To begin with I need to make a confession to everyone. In my spare time I write. I write a lot. Then I set everything up to post automatically at a later date. When I first retired, I went a little nuts. I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I wrote hundreds of future posts. I had been photographing my recipes for nearly four years, attaching photos to recipe cards. There was a wealth of recipes to pick from. One thing about writing so far in advance was that I had time. Tons of time for reads and rewrites and fact checking and research. By nature, I am a perfectionist. It is what drives me. It is also what makes those around me drive me crazy.
Little did I know when I wrote my heart out, sharing favorite recipes and memories with future posting dates, that I was keeping the postings for Rosemarie’s Kitchen flowing in my absence. This is my first “fresh” writing since September 21, 2018. For those of you not familiar with CABG (pronounced cabbage) it stands for Coronary Artery Bypass Graft. Times four means quadruple.
Typically, I don’t like talking about things of a very personal nature. It’s one thing to open up about a dish and fondly recalling the memory of that dish. Health issues, that’s another story. Yet I feel compelled to share my recent experience because it’s important as women to understand that heart disease is not like a man’s. While some women may have chest pains and all the symptoms of a man, many of us do not.
On Friday, September 14, I was working in our garden. I had been feeling very tired lately, and things in the garden had gotten out of hand. The beds needed weeding, some of the vines needed trimming. As I worked in the garden, I became light-headed. It was warm outside, and I thought that was the reason for my fatigue. For several weeks fatigue was almost the norm. But then, I had this nagging dry cough and wasn’t sleeping through the night. I blamed the nut harvest (dust in the air so thick, at times it looked like smoke) for the cough. (Turned out it was a side effect of my blood pressure medication, Lisinopril. Since removing that medication from my regiment, while the nut harvest continues, the dry cough is gone). I blamed the lack of enough restful sleep for the fatigue. And then there was the shortness of breath. That was easy. While I hadn’t smoked in over six months, I was a smoker. These were all logical explanations for how I was feeling. Two nights later, on Sunday, my left shoulder hurt. It hurt as though I had slept wrong. And my ear hurt, like pressure. Yet when I got up and moved about, the pain slowly went away. Old age, I told myself. Yet I called the doctor in the morning. It was decided that it was a muscle spasm. She prescribed a muscle relaxer, and Hubby stopped by the pharmacy that evening. It seemed to do the trick, since the shoulder wasn’t bothering me anymore.
The following Friday, September 21 just as I lay in bed for the night, the pain in the shoulder, and now the upper back, was intense. I got up, walked around and listened to my body. Something was wrong. Very wrong. I roused Hubby from bed and told him we needed to go to the ER. An EKG, lab work and CT scan revealed nothing out of the ordinary. Yet the pain was very real. It was decided that I should be admitted for observation. Several hours later, a second EKG and lab work showed some irregularities. A nice doctor came to talk with us. They wanted to transfer me to a nearby city with a state of the art cardiovascular unit. The following day I was transported by ambulance to Saint Joseph’s Hospital. As a Catholic, there was a strange sense of comfort in that. That afternoon my heart was injected with stuff so the doctors could watch in real-time just what was happening. Four arteries were 95% blocked. Open heart surgery was scheduled for the following morning. I was lucky. For whatever reason, the heart itself did not suffer any damage. Without realizing it, I had begun to prepare for this event. I had quit smoking. I was eating more salads and greens. I was taking walks in the morning. The surgery resulted in a five-day stay in the hospital, followed by another five days for in infection that threatened the heart. I’m home now. While recovery is going to be a long haul, every day I feel stronger.
I decided to share this for three reasons. First, it’s never too late to rid yourself of bad habits. Second, as women we need to educate ourselves on the signs of a heart attack since many of us will experience atypical symptoms. Finally, stop making excuses and start listening, really listening to our bodies. They have a lot to say. Be kind to yourself.