On January 10, 2012, at 2:00 A.M, I woke up with an intense pain in my left front shoulder. Thinking this was a muscle ache due to holding eight-pound weights while walking, I tried to ignore the pain hoping it would go away, but it did not. I tried applying heat which made it worse, then tried applying cold; that stopped the pain for about 10 seconds, but then it came right back. I thought, “Okay, I’ll take a pain pill and go back to sleep.” That didn’t work, and at 3:00 A.M I took a baby aspirin thinking, “This is getting worse,” as the pain had traveled across my back to my right shoulder. I know they say don’t wait that long to call 911, but that’s what I did; calling my daughter first to come over and help me.The Cheney Fire Department was there in less than 5 minutes and started treatment. The interesting thing was that all of the tests were coming back normal. Long story short, I was taken to Deaconess Hospital where additional tests were also normal, including the EKGs, blood work, and CT scan. Thank God, one of the ER nurses decided to keep me and send me to the Cardiac Care Unit (CCU) to be observed. The Echocardiogram (ECHO) done in CCU showed a very weak heart and T-Waves that were “off.” I didn’t know what that meant except I knew it couldn’t be good! Shortly after the ECHO was done I was taken into the Cardiac Cath Lab where doctors found a 90% blockage and determined I was having a heart attack. Ultimately a stent was put in to open the artery.
The scary part was that I had no warning! Sure, I was tired a lot but I keep myself very busy and chalked it up to that. I ignored the frequent nightly trips to the bathroom thinking that was just an overactive bladder. I later found out these were signs of heart problems. Women’s symptoms are not the same typical symptoms that men have and should not be ignored!
The story doesn’t end here. There were complications after my first surgery that led to a second surgery that landed me in ICU for 3 days. I was in the hospital for 7 days for a procedure that should have taken a day or 2. Although, things went wrong, I hold no hard feelings and am grateful for the care I received during this time. My family was by my side the entire time and once I posted on Facebook that I was in the hospital, I knew there was a prayer chain that found its way around the country! My faith, wonderful family, friends, and the people I work with at the City of Cheney pulled me through this almost tragic heart attack. Today, I am extremely grateful to be alive and thank God for that every day!
During my stay, the hospital staff talked to me about going to Cardiac Rehab. I wasn’t sure what this was but the doctor cleared me to go since my recovery and heart function was improving very fast. He said It would be good to go but not mandatory. I waited almost a month before I started attending the program. One more time, I thought, “I can do this on my own.” When I started exercising on my home elliptical without any knowledge of how much exercise I needed or should be doing, I thought, “What do I know about what I’m doing?” Nothing! I scared myself into common sense! Thus began my journey to the Deaconess’ Cardiac Rehab Program.
This program is amazing. Phase Two (the first step) is an exercise program where patients are put on heart monitors and their blood pressure is checked before, during, and after exercise. They started me out with 6 minutes on 3 different pieces of exercise equipment. Before my heart attack I was walking 4 miles a day so this seemed slow to me. At first, when I got home after class and found myself very tired, I realized the importance of starting off slow. They gradually built my strength and endurance to where I am now in Cardiac Maintenance (un-monitored). I am now exercising 42 minutes a day on 5 machines with a goal of 45 minutes. The Maintenance Program is 2 days a week with the option of one hour of open gym on the other 3 days. I strive to attend all 5 days when my schedule permits.
The benefits of Cardiac Rehab far outweigh my having to drive into town each day. My confidence has soared knowing that there are nurses in the Program monitoring what I am doing. Many of the nurses here have been doing this for almost 20 years. Another benefit of the Program is being with other heart patients who have walked this path before me! I’m making new friends, getting inspired by watching other patients run on the treadmill, and laughing at Maxine who attends on a regular basis and proudly says, “This is my social life.” I love her! The good news is that I can continue in the Program for as long or as short as I choose, now that I’m in Maintenance. For now, I choose to continue staying with this inspiring group of people. The nurses are exceptional and tough at the same time and the patients are warm, friendly, and encouraging! Oh yes, there are days where it’s just me and 8 men. They tease me and call it, “Jill and her Harem!”