Suffering a life-threatening health scare can lead to many life-changing decisions. It can also change a family forever.
When I worked for the Board of Education I was a healthy young mother, full of life. I made jewelry on the weekends and I also sold Mary Kay cosmetics. I did all of this while raising and making a home for my family and taking care of my disabled mother.
After my heart attack I wasn't sure what to expect, and wondered if I would ever be the same. Could I return to my job working with autistic children? If not, how would I support my family?
My doctor told me that it would take about a year to know how much damage was caused by the heart attack and whether it would be permanent. A year came and went and my test results were about the same, which let doctors know that it probably wouldn't change.
Although my ejection fraction (the percentage of blood leaving your heart each time it contracts) did increase from 17 percent to 35 percent, it has stayed at 35 percent for the past four years. This low ejection fraction along with my symptoms and others factors lead my doctor to believe that it would be better for me to not return to my very stressful position working with physically and mentally disabled preschoolers.
I was crushed. What was I going to do with the rest of my life? I was happy being a stay-at-home mommy, but our lifestyle was built around with a two parent income, and now I have no income.
So I attempted to challenge what my doctor said. I figured if I pushed myself then I would get stronger. Not my best idea. I thought speed walking would increase my stamina...I made it to the corner by my house and everything went black. I felt faint and luckily I had my kids with me because I was too weak to make it back on my own.
I then thought I would start doing light walking on the treadmill at our local YMCA. I caught pneumonia and went into flash pulmonary edema (my heart was too weak to handle what I was doing, so the fluid backed in to my lungs).
Finally, I went back to my doctor who suggested a stress test. I followed her orders and arrived the following week for the test.
I hopped up onto the treadmill and lasted about 45 seconds. They then attempted to increase my heart rate chemically which triggered a severe panic attack (my issues, not the normal reaction).
I should have listened to my doctor. She said I wasn't physically able to resume my normal activities, and this proved it.
I retired from my job (I had just enough time vested). It wasn't an easy decision, but I had no choice.
I continue to make jewelry when I can and sell Mary Kay. Most importantly, I began doing something that I loved to do before I had children: writing. I hope by sharing my life stories others will find comfort in knowing that they are not alone in this fight against heart disease.