What to Expect
My first exacerbation made me think I was DYING! It was actually horrible. One day I was working two jobs and loving my income and my independence, and the next day I was on my back in ICU. I suffered a sudden cardiac arrest, was put into an induced coma, and hooked up to a ventilator. My family wasn’t sure if I was going to make it or not.
The doctors had no idea why this exacerbation was so intense or what was going to happen next. While monitoring my oxygen levels they were unsure if there was brain activity, so a scan would tell them more. It would be 3 days and many tests later before my family got their answer. It was positive but when they tried to bring me out of my coma, it was a slow go.
Finally, I awoke
It was a Sunday in the late afternoon. We were experiencing typical early January weather with a light snowfall, and the setting sun made it look like a fairy tale. I had no idea what happened or why I was in the hospital. Problem was, neither did the doctors. They began extensive heart and lung tests.
The hard work begins
After a month-long hospital stint and no concrete explanation of what happened, I was enrolled in respiratory rehab where I stayed for 4 months. I successfully graduated in June and immediately returned to work.
My recovery was short-lived, as I suffered another sudden cardiac arrest within a week. This meant another intubation on a ventilator and another month-long hospital stay. Doctors finally implanted an internal cardiac defibrillator, so if I had another attack my heart wouldn’t stop.
I exercised, learned mindfulness, and began eating better more nutritious foods. I spent time on my porch, my place of peace, where I read books and scanned my phone. I was very busy trying to decide what I was going to do with the rest of my life.
It took me a while to ‘get it’ because I was fighting the new limitations of what my body was capable of. When I was diagnosed with heart failure, the doctor explained that pushing myself too hard with such low lung function caused strain on my heart that finally led to heart failure. I knew that fighting that fight was detrimental to my own well-being.
Some tough decisions
That was when I learned what rehab could not teach me.
- I learned to listen to my body, and to accept what my body could offer me. I respected what it was capable of doing and what it was not capable of doing.
- The first decision was to quit my job. I knew that once I did that, opportunities would present themselves, and they did.
- Next, I learned to slow down.
- How to do pursed-lip breathing.
- To stop and catch my breath without shame.
- I proudly accomplished that by pacing and planning my days.
Since I 'got it', I have not had any emergency visits.
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