Near the end of May 2018, I almost had a heart attack and died.
This marked my second near-death experience. The first one occurred when my appendix burst, in August of 2012, and I had to have emergency surgery to save my life.
These two events were extremely different from one another. When my appendix burst, I was in excruciating pain. I had a severe infection, my appendix shattered into numerous pieces, and I had to call 911 and be rushed to the hospital. (I wrote about this whole experience in 2013.)
My recent experience didn’t involve much pain, but it was equally as scary. There are two reasons why I am going to share it with you, too. One, I want you to be able to recognize the warning signs, if something like this should happen to you (or to someone you know), and two, I want to chronicle this experience while it’s still fresh in my mind. (I’m getting older and my memory is not as good as it used to be!)
It all started one day in late May 2018, when I climbed the 28 stairs to my third-floor apartment, which I had done thousands of times before (even while carrying six heavy bags of groceries). I could barely breathe when I unlocked the door. My heart was beating rapidly, and I had never been that winded before. I didn’t think much of it, however, because I’m a heavy smoker, and I often have trouble breathing clearly. I also have asthma. I use puffers to help me breathe properly.
That day, I had just come from my mom’s house, where I was playing cards and chain-smoking. It took five whole minutes for my breathing to return to normal. I put the incident out of my mind and ended up sitting at my laptop for a few hours, working on an editing project, before watching some TV and going to bed.
The next day, I was puzzled when I decided to put my laundry away. During the five minutes it took me to complete this task, I walked from my bedroom to my kitchen to put the tea towels away, and then to the bathroom to stow the face cloths in the cupboard. After I was done, I was huffing and puffing, short of breath again. I thought this was odd, but, again, I simply put it out of my mind.
Later that day, my parents picked me up in their grey Santa Fe. They were providing transportation to me so I could run errands. Our first stop was Pet Valu. I needed to buy more food for my kitten, Squeakers. I went in, made my purchase, and returned to the car with a big bag of food. Again, I was out of breath.
Our second stop was the pharmacy. I needed to get some supplies to take care of the wound on my left leg. (I had some type of granuloma on my leg and had it burned off on May 17th, 2018.) I went in, made my purchase, and returned to the car even more out of breath than before. My mom was shocked that such a short walk would cause me to have an extreme shortness of breath. I had previously told her that I thought something was wrong with me and that I felt like I was going to have a heart attack. My dad asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital. I declined, hoping that whatever was going on with me would pass, even though I knew, deep down, it wouldn’t.
We ended up going to my mom’s to play cards. I spent a lot of time sitting. In fact, most of my life involves me doing little activity. I lead a very sedentary lifestyle. While I was there, I took Veronica, one of their cats, outside. I attached her leash to her collar, took her outside, tied her up, and climbed the eight stairs to my parent’s place. Again, I was out of breath. I knew I had to see a doctor, but I didn’t really want to go to the hospital.
The next afternoon, I called Telehealth and spoke to a nurse, seeking advice. I was told to have a doctor listen to my lungs with a stethoscope within the next four hours. My energy was zapped and I didn’t have a ride to the hospital, so she promised the nurse that I would heed her instructions the next day. I didn’t want to take the bus there because I knew I wouldn’t be able to walk from the bus stop to the emergency room without collapsing. By this point, I was really scared and knew that something was really wrong.
I Made it to the Hospital
I asked one of my friends to take me to the hospital the next day. Before I left, I finished the editing project I was working on and emailed my client the final document. I arrived at the hospital just after one in the afternoon on May 29, 2018.
The doctors did a routine check of my lungs, took X-rays, performed an ECG (an electrocardiogram), and ordered some bloodwork. When the results came back from the lab, one doctor ordered a CT or CAT scan, to investigate further. I was happy the doctors were being thorough, but I was not prepared for the news I was about to receive.
“I’m sorry to tell you this, but you have massive blood clots in your lungs. There is also a blockage from your heart to your lungs.”
Tears sprang to my eyes as my mind processed this information.
“If I hadn’t have come in today,” I asked, out of curiosity, “would I have had a heart attack?”
“I knew it!” I exclaimed. My instincts were usually right. Stunned, I stared at the doctor, and asked, “So what’s going to happen to me now?”
The doctor proceeded to explain how the clots would be dealt with, through medication that would cause them to break up and dissolve. I was told I would have to take blood thinners for at least six months. He also told me he was admitting her as a patient until my breathing cleared up.
My heart sank. I didn’t want to have to stay in the hospital! Then my mind began racing and I started having an inner conversation with myself.
