stay ever! I was really nervous, coupled with the fact that I could barely breathe.

I had two of my friends drive me to the hospital to get checked in. My breathing was very shallow and labored. I was weak, didn't feel well, was in pain, and my eye sight started getting blurry. Once I was in the surgery prep room, I let all of the doctors and nurses know about my painful and shallow breathing. All assured me that wasn't a problem, and I would be feeling better in no time. I don't even remember being put to sleep with anesthesia. The only thing I remember next was waking up after the surgery.

I was in recovery, and I woke up, very groggy, to someone saying my name, "Kim!" I was then left alone and began to feel excruciating pain in the upper half of BOTH arms. I also felt nauseous. I started to moan and groan and shake my arms and call for someone to please help me, that I was nauseous, and my arms were hurting really bad. I think I was dozing in and out. Someone asked me how long I'd had a heart problem. I went into fighter mode and became very defensive. I said, "I don't have a heart problem!" Someone else asked me if I knew I had a heart problem. I said, "I don't have a problem with my heart! What is going on?"

The next thing I knew, people were all around me. I heard whispers of "heart condition" but no one ever told me what was wrong. Then someone started doing a 3D echo of my heart and asking me about my "heart condition". Again, I exclaimed that nothing was wrong with my heart. A nurse gave me an aspirin (I assume) to chew. I remember a Dr. going around and thanking each person individually for staying late to help me. Then I remember looking up and seeing a priest!

"Why is there a priest?!" I yelled out. "Is the priest here for me????!!!" Someone answered that there were normally lots of people around for surgeries. But that made me mad that there was a priest! Was I dying? Did they think I was going to die?? And no one was telling me what was going on?

I remember being taken into another surgery. I was afraid they might be cracking my chest for open heart surgery. I asked, "Am I going in for another surgery?" "Yes," was the reply from someone. "Am I having 1 or 2 more surgeries?" I asked. "Hopefully just 1," someone replied. "Will I need anesthesia?" I asked. "No, you only need a local anesthetic for this procedure," I heard. And then I was moved to a hard, cold, and narrow operating table.

I was able to turn my head enough to see the X-ray monitor that showed everything that was going on. I remember seeing my LAD artery…with a large plaque that was broken up…and the balloon and stent being pushed through my artery to that area with the plaque. Unbelievable! I heard someone say there was a blockage. I asked what percentage and was told 80%. I think that's the moment I shut up and realized…OH #&@$! This is serious!!!!

And then I started coughing. I coughed so hard, and I was coughing up fluid…so much fluid!! I was almost choking and gagging there was so much fluid that was gushing up through my throat from the coughing!! It tasted so gross. And the next thing I remember is being in ICU with a Cpap on my face and being yelled at to let it breathe for me. But I felt suffocated. Finally, I was able to relax and found my rhythm with this Cpap. All of my family was there. Why? This was a simple gall bladder surgery that went horribly wrong, right?

Two days later, I was finally told that I wasn't expected to survive the first night. The damage to my heart was about 50%. My prognosis was grim. When I was coughing in the OR, it was pulmonary edema, and my lungs were filling with fluid from heart failure!! HEART FAILURE? I HAD A HEART ATTACK! My medical record is official - Acute Myocardial Infarction! What? I had suffered a massive heart attack in the widow-maker - LAD - a large plaque had burst and collapsed my artery. The doctors were called in and were at my side working on me within 5-7 minutes. The cath lab was 2 doors down. Every minute was critical to saving my life.

I want you to know is that I was supposed to be at an outpatient facility. I wasn't even supposed to be in the hospital. The cardiologists did not even practice in the hospital - they were there for a seminar. The heart attack was completely independent of the gall bladder surgery, so it would have happened no matter where I was at that time on that day. Thankfully, all of the stars were aligned, and I was given a second chance at life…

I want you to know that the doctors had lots of questions for me the next day - what were my symptoms, where did it hurt, etc. They say I'm the luckiest person they've ever met. This heart attack normally kills people instantly. They said that most of my gall bladder symptoms were most likely heart attack symptoms. Thank goodness I had a bad gall bladder problem to get me to the hospital!

I want you to know that with my new lease on life, I must now live a different way, eat a certain way, and exercise a certain way. It has been a life-changing event, and I welcome you to follow me on my journey. I take several pills on a daily basis, am currently in Cardiac Rehab, must take careful note of symptoms/pains/BP, and must seriously watch my diet.

I want you to know that my biggest risk factor was that heart disease runs heavily in my dad's family. My dad had a quadruple bypass when he was 53, but I'm the youngest in his family to be affected.

I want you to know that I am not the face of a heart attack, but it happened to me. My doctor has asked permission to share my story of inspiration for young women. I also want to share my story and inspire everyone to live a heart-healthy lifestyle and to listen to YOUR body. 




