Thursday, April 14, 2016

Winning the Heart Attack Lottery

Winning the Heart Attack Lottery

Last week I wrote about my husbands recovery from major surgery. The week before that I wrote about his heart attack and surgery through my eyes. Today’s blog is being written by my husband so he can share with you all his personal account of HIS heart attack. 

Two things i am disappointed with. First, the clock in the ambulance was broke. It was just a small wall clock hanging on the wall in the ambulance—but I noted the battery had expired. Second, I remained conscious on the way to the hospital. I had thought a major medical event would give me the opportunity to not be aware and awake during the event. But I was aware and awake.
Let’s start at the beginning. I knew I was going to win the cancer lottery or heart problem lottery sometime soon. I expected it to be sometime in my 40s or early 50s and hoped to catch it before it caught me.

Two months shy of my 40th birthday it caught me. I was sitting at work when I felt “awful” — I started sweating and the outside of my left chest down to my bicep began to ache. In addition my left arm felt “cold” — An older brother of mine had heart issues so I knew it was a possibility but the sign I always looked for was breathing issues. I took a deep breath, and it was no problem. I still had the other symptoms but I could breathe fine. So I decided to take a little walk— you know, “walk it off”

Perhaps here is where the less than optimal decisions started. Or perhaps it was earlier.
A little more than a year earlier I sat at a friends house on New Years eve and decided I needed to drop some weight before I turned 40. I had 15 months. I went from a high of 310 lbs in December of 2013 to 275 lbs by February 1st of 2015. That was exciting progress.

Let’s get back to the afternoon of February 1st. It didn’t go away when I walked it off. So next try— wait it out. I asked a good friend at work to stop over to my office because I wasn’t feeling well and wanted to make sure it wasn’t anything serious — I just needed him to sit with me for a few minutes. He kindly did this and I felt “better” (The sweating stopped and I just had the pain). My conclusion: I should drive home.

So I did the thirty minute drive home (one handed, because my left arm still felt odd) and considered multiple times just driving over to the hospital. I made it home, went in and lay down on the couch. I then suggested to my 20 year old daughter that perhaps we could go for a quick jaunt to the local emergency room. I really desired to just ‘push through it’ — but at some level I understood that wasn’t the correct course of action.

Let’s be honest, there are more than two things I was disappointed with. The symptoms don’t match the book. (Or the “google”). I had no breathing issues—and one symptom of a heart attack is “a feeling of impending doom” — I did not have this symptom. Disappointment. I was wondering exactly how that one worked.

She drove me 20 minutes west to the nearest Hospital (we found the urgent care before we found the ER — so we went with it). It has always fascinated me to watch medical personnel react to symptoms and situations. When the number of personnel in a room starts to multiply it seems to indicate a raise in severity level. Nitro under the tongue, machines hooked up everywhere—it started to move fast. Within minutes I was being loaded into an Ambulance and taken to Ellis Hospital (Back near where I worked). The fine folks from GAVAC took great care of me. We had fascinating conversation on our rapid trip to the Hospital.

It may have been more direct to go from Work straight to the hospital.
It may have been more direct to go from Work straight to the hospital.

Once at Ellis the fine physicians in the Cath Lab determined I had multiple blockages. I knew it had to be the extra weight I’ve had carried for the last twenty years. I’ve not smoked, drank, or experimented with legal or illegal drugs. To my disappointment (another one) the doctor informed me the amount of damage I had (3 arteries 100% blocked, plus one other also blocked) could not have been caused by weight. Or diet soda. Genetics appears to be the major culprit. Now don’t get me wrong— being overweight puts significant stress on the heart and does not help— but I would have been here eventually one way or the other — and it doesn’t seem like the timeline would have changed much.

The blockage was extensive so as my wife arrived at the hospital and we discussed what was going on it became clear that open heart surgery for a Bypass ( 3 or 4 ) would need to happen. I spent the next three days in the intensive care unit— i had great company from my wife and daughter and others and prepared for the eventual surgery.

On Friday, February 4, I went in for a “CABG” — Coronary Artery Bypass Graft — what ended up being a quadruple bypass. This part, thankfully, I was fully asleep for. By Friday evening they had me awake — and this was probably the most disturbing part of the experience for me. I was incubated so there was a tube down my throat and that was not at all comfortable. It was removed fairly quickly and by 6am the next morning the nurse had me out of bed and sitting in a chair. The average stay time for the surgery at this facility is 5 days. Because of my age and condition I was able to go home 4 days after the surgery.

My loving wife and tolerant children have been doing their best at taking care of me. Sometimes to my frustration—as they won’t let me do what I want all the time. However, I think I do need to learn to relax.

