Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cold Hard Look at Mortality...

This past week was --- horrible.

As you may remember, my friend Sonda has been dealing with Stage IV melanoma. We knew that it was just a matter of time. The last time I saw her was on Monday, May 14, and I knew I wouldn't be back there.

On this past Wednesday, I had a skin check. The first one since 2009 -- so as my Public Service Announcement to you: PLEASE GET AN ANNUAL SKIN CHECK, particularly if you've had at least 1 "bad sunburn" in your lifetime.

At that appointment I had a pre-cancerous spot frozen off. That certainly put things in perspective for me. I used to use sunscreen, but was "lax" about it. Not anymore. I'm going full-bore on the sunscreen. Period. Thanks to Sonda and that little freezing incident? I don't want to be the next one on our list with that cancer.

This past Thursday, I woke up feeling "something's not right." So I've been on this metabolism diet where the first eight weeks, you severely limit your carbs.

I've lost 10 lbs. and I feel better, though I'm bored with the limited stuff you get to eat, particularly since now, I'm missing the fruit.

Anway, I thought, "I wonder if this is related to this diet?" and then I just ate a light breakfast and went off to work. It got worse. I felt dizzy. I thought, "Hmmmmm, seizure??" Nope. I scared the bejeebies out of our cleaner, who thought I was having a heart attack.

And actually, at one point, I thought that might exactly be the case. So I called Hubby and said, "Come get me; there's something wrong." By this time I was having a little trouble thinking and if I lifted my head off the desk, the room spun.

I got down on the floor at one point and did "legs up the wall" just because I thought, well, if I faint, the legs up the wall will at least shove the blood back where it needs to be. But at that point, (and this gets weird) I felt my chest "waving." I seriously heard wooshing and felt my chest go in waves across from shoulder to shoulder. Got down off the wall pretty quickly and back up in my chair. I couldn't find my pulse, but I figured by that time, I was confused... I popped an aspirin while waiting for Hubby.

He comes in, HE looks for my pulse. In three places. Mind you, he's a former EMT. Even he couldn't find it, and he was worried because I wasn't making sense. So off we went to the closest hospital.

Giving them credit; it's not my first choice of facility, but when you're in that shape, you go for the closest place. My symptoms were: dizzy, couldn't talk straight, couldn't find a pulse, pale. I was not clammy, in pain or short of breath. In fact, I was doing quite a lot of deep breathing, which calmed me down, but confounded the medical folks.

They slapped a 12-lead EKG on me and everyone stood there, going, "Ohhhhhhh, ok...." Which, I may say, was NOT comforting! The only comforting thing was that I was in a hospital and I hoped to God that I was somewhere where they'd figure out what was going on.

I spent 8 hours in the ER. I apparently have a variety of atrial fibrillation. It took them six hours to get my heart under control (not out of a-fib, just not beating out of my chest), and that included an IV and watching to make sure I was not going to have a stroke -- apparently one of the biggest things you can have happen with untreated a-fib.

Hubby called my mom, who wisely did NOT come out to visit. I saw a cardiologist who said that if the IV didn't help resolve the heart into sinus rhythm, they'd do a "cardiac conversion" - which in my mind meant a "re-boot." Keep breathing. Keep breathing....

I finally got into a room, the heart rate was somewhere near 98 or so, and I felt "human" again; I was able to talk, I was thirsty as all heck, and tired. Hubby sat with me for a while and then left to go take care of everything at home. I was staying; that was it.

So, I spent Thursday night in the hospital *not* sleeping. I swear. Every 2 hours or so: check BP, check temp, draw blood... And even about 1:30 a.m. someone came into my room to unlock the supply closet and get what must've been the ONLY one of whatever they took on the entire Telemetry floor?!?  About 2 a.m. I actually felt my heart go back to sinus rhythm, which was pretty creepy.

About that time, the alarm went off on the IV, so they came to take it out. My sister said it probably was so loud that it "scared" my heart into behaving!

I now have a cardiologist, new meds and some follow-up work to do.

And on Friday, when I got home, I got the news that my friend Sonda had passed away. I'm sad because she's literally a year older than me. I'm sad because her death was, in many respects, preventable. She was a blonde, freckled sun-bunny...and we're both old enough to have lived through our teens in the "oil and bake" times. Baby oil + iodine = a REALLY cute tan. I'm serious.

No longer. Neutrogena SPF 50 is now my friend.

So. I  had promised Sonda to sing at her funeral. One of the side effects of the Rx they have me on is shortness of breath. I had Hubby sing with me, and I was actually happy it was just one song.

I'm having "I'm mortal" thoughts. I'm 54 years old. I'm told that a-fib or "flutters" can be part of menopause. (Really? It's not bad enough that I've had periods since age 11, have given birth 2x and have had 2 miscarriages, now have hot flashes PLUS cramps and am "overdue" to stop having periods? You gotta hand me HEART problems?)

My sister told me: (a) I have a "genius" cardio; and (b) that my grandma had this type of problem 'forever' and she never converted over - it was managed with medication. Well. That's nice to know. My dad had heart problems but whatever he had, required an internal defibrillator unit, which is *not* the treatment for a-fib.

And I'm the healthy one! I don't smoke or drink...heck, I don't even cuss! It's laughable. However, I was talking with my brother because my mom said "he looks like death" -- only to find out that he's been able to lose thirty pounds by adjusting his diet and swimming almost every day of the week. I'm so thrilled for him! And I'm on my way with my own 10-lb. loss.

I'm set for the Avon Walk, though I do have to have another cortisone shot in my heel. We'll rehab the foot AFTER the walk. Swear.

I want to put a picture of my friend here. It's one taken after the cancer was found; but just know that she was a joy to know. She was a talented knitter, designer, and just a person who could do anything she set her mind to. She was a diplomat of the first order, having the ability to get a very diverse group of people to all get along, at least while she was around. I'll miss her for many reasons. But I'll carry a bit of her with me wherever I go and whatever I do.

Rest in peace, my friend. I can't say anything more. I hope you heard our song and that it helped.

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