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The Duggars, The Village, and the role of the church in sexual abuse allegations

I grew up in the church. My dad was a theologian and preacher. My husband was a pastor for almost a decade. I’ve seen the beauty of the church but also the dysfunction. Like any group of human people, church communities are unique and imperfect. It’s unfair to make broad strokes about all Christians based on the behavior of a few. But at the same time, when unhealthy patterns emerge, it’s important to talk about them so that these patterns don’t maintain damaging behaviors.
One pattern that has troubled me about some churches is the impulse to deal with child sexual abuse “in house.” I’ve seen many variations on this them but it usually involves a pastor or a group of elders who believe that they can “extend grace” and deal with the problem themselves. It often involves some disciplinary action and some kind of restoration process that is overseen by church leaders.

the duggars

There have been two instances brought to light this week that illustrate this pattern. First, a story broke that detailed the allegations of sexual abuse against Josh Duggar, the oldest brother of the Duggar family depicted in the reality show 19 Kids and Counting. Josh has since admitted to the sexual abuse. According to In Touch, both his father and his church failed to alert authorities in a timely manner. In fact, Josh’s dad told no one for a year following the first discovery, and there were repeated offenses in that year. Finally, things got bad enough that he went to the church:
Jim Bob then “met with the elders of his church and told them what was going on.” No one alerted the police or any other law enforcement agency. Instead they decided to send Josh to a program that consisted of hard physical work and counseling. James said that Josh was in the program from March 17, 2003 until July 17, 2003.
He said the program was a “Christian program.” Michelle Duggar later admitted to police that Josh did not receive counseling and instead had been sent during that time to a family friend who was in the home remodeling business.
There have also been some disturbing allegations this week in regards to the actions of elders and pastors at The Village Church in Dallas. Jordan Root, a leader in their church, admitted to repeatedly viewing child pornography. Church leadership placed his wife under church disciple for filing for an annulment upon learning about her husband’s pedophilia. An except from a letter the pastor sent to Joshua’s wife:
We have been perplexed by your decision to file for an annulment of your marriage without first abiding by your covenant obligations to submit to the care and direction of your elders. As I mentioned in my first letter, this decision violates your covenant with us - and places you under discipline.
While his wife is under discipline, Jordan is not.
While Jordan's sin is egregious, he has begun to walk in repentance and willingly submitted to the direction of his pastors.This means Jordan is not in formal church discipline (Mt 18:15). Instead, moving forward, Jordan will remain in a season of intentional pastoral care, where his role will be to remain faithful to actions in keeping with repentence (Acts 26:20), pursuing holiness and purity, and continuing to flee from *sin.
While the Village Church took the necessary steps to report Jordan to authorities, their bizarre and controlling behavior towards the wife and their attempts to both control the narrative and act as counsel in regards to a marriage devastated by pedophilia again illustrates the dysfunction we sometimes see in how churches handle such issues.

Of course, there are many examples where churches have responded appropriately. One such example occurred at my own church several years ago. When Newport Beach police announced they had arrested a man on suspicion of sexually abusing two boys, Rock Harbor Church immediately went public with the fact that this man was a Sunday School teacher. While the initial allegations did not involve church members, the church contacted police, and also held a meeting for all congregants to alert church members to the potential risk and to encourage families to speak with their children. Licensed, professional therapists were on hand. Sadly, after speaking with their children, two families from the congregation added allegations against the man. However, because of the church’s transparency, these children were able to disclose the abuse to their parents and get help from qualified professionals, and the added allegations will provide more evidence for investigators in the case.
Obviously, churches are not the only place where the tragedy of child sexual exploitation occurs. Unfortunately, pedophiles prey where they can gain access to children, and that includes schools, day care facilities and sports programs. What seems to be uniquely dangerous within the church, however, is a tendency to attempt to deal with the problem internally instead of involving legal authorities. Some pastors may feel that they can exact accountability and punishment within the church community. Unfortunately this practice in harmful in many ways. It shields perpetrators from facing legal consequences, and it also puts other children at risk since the perpetrators have no criminal record of their actions. While churches are free to take disciplinary action or provide biblical counsel within the church body, this should always be second to notifying authorities.

While pastors are free to give whatever kind of biblical counsel they see fit, nearly every state has laws that mandate ministers or other clergy members to report sexual abuse. Therapists, school-teachers, and doctors are similarly required to break confidentiality in such cases, and pastors and church leaders are bound by the same rules. There is no client/counselor privilege when it comes to child abuse. It’s one of the few situations where breaking confidentiality is not only accepted but required.