Who would take care of Squeakers? My parents, of course. How are they going to get her? I don’t know; I have to make arrangements for someone to pick her up and bring her there. Who is going to bring me my phone charger? My battery won’t last the night! I don’t know. Maybe my son? Who has keys to my house? My mom and my son. How long am I going to be here? I don’t know. Who is going to bring me the stuff I need? I need some of my personal belongings! I don’t know. My son? My sister? My mom? Who do I call first? My mom. Always my mom; my best friend.
I dialed my mom’s number. She answered. I could barely talk.
“Mom, I have bad news,” I managed.
“What’s wrong?” Immediately, she became concerned. It was like she was steeling herself for the worst news possible.
“I-I-I have…” I began, blubbering. “I have bl…” I tried saying that I have blood clots in my lungs, but all that came out of my mouth was a bunch of gibberish because I was crying.
“What? I don’t understand you,” she said.
I took a deep breath and tried again.
I choked out my newfound truth.
“Oh, my God!” Mom cried.
The conversation that ensued consisted of me explaining to her everything I learned from the doctor. Then it turned to how I was going to solve my immediate problems, regarding Squeakers, my phone charger, and my personal belongings.
Who Will Come to My Rescue?
Squeakers was at home, alone. She had enough food and water, so she would be okay for a couple of days, but that was not the point. I didn’t want to leave her by herself. My mom agreed to take her. But she couldn’t navigate three flights of stairs on her own. And my dad was useless when it came to helping out.
So that left my son… or my sister.
I called my son. He doesn’t have a car, but he had my extra set of keys. I begged and pleaded for him to help me, but he was busy and out with his girlfriend, so he was unable to help me then and there. I would have to wait for him to help me.
As I was talking with my son, a guy overheard me saying how much I needed a phone charger. After my conversation was over, he asked me if I wanted him to pick one up. He and his wife were going to Walmart and then for something to eat before they returned to the hospital. It was like he was an angel sent from heaven and the answer to my prayers!
I gave him my information (name, room number, etc.) and showed him that I had money in my purse. I asked him if he could pick me up something to eat, too.
After he left, I made more phone calls. It turned out that my sister could help me the next day.
My Real-Life Angels
Although I was moved from the emergency ward to a more permanent place in the hospital, I had told the guy buying my new phone charger that I was going to be moved. I had given him my name and contact information, and he was able to find me easily.
He brought me a new charger and some food from McDonald’s. He also brought me a few fresh bananas from Walmart. He and his wife were very kind and considerate and refused to accept full payment for their deeds. I was shocked at their willingness to help a total stranger!
I have always been kind to others whenever I can, and I felt truly blessed to finally be the recipient of such caring acts.
My other savior was my sister.
The next morning, my dad came to the hospital to pick up my keys. My sister got them from him, went to my house, packed a bag for me, and bundled up Squeakers in her carrier. Before taking my kitten to stay at my mom’s place, she brought her to the hospital (along with my bag of stuff I needed) so I could have a short visit with Squeakers and try and explain to her what was going on.
As much as my sister and I fight, when push comes to shove, family is truly important and can be relied upon. At least, in this case, that was true.
I was able to comfortably stay in the hospital for the next five days because of this… although it is tough to be comfortable with two IV needles in your arm!
Tests and Medications
I was put through a bunch of tests and given a lot of drugs. Mainly, I was given two different types of blood thinners, although the nurses kept changing the dosages. They had to raise the dose and then lower it in their attempts to get my blood to the level of thickness or thinness it was supposed to be at.
I also learned that a person’s diet will have an effect on the medication I was taking. Warfarin is affected by Vitamin K, and so I now have to make sure I don’t consume too many foods containing that vitamin.
I am still being monitored. I go every one or two weeks to get my blood checked. It’s a pain to have to go to all of those appointments, but it’s also better to be safe than sorry!
I Stopped Working to Focus on My Health
When I was released from the hospital on June 4, 2018, I decided to take some time off. In fact, I decided to take the entire summer off! That meant I would not work during June, July, and August.
During the month of June, I was put on a new medication (a cholesterol pill) on the 19th. Six days later, I was in major pain. I had a backache, a sore stomach, and I felt nauseated 24/7.
I thought it was the new medication interacting with my other new medication! So I stopped taking it, upon the doctor’s advice.
As it turned out, I had contracted some sort of stomach bug. That’s what was making me sick.
When July rolled around, I felt better. I enjoyed my time off, read several books for pleasure, and spent a lot of time with my family. It was really hot during that month, too, but I only went swimming once. I spent a lot of time in front of the fan, playing with Squeakers, and watching movies and TV. I went out to comedy shows with my friends and went out for dinner many times. All in all, July was great, other than it being too hot!
My Vacation Time was Cut Short and August was Hell
In August, I had to do something I hadn’t done in years. I had to count my money and make a budget. I then had to figure out how to survive until September, which is when my next editing gig was lined up for.
