Thursday, June 27, 2013

What I Learned When My Husband had a Heart Attack

My husband is 47 years young. And he had a heart attack. I almost lost him. But the Lord preserves us and is graceful and merciful. He watches over everything and guides us. I cannot imagine not having Him in my life as I go through trials. As I've said before, it is because of the Lord that we get through the trials, and not dwell in them! Praise the Lord!
So he had his heart attack and this is what I learned:

1. Do not listen to your husband!

    I say this because my husband is the kind of man that cares about others before himself. He is always worried about inconveniencing others, so when his pain started on the night of June 3rd and I suspected a heart attack, he denied it. And he kept denying it to me until what could have been the end. I wanted him to go the the ER that night. He said he was just tired and needed to go to sleep. I wanted to go get him Aspirin, but he refused. Then when he woke me up the next morning to tell me it was getting worse, I wanted to leave immediately to the ER. But he told me to call our doctor. After learning the doctor was out for the week, I said "let's just go to the ER." But he said, "No let's just go to immediate care", which is a clinic that is 3 miles away in heavy traffic whereas the ER is literally down the street .4 miles away! Then I thought, maybe it's not as bad as I think it is. I listened to him and took him to immediate care. I had to get the boys ready and load them up. Then on the way, I'm driving like a maniac and as we are almost there I notice that his breathing is getting few and far between. My petitions to the Lord were high and I just wanted to make it. I drop him off at the front of the immediate care, and later, I learn that he walks in and tells the information desk that he's having a heart attack. That would have been good information for him to tell me!!! When I walk in with the boys, the lady yells at me, "You should have taken him to the ER!" Really? Thanks. I felt like a big worthless heel. They took care of him immediately and give him nitro and aspirin and then he tells them he's starting to feel better. But the doctor tells him no, you are having a heart attack. And he says, no, I just ate something bad at river festival. Then about three or four denials later the doctor looks at him and screams, "You are having a heart attack!" They call an ambulance and bring him to the hospital that was right by our house. Why didn't he tell me he was having a heart attack? Because he didn't want to worry me or have me panic. Now let me repeat, if your husband cares more about others than himself, even in the face of death, DO NOT LISTEN TO HIM!

2. Having an emergency back up to care for children is important.

    I never thought of this before. We have no family in town. Of course we have a sitter. But I'm speaking of an adult that can prepare food and keep them over night and comfort them when they don't understand why we're not there. It was the first time I had to think about leaving the children with someone else. They had never stayed without us before. I am so grateful for the friends who came to our aid. They are family. Our sons confirmed this as I was standing in the ER waiting room and the chaplain was asking the boys if they had a sister. They both said yes and proudly said "Paloma", which was the name of the daughter of the friend that was rushing to pick up the boys. Obviously I called the right people. Another congregational family came to our aid, as well as our business partners, tag teaming with each other. Knowing that they were being cared for made it easier to concentrate on my husband. All of them were invaluable help and help I would use again in the subsequent ER visits. What a blessing they are!

3. Enlist Prayer Warriors immediately and don't be alone in the waiting room.

    I called the Rabbi as I was following the ambulance to the hospital. I had no idea what they were going to do or what was about to happen and that is when I needed prayer. You need prayer warriors in an emergency. And in scripture, you are instructed to have the Elders pray for the sick (James 5:14). Also, praying family members and friends will lift up your loved one immediately. You can literally feel the prayers, especially when the doctor comes out and says "Your husband is fine and we caught him in time, good job bringing him in." To which I thought, "Really? It took forever to get him here. Praise God he made it!" Having someone sit with you in the Coronary Heart Cath waiting room is important. I didn't know that I would be waiting so long while they had him in heart cath surgery. I didn't really know what was happening. They kept me out of the ER room so doctors and nurses could do their job, so all I got was "we're taking him to heart cath and follow us." I think they were just working fast because they needed to get him in right away, and they did a great job. It was just a whirlwind. Then one of the nurses says come give him a kiss because things happen very fast in here. I was worried, but I wasn't afraid, prayers will have that effect. I said goodbye and went to the waiting area. The chaplain was with me and thankfully, the Rabbi was already in the building. I didn't have to wait alone. Then our friend that works there who is also an Elder's wife, came and sat with me too. The Lord brought those loving people around so I wouldn't be alone. And then two more people from the congregation just happened to be there with a sick relative, and yet they still managed to minister to me, praying and bringing me coffee. What a blessing!

4. No matter what, keep your cool.

    Family members can be both supportive and a source of stress. So you do need to keep your cool and not fly off the handle if one of them freaks out or gets upset at how you handled the situation. Whether you call them right away to let them know what is happening, or wait until you actually know what is happening, you will not please all the people all the time. It is impossible. Be kind. After all, my husband's family has known him longer than I have. I had to focus on my immediate family and what I needed to do to get through this emergency, focusing on my husband and no one else. Extended family members will understand and eventually come around. And really, they would do the same if it was the other way around.