When a church suspects that one of their members is a perpetrator of child sexual abuse, or in possession of child pornography, any restoration process should involve:

1. Immediately calling Child Protective Services to report suspected neglect or abuse of a child. Proof is not required – that is the job of the investigator.
2. Providing referrals to qualified, licensed professionals who can provide professional counseling for victims of sexual abuse. Pastors who do not have training in counseling victims of sexual abuse are not qualified for this role.
3. Removing the perpetrator from leadership and being transparent with church members about what has occurred to avoid risk to other children.

I know that writing this post will cause some people to scold me for airing dirty laundry or causing dissension in the church or bringing attention to horrible events. But I really feel like these situations need to be discussed. They need to be put under the spotlight so that we can do better, and avoid more victims of sexual abuse. We need to demand that our pastors and church leaders take abuse seriously. Forgiveness and legal accountability are not mutually exclusive, and should never be when it comes to sexual abuse.






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All we are is dust in the wind

This post is sponsored by Clorox. Check out tips on keeping your home clean at their website.

Last week I gave an update on our house, and the messy and dusty state of things. I thought things were finally looking up. We had gotten past the point of sanding drywall, and I had hired a housekeeper to come and clean every surface. We mopped the floor, we cleaned out the closets, and we wiped out every kitchen cabinet (thank you Clorox Ready-Mop and Clorox.com for the tips). The kitchen was finally installed and I thought that an end to our gritty existence was in sight.

The kids were really excited because the kitchen was installed with a blue film to protect the cabinets. They were certain that our cabinets were going to be blue. They were very disappointed to learn that we would eventually be removing said blue from the cabinets.

Photo May 13, 11 54 51 AM

Things were trucking along at a great pace. One day, can they went to school and came home to find that his room had been built. That was a really fun surprise.

Photo May 13, 11 09 23 AM

And then we went on a long weekend trip to Disney world. It seemed ideal. The rest of the house would be finished while we were out of town, luxuriating in a hotel with amenities like doors and floors.


Photo May 10, 7 11 10 PM

Photo May 10, 7 13 45 PM

We had a great time at Disney, and that hotel room truly did make me appreciate the little things. Like running water. It was wonderful being in not only a clean space, but a space that someone else was in charge of cleaning for me every day. But that trip had to come to a close, and we headed home with high hopes about returning to a home that was vastly improved, and to a better standard of living in our ongoing construction zone.

Alas, my fantasies were not to be. We arrived home to a house that was covered in more dust then it had ever been previously. The good news is that progress was made in our absence. The bad news is that our absence made the construction workers completely lose sight of the fact that our furniture and all of our belongings are currently residing in that house. Oh, and also six people need to live there.

Photo May 13, 12 04 53 PM

We came home to find our beds, our sofa, and the floor covered in about a quarter inch of drywall dust. It looked like a light snow had fallen, a light snow that gets in your lungs and makes you sneeze. Our bed was so bad that we had to take our comforter out into the backyard and shake it out, and as we did so all of the dust flew back in our faces and caused a coughing fit.

That first night back was pretty brutal. All of us were hacking and coughing, and my allergies went insane. The next day, I spent what was supposed to be my first day back at work going through several industrial-sized bin of Clorox Disinfecting Wipes trying to wipe up all the new dust. This row of Target is my new favorite:

Photo May 13, 11 21 22 AM

Apparently, our construction crew is not accustomed to working in spaces where people are actually living. So we had a serious conversation with them, and bought some tarps. And we also checked ourselves into a hotel room for the week.

Remodeling is not for the faint of heart. It has definitely been a stretch for our sanity. But we are hoping that the end result will outweigh the challenges, and that one day we will look back on this time in our lives and laugh.

Not there quiet yet.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Clorox via Burst Media. The opinions and text are all mine. Clorox is offering a $50 AmEx card to one lucky reader. Leave a comment below to enter!




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Pop-Pop and Dave

My grandfather (or Pop-Pop, as we called him) was generally a gruff and grumpy guy who disliked being around people and noise. He lived with our family during his last years, an arrangement and a phase of life that was extremely difficult for him. But he loved Letterman. So much that he would go to bed at 6pm, set an alarm for 11:30, wake up and watch Letterman, and then go back to sleep. This was despite us repeatedly offering to set the VCR timer for him. I could often hear laughter coming from his room late at night. Sometimes I would join him. It was one of the true joys of his day, and a spot of connection between us. I was an angsty and self-absorbed teen and he was struggling with depression and despair. But we had Letterman. One of my best memories of my Pop-Pop.





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Wednesday's Child: Jeremy & JD

Every Wednesday I feature a child recently highlighted by a local Wednesday's Child newscast to share the stories of children from around the country who are waiting for a family. My hope is that this can broaden exposure for the children highlighted, but also serve as a reminder that these children represent thousands of children currently in the foster-care system. Perhaps their stories will inspire you to consider opening your home to a child needing a family. For more information and to learn about other waiting children, visit AdoptUsKids.




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