I had been saving a lot of my earnings the previous months, and so I figured I would have enough to live on for the entire summer. I was wrong. But it wasn’t until the first week of August that I discovered that!
I then had to do two things: 1. Hustle for some work, and 2. Consider taking a job I normally would automatically say “no” to.
I sent out an email to a friend and former client, practically begging for work. He didn’t have any work to give me, but he wanted to help me out. He ended up ordering $300 worth of posts on my site and paid me in advance for them.
I was so relieved! I could enjoy August now!
Every August, the CLE comes to my city. It is a carnival that has many components to it, including amusement park rides, special food, magic shows, hypnotist shows, and nightly entertainment in the form of different rock bands. This year, Glass Tiger and Prism were two of the bands performing at the carnival. I had seen Prism before, but not Glass Tiger, so I made plans to go, spend the day at the fair, and watch/listen to the band at night.
After I watched the band, I got a chance to talk to the lead singer. I asked if he had any photos of the band I could buy. He didn’t, but someone he was traveling with had one. I asked for the band members to autograph it. I was able to get three signatures, as the band was rushing off to their limo. The best part? I got it for free!
The only problem with going to the carnival is that it can be very expensive. I knew I would need at least $100 to enjoy myself to the fullest. (I actually ended up spending $87.50 on that day, August 8th!)
The next day, the stem on my nose ring broke. I didn’t want the hole in my nose to close, so I put an earring in it. But I couldn’t find a real gold one so I had to use a cheap one, which ended up making my nose hurt. (I can only wear real gold in my nose or my ears. I have allergic reactions if I wear cheap stuff.)
Buying a new nose ring was an unexpected expense I certainly didn’t budget for! But I had to get one… and soon! I took out the cheap earring and made some phone calls to jewelry shops around town. Finally, I found one that sold gold-stemmed nose rings with diamond studs.
The only one I liked was $108… on sale! Of course, I bought it. I told myself it was my early birthday present! (My birthday was on August 17th.)
For my birthday, I went to Mongo’s, a restaurant that allows you to create your own stir-fry meal. Mongo’s gives you a free meal on your birthday, too, so I went with my mom.
My dad didn’t go because we were in the midst of a fight. We seem to fight every August 15th. That is the day my dad’s mom died, so I’m sure there is a connection there somewhere…
August Got Better… then Worse
In early August, someone emailed me about editing a fantasy book. I normally do not edits books in this genre. I am actually pretty picky about what I will edit! But… I knew I was getting low on cash and so I agreed to do a sample edit.
But the guy took a long time before he got back to me, and so that is why I had to email my friend and beg for work!
As it turned out, the guy liked my work (everyone does!!!) and so, when I calculated the total cost of the editing job to be over $2600 USD (equivalent to over $3400 CAD), I decided to accept the project. I received my first payment on my birthday. Woo-hoo!
I got started on the work right away, too. After two-and-a-half months of being off work, I was actually grateful to have something worthwhile to do.
But then something happened that threw a major lurch into my plans.
How August Got Worse
Four days after my birthday, the apartment building I live in was inspected for bed bugs.
I had received a notice about the upcoming inspection, but I didn’t pay much attention to it. The last time they came into my apartment, they didn’t find anything.
The night before this inspection, I stayed up all night. I did some work, then painted, then played some games on my phone, and then I watched TV. By the time I actually fell asleep, it was morning. I had only been sleeping about 45 minutes when I awoke to a strange man in the doorway of my bedroom.
That was very weird… and a bit scary!
Of course, it was the bed bug inspector. He had been let in by a guy who works for my landlord, who has a master key to open all of the apartments.
It felt like I was in a foggy dream of some sort. To wake up to a stranger in your bedroom when you live in a security building and keep your apartment door locked 24/7 is a bit unnerving.
I got up and allowed the inspector to flip up both my boxspring and mattress, fully expecting him to leave within a few minutes. I couldn’t wait to go back to sleep!
However, when he was looking at my boxspring, he glanced over at my mattress and said, “Oh, oh. We have a red flag here.”
“What?!” I was incredulous as I walked over to see what he was talking about.
He pointed out some discoloration on my white mattress cover. We then looked around the mattress head and found some black marks that were bed bug feces. YUCK!
That’s not even the worst part! There was a bed bug at the head the mattress, too! DOUBLE YUCK!
The inspector squeezed it with his fingers and flicked it onto the floor, onto my carpet. He said he would have to treat my entire apartment with a special product (a spray) that will kill any remaining bed bugs. Then he said my landlord (well, the guy who works for my landlord) will give me some papers with instructions on how to properly prepare to have my apartment treated.