5. Whatever the doctor says your time at home should be before returning to work, DOUBLE IT! and Rest means REST! 

I could not get my husband to rest. I really don't think that word is in his vocabulary. English or Spanish. He doesn't get it. I felt like the most nagging wife ever. He wanted to take out the trash, go outside and water the plants and dust and vacuum and paint the floor boards for heaven's sake! Just take a nap for the love of all that is good and holy!!!!! I finally had to ask him, what if I had the heart attack and he was taking care of me? Would he hover and make sure I was resting, or would he just not care? Seriously...think about it! My Serenity Prayer: Dear Lord, please help me to control the things I can and not slip my husband some sleepytime tea so he has no choice but to lay in bed and REST. Amen.

6. When not complying with #5, subsequent ER visits may occur.

    Guillo had his heart attack on the 4th and was dismissed on the 6th. On the 12th, we were back at the ER because he had tingling and numbness in his leg. Which is where they put the cath in to put the stint in his heart. Not good. One sono later, we were out and he felt better. They didn't find anything wrong, he just needed to rest. He was back at work on the 14th because the discharge instructions on the 6th said one week. I knew it was too soon. My mom kept telling us to double it, but he wanted to go back. Then on the 20th, we're back at the ER with headache, excessive tiredness and fever. They did a lot of testing and readmitted him to the hospital for the night. They determined that is was costochondritis, which is inflammation of the cartilage connected to the sternum and rib bones. He just needed to take pain medication and rest. Yes, REST!

7. Beware of the Mothering/Smothering side effect.

    Although I firmly stand beside #5 and #6, there is a tip over point. I have to be careful to not treat my husband as a child. I haven't resorted to threats or bribery, but I bet I'm not far! Releasing the reins is hard for any caregiver to do. It will take time. Not everything is your fault and you cannot control everything. At some point, you just have to be a support, not a stumbling block and master the difference. I will need reminders every now and then. My Serenity Prayer #2: Dear Lord, please help me to be a woman of valor, supportive and soft spoken, and not the screaming, ranting, controlling, crazy wife as is my nature 99.9% of my stress-filled day. Amen.

8. Know the Symptoms!

   Guillo started complaining about heartburn and then a pain in his chest the night before. He went to sleep and woke the next morning to get ready for work. He said the pain was in both shoulders, down his arms, and throughout his whole chest and it was getting stronger. He couldn't sit up straight. By the time we were a few blocks from immediate care, he was sweating profusely and his breathing was labored. We almost didn't make it. Praise God for his provision! I believe that if he'd know what the symptoms were before they happened, he would not have put up such a fight about getting help right away. For women, the same side effects can happen, along with nausea, vomiting and back pain. See the American Heart Association's website for more information.

9. Keep up on your yearly doctor visits!

    You are what you eat and no, it's not all relative! You never know what it is that may be sneaking up on you. It could be a hereditary disease, or it could be that your sedentary lifestyle and bad eating habits are taking their toll on your body. But if you keep up on your yearly check-ups and check your blood work, then  you may find out before having a near death experience. After his heart attack, I learned that Guillo had had similar pains in his chest a year and a half ago and never bothered to check it out. He also had not been to the doctor for a regular physical since 2005. Crazy! That's not happening again! Since there is no family history of heart disease, it was clearly his lifestyle. Thankfully, that is something we can control.

10. Be intimate with your loved ones.

     Give a hug and a kiss every time you leave each other. Because as our family physician tells us, no one is promised tomorrow. When in the presence of your loved ones, be with them, not by them. Snuggle, talk, listen and enjoy each other. Every moment is a gift from the Lord. Call your extended family often. Know what is going on in their lives and be a part of it. Most of all, be intimate with the Lord. He gave his only Son for you. Know His Son, seek salvation and there will be no need for fear because everlasting life is free!
"For what one earns from sin is death; but eternal life is what one receives as a free gift from God, in union with the Messiah Yeshua, our Lord." - Romans 6:23
Two things Guillo said that will never leave my mind. He said he was never afraid. When you are saved, why would you be? But once he thought about how close he came to dying, he felt bad about leaving me and our two boys. It would be sad to loose their father so young. And that is reason enough to make a change. The second thing he said just blew me away. I noticed as he was laying in Coronary ICU, that he had his wedding ring on. The whole time he went to immediate care, then ER, then surgery and then in CICU, he had his wedding ring on. This is unusual for him, and for me for that matter. I asked him why. He said, in case he died, he wanted to be sure he had his wedding ring on. I love that man. I praise God for bringing him into my life and for keeping him here for his family a while longer. I can't imagine going through something like this without the Lord. And I am thankful that we don't have to!