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Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Heart Attack Christmas (long post )

Not me - but my darling BD had one. Not yesterday but last Friday night. Or Saturday morning rather, about 4 a.m. he woke me. He was in pain and it wouldn't go away. This, alas, is heart attack #2.  I didn't hesitate - but was up and dressing within seconds.

I must say - if you have to have a heart attack, 4 a.m. is probably a good time - there's no traffic on the roads so you can drive fast, there's nobody in the ER waiting room so you won't pick up germs or have to wait ... not that people having heart attacks are made to wait in ERs anyway - but it's nice to be breezed on through. We are lucky in that our local hospital has a crackerjack cardiac ER team - though this is a tiny rural hospital and they don't actually do heart surgeries. They have a helipad and there is a medical transport system too. But they got him on prep meds before he left our local hospital and his cardiologist was waiting for him at the ER in the bigger city hospital 37 minutes away.

Even more wonderful - I had forgotten that a cousin of ours is on staff in the ER at the city hospital - and she was there waiting for me when I got there - quite a bit more than 37 minutes later. I was slower not just because I didn't have a siren, flashing red lights nor the skill to drive faster than the speed limit. I also had to get a cell phone. I'm not much of a phone caller. I  am easy to find in one of two places - at home or at work. My life isn't a cliff-hanger life that needs instant access. My only child is grown. Good news can wait. Bad news will keep hammering at my door till I finally answer. And I have never liked using a telephone ... period. Even when I was a teen I didn't like to talk on the phone.

But I needed one Saterday. So before I left to follow the ambulance I went to our local Walmart. I said to the girl at the electronics department "My husband is on his way to Richmond for heart surgery - I need a phone - I don't want to spend a lot - can you help me?"

Oh boy.  Could she ever. With the most tender manner, with gentle but sincere expressions of sympathy, she took me over to the rack, picked out the $15 flip phone, suggested I get the unlimited minutes card, opened the box, set up the phone and handed me my security code and new phone number while I stood at the check out counter.  I was set to go.

I didn't get her name then but yesterday I went into the store and she was working the same counter again. When I told her that my husband was alright a smile as big as the sun spread across her face and she let out a "Yes!"  This time I asked outright what her name was. You can be sure I am sending a letter to the store manager AND to Walmart headquarters. This is outstanding service. She deserves to have her great big heart recognized.

And DID you know McDonalds has an egg WHITE mcMuffin? only 240 calories! Yeah. Me neither. I'd already scooped up a bag of apples and a cluster of (thank God) ripe bananas in Walmart. All I needed was some protein.

At the Bigger City Hospital, while the ER registration people were trying to find out where my husband was, the door flew open and out strode my cousin MSS - who works in that hospital's ER! I'd forgotten. She'd already been in to hug BD and now she was on the look-out for me. Talk about comfort. whew! It was as if ... now I knew MSS was on hand everything was going to be alright.

And in fact, everything was alright - considering it was a heart attack. The staff was tender - I know - they're trained to be - but I still appreciate it so much. And the wait was not too long. And BD was awake enough for me to hug and kiss both before he went in and as they wheeled him out of surgery. He was pretty dopey. He'd had a lot of morphine. But he knew me and was not frightened. And the hour passed with me in the waiting room trying to figure out how to use the phone. And then using it. And calling loved ones, including some other medical cousins who were ready to rally troops if anything was needed.

The wait was not too long. About an hour - and they whisked him down the hallway past the CCU waiting room so I had a chance to run out and give him hugs and kisses. Once he was settled into his room I could sit by him and touch him and just be so glad that he was alright. In fact, he was pretty alert, though he said he felt pretty high. By mid-afternoon, though it was obvious that sleep would be his best friend so I left him in the good hands of nurses and doctors. "I want a tree when I get home" was the last thing he said to me.

I hadn't eaten anything since 8:30, though, and by then adrenaline was about all that was keeping me going - and that meant I craved sugar. S U G A R. - well - and starch. So I stopped at the Kroger on the way home - the one with the sushi chef - and picked up some California rolls. But what I really wanted was gooey sugar. I wanted something rich; something that spoke Mama Loves You. I didn't want a package of 12 something-gooey-sugary mama-loves-you. I just wanted one. But neither did I want something ordinary - no Oreos for me.  I poked about the store looking for a single item - but in all the time I hung in front of the bakery counter, not a single employee offered to help me.

