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It has been one year. A full year since my otherwise fit, happy, energetic (and adorable) husband AKA earnest dad suffered a massive heart attack. I remember watching the doctor in a cold fearful fog as she said “ma’am, your husband is experiencing a cardiac event.” I will never forget the way she said those words: cardiac event.
It was a typical Wednesday afternoon, we have bible study on Wednesdays and so from 3:30 – 5:30 pm is becomes a mad dash to get kids, myself and dinner ready before 5:00 pm so we can be out the door by 5:30 pm. It is in the middle of this ordinary chaos I get a call from earnest dad, “Babe. I am driving to the emergency room.” The chaos stilled, silence fell upon my ears and all I could hear was the quick, quiet and worry filled breathe of my husband as he explained what he was experiencing. I listened as he described NOTHING I would think would be related to a heart problem. A bit of dizziness, a menthol feeling in the back of his throat, but something just felt off – like maybe he waited too long to eat lunch. I sent my oldest across the street to fetch my mother in law – but insisted my husband stay on the phone until I was at the emergency room with him. After a quick exchange with my MIL I was off to the hospital.
I walk in, my husband is already being evaluated, has already had an EKG and was quickly being whisked off through triage to a room where they could monitor him. My husband had high cholesterol, and unusually high triglycerides that he had been taking medication for – but the doctors could not find anything wrong. He was not experiencing pain, or tightness in chest, he was breathing fine and all of the tests were coming back normal. There is an enzyme your heart releases into your blood stream (troponin) that came back minimally elevated – and doc gave him a slight sedative to ease anxiety, since he felt with earnest dad working 2 full time jobs, plus being a full time unpaid pastor could all cause a lot of stress that can easily present as a panic attack. Panic attacks can produce of the symptoms he was experiencing. Our emergency doctor (who happened to be the brother of a MOPS friend) gave us the option to stay for observation or go home. I insisted we stay.
Within a few hours we were moved twice and finally arrived on the cardiac floor since after two more blood tests, his troponin was massive heart attack level. I was so scared, could this be it?! 9.5 years of an amazing marriage, three beautiful children and being able to share it all with my best friend – could I be losing it all in one night?! He was only 41 years old. That night I prayed, selfishly I begged that I would not lose my husband, I asked the Lord to keep him alive, for me.
By the next morning, we were waiting with bated breath, longing to hear good news from every nurse, doctor, orderly, ANYONE who walked into the room. The news only got worse, although my husband was smiling, joking, laughing and only felt headache created by the nitroglycerin patch on his chest; his blood was still reading massive heart attack levels. The doctors were astounded he was not feeling any other pain. Our next step was choosing a stress test or straight to a heart catheter to look for any blockages. We chose the catheter since it would be the most conclusive.
We got the call from the catheter lab; they were ready for him. As he went to get ready, an orderly came in to wheel him to a stress test. We stopped and called up the doc – again he said our choice. Again, we chose the catheter – and thank God we did. After 3.5 grueling hours of waiting in the cath-lab waiting room the doctor came to see me. All three of his main arteries were blocked, 2 about 90% blocked and the other one 100%. Had we chosen a stress test, the doctor was sure he would have dropped right then and there. We were floored, hot tears of relief alongside loud cries releasing the emotion and fear I had been choking down burst from me like a levy giving way to the powerful rising tide. Although he was not 100% out of the woods quite yet, he was saved from this cardiac event.
Hours later, in recovery we met with his cardiologist (now a someone he sees at least twice a year). His doctor looked at us in amazement, with two things he needed to tell us. 1. If we had gone home that Wednesday night, there is no doubt my husband would have not woken up the next morning. 2. The artery that had the 100% blockage should have caused damage in his lower ventricle – but from what he could see there was ZERO damage.
By the grace of God, less than 48 hours after 5 stents were placed in all three of my husband’s arteries, we were home. He was sore but our hearts rejoiced seeing the hand of God so powerful in this whole event.
Secretly, I was praying as I awaited the dreaded hospital bills. I had told myself, “no matter the cost, my husband is alive and that is priceless.” When that worry about medical bills would wake me in the middle of the night, I would look over at my sleeping husband and place my hand on his chest so I could remind myself of the most important thing – he is alive.
As the days passed, we adjusted to the medicine regimen, the nutritionist recommendations and, as the family we were now having gone through this together. We received dozens of cards from members of our church sharing their love and prayers and some even gifts of money knowing the medical bills would be piling up. And then it came, the explanation of benefits from our insurance and as I was reading the numbers, the more than quarter of a million-dollar total cost, I swallowed hard. My stomach dropped, my face felt flush and worry squeezed down on me, but I kept reading. I saw deductions, insurance payments, in network discounts and the total we owed was the EXACT amount we had been sent in cards over the last few weeks.
My knees were weak, the relief felt like I had been lifted from some invisible weight that I had been dragging daily. Could it be?! I checked again, read it aloud, cried as I read it the third time. It was 100% accurate; not only had God saved my husband’s life, He made sure it was done at no cost to us.
Here we are one year later. Together, healthy and so incredibly blessed. At moments of stress or worry, I give my hubby a hug and listen to his heartbeat as it reminds me who truly is in control.
x. earnest mom.