It was January 23 of 2012, I have absolutely no memory of that day, my husband Douglas has had to fill in the blanks for me. Apparently we had spent some time at our local Community Centre signing up for membership and working out at the gym. I had complained on the walk home of feeling tired but we drove to our local Future Shop to pick up a new wireless router, Douglas was in the process of setting it up while I was going to start dinner, it was just after 5 pm. He heard the thud when I fell and when he got to me I was on the hardwood floor face down trying to breath and quickly turning blue, he quickly realized that something was seriously wrong and flipped me over to start CPR while he called 911 for help. I was in a pool of blood, I had broken my nose in the fall and had a small cut over my right eye from my glasses, turns out, I also was concussed. We live relatively close to BC Ambulance Service and he heard their sirens almost immediately as the 911 operator stayed on the line with him, when they arrived there were many of them, big strapping firemen and paramedics, they took over quickly moving furniture and attending to me on the floor. They had to zap me a couple of times to stabilize and from there I was rushed via ambulance to Vancouver General Hospital. Statistics say I had less than a 5% chance of surviving through admitting but I did and I spent the next 9 days in a medically induced coma bouncing between ICU and CCU. To complicate matters even further I also suffered broken ribs during CPR, I ended up with a punctured left lung which became infected and was antibiotic resistant, thankfully they found something that would work, there were several times in the first days that my doctors told him things looked grim and they weren’t sure I would make it but I managed to hang in there, taking one step forward, two steps back, eventually I would start to hold my own.
In those first hours Douglas called our closest friends here in Vancouver, Mir, Eli and Loren they were there right away, my mother and father-in-law, Karen and Tony had to come from Vancouver Island, they were over quickly and eventually my Mother and Step-father, Bev and Kent arrived from Kelowna then my youngest sister Jade from Ontario flew in, I had my cheering section. Immediately Douglas started posting status updates to my Facebook page to let friends and family from around the world know what was going on…soon we had a whole network of people showing support, these updates would help to keep my sisters Wendy and Kellie, also in Ontario in the loop. Prayer groups were organized, positive energy was being sent our way and to this day I am sure it all made a difference to my recovery even though I had no idea it was happening. It would be a couple of months before I could go back and read those entries to my facebook page, the support was overwhelming.
During those days first days in the hospital, they did a multitude of tests to try to figure out what the cause of the Cardiac Arrest was, there were no blocked arteries, MRI normal, Echo normal, no family history, it was labelled unexplained. I have always been healthy and active and even though I have carried around some extra weight most of my life, my heart was strong, or so I thought. There was no reason on earth for anyone to expect this type of thing would happen to me, family on both sides had lived well into old age and I expected to do the same.
Music has always been a common interest for Douglas and I, when we talked about things once I was home, he related stories of how he would come to see me and play my favourite music for me with my headphones on while I was comatose, he would talk to me as if I were awake, telling me all about things in which we had a common interest that were going on in the world. He also did a lot of crying, it was more than upsetting for him to see me so helpless, tethered to so many machines, so many bags of fluid feeding drugs and hydration through my veins to keep me alive, he is grateful I have no memory of all of that, quite frankly, so am I. He did take pictures and video of me, which at times are hard for me to look at, but I am happy he did, it helps to fill in the blanks from those days and it feeds my curious nature. To this day, I still have the odd question for him regarding things that happened during that time.
My first memories come back sometime the beginning of February, I have brief flashes of things that went on. The drugs were so strong that common questions from the nurses when they came into my room was “do you know where you are?” “do you know why you are here” at first I wasn’t sure, but I came to realize the seriousness of what had happened. I definitely remember being in a lot of pain from the broken ribs and the incision site where tubes had kept my infected lungs draining. My memories of that time are snapshots of things that I can’t seem to string together even today but as days passed, I became more aware and less foggy.
One day a couple of ladies came to see me, they were talking about implanting a device in my chest I am not sure I really comprehended what they were talking about but we made the decision to let that happen. On February 7, my Cardiologist implanted an ICD (Implantable Cardioverter-defibrillator) into the left side of my chest just below my collar bone, it was done to protect me should my heart go out of rhythm again, the device would monitor my heart and it would shock me internally if it was needed. Within a couple of days, I was ready to come home, that was February 9, 2012.
Being home was the best, I had missed it so much,especially our kitten Ripley. The nurses told Douglas that I had lost about 20% muscle mass for every 3 days I was in that hospital bed, when I got home I was so weak I could barely walk to the bathroom in our small apartment by myself. Eventually, Douglas got me out for several short walks each day to build up my strength and after a few weeks I could walk the two blocks to the grocery store but I would have to sit outside and wait for him to shop so I would have enough gas to get back home. At this point, the scales showed I had dropped 30 pounds, I felt old, fragile and like I was fading away. He cooked healthy organic meals for me, helped me shower, kept the house clean, did the laundry, basically he waited on me hand and foot, he always made sure I was comfortable. For the first month or so I was unable to lie flat in bed to sleep so the only thing I could do was to sleep sitting up on the couch in the living room, Douglas would come out several times a night to check on me, he hated leaving me there alone but he needed proper sleep in order to take care of me. Eventually I was able to get around much better, walks became longer and with the help of a gel mattress top I was able to move back into our bed, my strength was coming back and things were looking better.
Little did we know things would soon change and not for the better.
Stay tuned…more to come.
Footnote: the doctors did eventually find what they think was the cause, a prescription drug had caused my heart to go into what is called a Long QT rhythm.
If you suspect someone is going into Cardiac Arrest, start CPR and call 911 immediately you could save their life. Had I gone without CPR being performed as quickly as it was, I would not be here to tell my story or I would have suffered severe brain damage from lack of oxygen. There were many things in my favour that day.