Now - ordinarily I would call this bad customer service but the truth is - gooeysugarmama-loves-you food was probably the WORST thing I could have put into my system right then.  The crash that would follow would be exhausting. so the Healthy Eating Fairy must have been fluttering around keeping all the bakery staff away.

I worked my way home, stopping at each place I needed to stop - canceling the standing rib roast Christmas dinner order, letting library staff know what was going on. Once home it was phone calls all around, mostly  to give loved ones the Good News that he had literally flown through surgery and then to let them know that LD and brand spanking new daughter-in-law, PD had scrubbed their honeymoon plans and were on the highway north. Of course - I had not had time to get the house ready for company and I scrubbed and dusted and vacuumed till 10 pm - hooray for adrenalin - and was asleep by 10:01. The Darlings were here by nightfall and surrounded me with love the whole week long.

The next day we all piled into the car, along with some rope and the small tree saw and took the back-roads route to the city, past a spot I'd been scoping out for Christmas Trees. We picked a good one, noted a place where we could pull off the road and committed it to memory ... because it was raining and we knew we'd not get home before dark. The visit with BD was a delight - he was so vigorous and looking so good. He was still in CCU but only because there were no empty beds in the regular part of the hospital. In fact, I think he only spent about 4 hours in a regular room the whole time he was in the hospital. We stayed long enough to catch up with cousin M and the whole troupe of us took him for a walk up and down the halls. It was a real entourage with nurse, mobile monitor, patient and family.

CCU visiting hours are limited so we left around lunchtime, visited my mother who was alert and delighted to meet PD and had some lunch. After a second visit with the patient we left the city, Christmas Tree bound. We always take spruce pines - essentially trash trees that sprout while the real crop trees are still young. They die out deeper into a forest but along the road they often grow pretty tall. We also always at least try to ask the land owner first, and, in fact, this year BD and I had already checked with the owner of a particularly good spruce pine collection that was, unfortunately, too far off the road to search when we were short of time and it was dark. and raining. It was also chilly and a little windy and even though we knew were to pull the car off the road - in the dark it was a little hard to find the tree. Once we located the tree it was short work to snip it off at the base but as we were walking back to the car I told LD that if I saw headlights coming I was hitting the ground.

We got home with our tree and though I was so sure I didn't have the energy to put it up, much less decorate it - all that happened. Many hands, I suppose and continued adrenalin flow buoyed us up. But it's a good thing we did get it up because the next morning, on Monday, BD said he was being discharged that day! By then I was beginning to crash - and would have taken a nap except we had so many phone calls coming in I never could fall asleep. If I hadn't been so tired I would have argued that no way would a man who'd just had a stent put in be released 48 hours later but ... it was so. When we got to the hospital I spoke with his cardiologist who said "I looked at his heart - he really should be sicker than this - but every test says he's ready to go home. It's a mystery."

And so.

And so our holiday plans shifted a good bit - but in the long run - they were improved. If this heart attack was on its way (and it was) I'm glad it happened the way it did - with lots of fast care ready to step up and fix things. And nothing important was lost, except a visit from Frances ... which will happen at the end of January. Most importantly - we have our brand new Daughter in Law, who fits into the family like a rose fits into a stem. We had presents under the tree. We had beloved cousin plus a New Friend over for Christmas dinner - which was the first one in years where we didn't all have to sprawl on the floor with dog heads pillowed on our distended stomachs. We had walks in the crisp blue air. We had carols on the CD player. We had a day of board games. We had visits from more family. We had it all. Everything you want for a Christmas bubbled in TheCastle.

The Haile family has been truly blessed - even the poor patient - because we dodged this particular bullet and I think we'll better armed against any others lurking up ahead. Life is good - especially when it is your loved one's and it's spared.

Hug your loved ones close today. Put aside petty issues. Settle the big ones. Know that - beyond anything else in your life - loved ones are the most precious gift of all. 


  1. Oh Bess!! When you posted on FB about 'Ed' with the heart attack, I didn't equate him with BD! I was keeping you in my thoughts all the time thinking he was some friend of the family! SO relieved all went well, and he came home for Christmas. I learned those lessons in the Lost Decade; that sort of thing changes your perspective. Hugs and love and blessings and wishes for a VERY Happy New Year!

  2. So glad for you and yours that everything went as well as it could. May 2014 bring you peace and contentment.

  3. Hope all is well with your family in this new year, now that BD's heart is stented and running well. I know you are all treasuring every minute.