Pacemaker + Uniform + Passion = Saving Lives

I was just coming home from work; it was a regular day. I worked as an office assistant at the time. Nothing special had happened and I hadn’t been feeling any different lately. Considered myself as a slightly overweight woman getting closer to 40. Was talking with my friend on the phone, she was in Alaska where she lived at the time. Suddenly she heard a “bump”, and I didn’t answer anymore. The only thing she knew was that I lived outside Canton, TX. She didn’t have my exact address since I just moved there earlier this year. And what county was Canton in? She took her husband’s phone, googled Canton and called Van Zandt County Sheriff Departments Office. She knew that I had made a report in the middle of the summer because my house was broken into, and my fridge was stolen so she mentioned that to the dispatcher who through that information found a possible address. They sent a deputy and thankfully there was the correct address.

The deputy said that I was breathing when he walked in the door. He found me on the floor, face down in the living room. But when he turned me around, I took a sigh and stopped breathing. The deputy had taken a BLS class just a couple of months prior so thankfully he knew exactly what to do. Knowing that the ambulance was not far behind he started CPR.
At the first pulse check by the ambulance, it was plain asystole. But at the second, there was something very vague. Epi, more CPR, the whole five yard and slowly they could feel a pulse. Slow, not more than around 20 beats per minute, but it was something there. That’s the point when you just load and go. Hauled ass to the hospital, 45 minutes away. More Epi, fluids and God knows everything they pushed into me. I was not ready to die today.

My first memory is that I am in a trauma room and there is a lot of people looking at me. I feel drunk. Oxygen is shooting through the mask. There are beeps and noises. It’s all blurry. Weird. Fragments of memories. Slowly I came back to reality, but I didn’t know what had happened. More pain meds were given. The pain in the chest was excruciating. I could barely move. They asked me questions and I tried to answer and comply as best as I could. Someone said that I was lucky to be alive and that today was a miracle. What was going on? More tests. Labs, EKG, EEG, CT, MRI. Then… I was told that my heart had stopped. You said what?

Rolled to ICU where I spent the night and, in the morning, I was moved to a regular floor at the heart hospital. Except the much painful chest, that was now all colors of the rainbow, I felt okay. They came in every hour to do something.

I called mom. I didn’t want to tell anyone what had actually happened. I hadn’t grasped it myself, so I just said that I had passed out while talking on the phone.

I remained in the hospital for about week. A lot of pain meds but when I came home, I wanted everything to be as normal. I was in a denial of the truth. It was just a syncope. I was able to manage the pain with over-the-counter medication thankfully. But nothing was normal. It was all changed.

Ahead of me was a journey with endless trips to the hospital and doctors’ visits. The number of tests that has been done on me are countless. I’ve had to have a heart monitor for 30 days, a blood pressure cuff on 24/7 that took my blood pressure every freaking hour. You name it, I’ve done it. For every test done came more questions than answers. Why did I, a somewhat healthy 37-year-old female with no cardiac history have a cardiac arrest out of the blue? And why did I survive? Why did just THAT deputy come who had CPR fresh in his mind and did exactly what needed to be done? So many questions without answers. So much gratitude to everyone who helped me both that day and all other days I’ve been sick.

6 months passed with me being worse and worse. I tried to hide the truth but couldn’t. I finally had to tell the to mom and she was surprisingly glad that I had kept it to myself because she would have been worried to death about me. It was enough to get the calls that I was back in the hospital.
I had to adjust my life to my condition. My blood pressure was a roller coaster and any temperature changes made me pass out. Just taking a shower made me plan ahead so I could lay down for hours until my body had adjusted again. I saw more first responders than I saw my own family! They knew me by name, where I lived and some of them most likely knew my date of birth as well. I was met by nice first responders, and less nice. I was accused of wanting attention and faking syncope’s, until they realized that I had a pulse of 30 or a blood pressure of 80/40. Then they freaked out because I was still communicating. This could go south at any second.

March 20, 2018 I was going into another check up at the cardiologist office. A month prior I had been there and passed out in the office, right in front of the doctor, scaring the shit out of the staff. My cardiologist had made up his mind, pacemaker it is. Finally! Since I didn’t have any insurance and they had an opening the following day for surgery he asked me to go down to the ER tell them that he sent me and check me in. Good Lord, I’ve heard about weird reasons to go to the ER but this… Anyway, down I go. Since I now knew that I will be in the hospital for at least two nights, and I would have to have my left arm still for 3-4 weeks I had plenty of time while in the waiting room to let people know what was going on and reschedule everything I had on the calendar..
The nurse came to take me back and saw that I was ambulatory and said, “Great I’ll bring along another patient in a wheelchair”. I stood up and that was the end of it. If you are going to have any kind of cardiac event, at the hospital is a really good place BUT… don’t have it right in the waiting room so you scare all patients! I stopped breathing and no pulse could be found. They came with an AED, placed it… asystole… Epi… straight into V-tach… fuck… shock! Boom! Success! Bradycardic but sinus rhythm. Up on a bed and straight to a trauma room instead, where I woke up after a while. I don’t have any grasp of the time. But I remember my cardiologist coming down to the ER and shaking his head and say “you really like to do drama and keep people on their toes…”

The following morning, March 21, on my late grandmother’s 90th birthday I was honored with a pacemaker. A super easy surgery (for me). Read the notes afterwards, not sure they were for my knowledge, but they were left in my room, so I took them, and it seemed to have gone fairly easy. I woke up and felt great. Suddenly I had energy! I had a life. I said to myself that there must be a reason for me to pull through all this. Right there and then I decided that if I could get strong enough and my cardiologist approved, I would go to EMT school and help others in the same way I had been helped so many times the last 7 months. I had met the good responders, and I had met the bad. I wanted to be that patient advocate and help at their worst times. I mentioned it to my doctor, and he thought I was going nuts but he couldn’t see a reason why I couldn’t do it after I fully recovered. I put a goal in my mind that within a year I would have my EMT-B certification in Texas. In end of October, 7 months later I was cleared by my doctor and started my EMT School.  Loved every minute of it. I worked hard, determined that I could do this. And on February 28, 2018 I passed my National Registry Exam. On March 18th I went to my first and only job interview and was offered a position on the spot. Almost on the day of my goal!

For me, it’s an honor to put on the uniform every day. Going through something like this makes you see life in a different perspective. You are suddenly grateful for every single second of life. You know how fast life can change, and not by seeing it from a car wreck but from experiencing it.  
I see our patients differently than many of my coworkers. I see their pain, I know how they feel, the uncertainty and unknown, especially the cardiac patients. For many it’s an inspiration when I tell them that I have survived not just one but two cardiac arrests, and I am able to work in this profession thanks to a pacemaker that keeps my heart in place. I can answer questions that few can.

It has also taught me to check up on my friends and family when I think of them. A simple text, a call, facebook message, anything. If I wouldn’t have been on the phone when it happened… I would probably not write this. No one would look for me for another 15-20 hours… So take care of one another!

 

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