Perhaps my biggest disappointment is the lack of introspection. After an event like this I feel like I should have some serious introspection into life, purpose, and something. When I look at it as a whole—currently— I simply see the amazing hand of God taking me through a fascinating experience. I don’t recall being afraid, (other than that stupid breathing tube) but I do recall sitting back and thinking — “wonder what’s going to happen next”. I was concerned about my family if I didn’t make it, but I knew they would be taken care of and I recalculated my life insurance amount in my head to make sure they were financially safe.

Almost 2,000 years ago the apostle Luke transcribed these words of Jesus “And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?” — I know God has a plan for me and my family, I understand sometimes I throw some stupidity into that plan (optimal hospital route….) — but I am content to sit back and see how God is going to work it out.

Perhaps in a few weeks or years I will have some more introspection. Or perhaps it was just an opportunity to see this process through. The surgeon tells me I should live long enough to have more heart problems. So perhaps next time I’ll have some more introspection. Don’t get me wrong—I’d be happy if next time was thirty or forty years away. This is horribly inconvenient.

I’ll add one more item— My employer has been beyond amazing! Not just the “company” as a whole but the staff working there. I am looking forward to returning to work as soon as possible and am looking forward to working with all those there again!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Strengthen Your Family by Turning Off Media on the Sabbath

 The photo credit goes to JWPhoto
Strengthen Your Family by Turning Off Media on the Sabbath
By Rachel Branton
Exodus 20:8—Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Years ago as a young mother of three, I loved Sundays. I was a full time author, but I didn’t work on the Sabbath, and I used Saturday to run errands, so on Sunday the only goal I had was attending church and resting up for the week. This rest usually involved some form of television. And why not? My brain had to work overtime all week. I deserved a day to tune everything out.
However, my three active children had other ideas. “Mommy, he’s hitting me!” one would say. Or, “That was so funny when . . .” Or, “What did he say, Mom? What does that mean?”

I’d find myself saying things like “Be quiet!” Or, “I told you already five times to stop standing in front of the TV!” And, “I’ll explain in a minute. Let me hear!” Or simply, “SHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!”
My words were often sharp and impatient, and I’d yearn to lock myself away—or maybe run away. The Spirit I’d felt at church would invariably vanish, and I’d be annoyed at the precious children I’d brought into this world.

Does this sound familiar? If you’re a parent of young children or even teens, I bet it does. But you can carve out one day to find a little peace and strengthen your family at the same time.

One day at church, a man talked about how he had chosen to turn off all media in his home on Sunday, testifying what a difference it had made for his family. In a moment of stark truth, I understood that television was standing in the way of keeping that good feeling with me all day, and sharing it with my children. Of being with them and teaching them.

That day, I didn’t turn on the television. And all at once I wasn’t yelling at kids to sit down or to be quiet. We were playing board games together and reading books. We were wrestling, and tickling, and playing hide-and-seek. I thought I’d miss the televisions shows, but I didn’t. Not a single one because I’d found something better, something infinitely more precious.

As the years passed and my three children grew to seven, my husband and I chose to also exclude video games and non-religious music in our home on Sunday. Instead, we have dinner together at home, go for a walk, play board games, make treats to eat or take to neighbors, or just sit and talk. We don’t go shopping, and the children don’t go play with friends. Every now and then we watch videos of our family, and maybe a couple times a year, we’ll watch a family-oriented movie, but we limit this to something that will include all of us.

Some of my children are now married but they often visit, returning to this safe haven from the world. Sometimes when I look around at my family, eating cookies and laughing, I’m filled with an unspeakable joy at this little slice of heaven. It is this feeling that helps us endure the difficult challenges we’ve faced. I believe we would have never glimpsed such joy if we hadn’t set aside this day, not only to worship the Lord but also to connect with family.

What worked for our family may be different from yours, but following God’s commandments is a great place to start. Begin thinking about your Sabbath and what changes you could make to bring your family closer.

Please share in the comments below what you have done to help strengthen your family, especially on the Sabbath.

Rachel Branton grew up on a little farm where she loved to visit the solitary cow and collect (and juggle) the eggs, usually making it back to the house with most of them intact. On that same farm she once owned thirty-three gerbils and eighteen cats, not a good mix, as it turns out. She is now married, mostly grown up, and has seven kids, including an active four-year-old, so life at her house can be very interesting (and loud), but writing keeps her sane. She’s been known to wear pajamas all day when working on a deadline, and is often distracted enough to burn dinner. She writes romance and children’s books under the name Rachel Branton and science fiction and fantasy under the name Teyla Branton. You can learn more about her on her website.