In 2006, I was attending a workshop for work in Little Rock, when I received a call from Courtney saying that mom was being rushed to the Emergency Room for chest pain.
IT WAS THE LONGEST 45 MINUTE DRIVE OF MY LIFE FROM Little Rock.
I ran quickly into the trauma bay where my mom was laying to determine what was going on. Initially, ED physicians determined that she was not having an active heart attack, but would additional test to determine the cause of her chest pain. The next day, she was wheeled to the cardiac Cath lab to have 3 stents placed.
Fast forward to July 2010, mom went in for a routine stress test which showed some concern, and went to the hospital for an angiogram, only for the physician to tell us that she had significant blockages that could not be corrected with stents and she would need bypass surgery.
THIS WAS THE SCARIEST MOMENT OF MY LIFE. I did not hear anything else the cardiologist said. The nurses allowed us back to recovery and mom asked us how was her procedure, and I balled like a baby.
Any surgery where you are hanging between consciousness and unconsciousness is scary, but in bypass surgery (at least when mom had hers done), the heart is stopped completely. Like, really ma’am and sir, you’re just going to stop the heart? And of course, any surgery comes with risks and complications, especially when you have chronic medical conditions.
I worked in the quality department at our local hospital at the time, reviewing bypass surgery cases, reviewing all the necessary steps that are taken during the procedure, knowing that bypass surgery can take up to 4-6 hours, reviewing cases where the patient suffered from complications and eventually passed away. Mom asked literally every day what would happen during surgery, and I wouldn’t tell her, because my mom sometimes freaks out.
Mom went to see the cardiothoracic surgeon, and this is where we learned that she actually needed a quadruple bypass instead of a triple bypass. August 5, 2010 was the date set. We had to be at the hospital at 4:00 AM. She was prepped and ready to go by 6 AM. I had made peace with myself by this date that in whatever happened on this date, it was God’s will for my mom’s life. Surgery started around 7:30 AM, she was put on bypass at 10:00 and off by 12:00 PM. We were told it would be a couple of hours before we could see her, but the minute they allowed us in the controlled doors to ICU, we practically ran! There is something surreal and scary about seeing multiple IV lines, tubes, drips, and blood lines every where. And even with a breathing tube in her throat, she was still trying to communicate with us! Mom stayed in the hospital for 5 days and went home, but had to return and stayed an additional 6 weeks in the hospital due to complications of wound healing.
Fast forward to 8 years later, mom is doing very well and we could not be any happier. See, most people have a heart attack and then learn that they need bypass surgery. Mom’s case was different, and even her PCP, cardiologist, and cardiovascular surgeon were surprised that she did not have a heart attack prior to seeking treatment.
It is important for us as women to be aware of the risk factors and ensure that we get things checked out. The statistics around women and heart disease are alarming. So Go Red for Women means the world to me, and each year, I’m proud to wear red on this day (and just about any day that I want too, lol) in honor of her and any woman who suffers from heart disease.
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