I was so freaked out that he found a bug that I could not go back to sleep. Instead, I went to find the bug in my bedroom that the guy killed so I could flush him down the toilet. I looked on the carpet, but it was not there. It was crawling on my baseboard! The inspector didn’t kill it after all!
I grabbed some toilet paper and squashed it until it was dead. Then I flushed it.
Then I waited for the guy to bring me the instructional papers.
When he did, I was surprised at how much preparations that needed to be done before they would consider treating my apartment.
I would have to:
-wash every single article of fabric I owned in hot water and dry in the dryer for a minimum of 40 minutes. (This meant I had to wash my towels, sheets, curtains, tablecloths, shower curtain and all of my clothing! Plus, I had to do this with my jackets, coats, boots, mittens, gloves, scarves, and shoes!)
-vacuum my entire apartment and move everything (all furniture and other items) 18 inches from the walls.
-be prepared to leave the house for a minimum of six hours on the day of treatment (after they sprayed), and this was to include any pets I had, as the product is harmful to animals as well as humans.
Obviously, there was A LOT to do before my apartment could be treated!
My landlords also did not want me to use their laundry facilities in the basement; they told me I must take my laundry to a laundromat. The only good piece of news is that my landlords agreed to reimburse me for the costs of washing all of my clothes.
I was faced with some big challenges, as I don’t own a vehicle and have to rely on others for rides. I also live on the third floor of my building, and so carrying bags of laundry up and down the stairs is a chore.
I got out some garbage bags and started bagging everything up. I had 22 bags of stuff. I donated four bags of clothes. I threw one in the garbage and washed the rest.
It took me a total of three days at the laundromat to wash all my stuff.
I was also given special instructions on how to tie the bags so they were completely sealed (twist the end by spinning the bag, then tie it off like a balloon). Plus, I was told to pack a bag of clothes that would last me at least two weeks, as I was going to have to wait 14 days to be inspected again.
Apparently, bed bugs can lay eggs and I had to wait for the hatching period to pass.
Needless to say, my life was going to be hell for a while.
I had my ex-boyfriend, Greg, come over to help me move furniture. Together, we vacuumed my entire apartment and moved all my furniture to the middle of each room.
My place was treated on August 29th, 2018, which was my dad’s 77th birthday. I brought Squeakers to my parent’s place the night before treatment. That night, I gathered up the last-minute pieces of fabric I had forgotten about, which included some rags that were stored underneath my kitchen sink.
When I opened the cupboard door, I saw a bug on the top shelf. I wasn’t sure if it was a bed bug so I killed it, wrapped it in a paper towel, and stuck it in the freezer. Then I left the inspector a note and asked that he spray under my sink IF it was a bed bug.
The morning of treatment, my sister’s boyfriend gave me and my remaining bags of laundry to the laundromat.
While I was at the laundromat, my landlord called me. It turned out that the bug I found under my sink WAS a bed bug. Gross!!! They said they would spray that cupboard under my sink in addition to spraying my apartment. I felt relieved to hear that!
When I finished my laundry, my dad picked me up.
I decided to store 15 of the bags of clean fabric at my parent’s, in their extra bedroom, until my apartment was cleared. It was just easier for me to do that, so I did.
Then I waited for the hatching period to pass. It was uncomfortable to live in a place without curtains. At least I live on the top floor; it would be more unsettling to live in a basement apartment where anyone walking by could see in! It was also weird to live an apartment that had furniture 18 inches from the walls. It almost felt like I was moving out!
But I survived and on September 12th, I was given the “ALL CLEAR” from the inspector.
When it came time to transfer all of the bags back to my apartment, Greg helped again. There was no way I could carry 15 bags up the stairs, given my asthmatic condition. Plus, I was still recovering from having blood clots in my lungs!
All I can say is, Thank God for exes who are still friends with you!
Getting Back into the Swing of Things with Blogging
I was not allowed to wash any floors or vacuum for one month after treatment. That didn’t bother me that much; my house never gets that dirty to begin with. It’s just me and Squeakers living here, and we don’t make much of a mess!
Now that the whole ordeal is over with, I feel much better. I have been keeping busy with working… and painting. I will write another post about my paintings another day!
I have also been spending a lot of time with my parents.
I’ve even been doing a bit of writing. 😉 I have written about 6 or 7 blog posts and many are just waiting to be published on Wording Well!
I have already published a couple… with the most recent one being How to Optimize Your Writing Time to Achieve Your Writing Goals.
I used to write True Tales Tuesdays posts when I first began blogging in 2013. Then I stopped.
I think I am going to start doing them again, though… beginning with this post!
I hope you enjoyed reading what I just wrote. It took me about three or four sittings to write this all! …But that is because I have not written for a long time. I’m considering writing weekly True Tales Tuesdays posts here. Or at least once every two weeks…
What do you think about that?