Unbreakable Heart

BORN JUNE 24,1961

My heart failure story

I am alive and well today in Portsmouth, RI. I am a 62 year old single white female with two roommates, a five year old tuxedo cat named Ricky, and a ten year old recently-adopted rescue Kitty named Miss Lucy.

I have an 11 year old Boston Scientific pacemaker/defibrillator that was implanted in my body on November 22, 2013 at Flagstaff Memorial Hospital at the request of my PCP, psychiatrist, and my therapist.

I suffered an almost fatal heart attack and heart failure due to lithium toxicity. Lithium is a medication they use for folks with bipolar disorder. The patient should have monthly blood draws to ensure that they are not getting lithium toxicity (which was not mentioned to me); hence I did not get monthly blood draws. I was on lithium for a little over a year with probably three or four visits to the lab!

When I was transported to Flagstaff Medical Center, my lithium blood level was nine times over the normal limit!

Back in time

April 6, 1982
I was so tired and so exhausted that I couldn't get out of bed when the alarm went off. I laid back down and heard, "911 - white 22 year old female unresponsive. CPR started. Negative drug and alcohol history. To critical care unit."

At 22 years old I suffered a cardiac arrest. My roommates found me in the morning in bed and blue. They started CPR and called 911. Thank goodness that they both worked at the hospital in the radiology department because they knew how to do CPR.

Long story short, I was eventually transferred from Muhlenberg Hospital in Plainfield, NJ, a small rural hospital, to Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center for a collapsed trachea. When I was in my coma I was constantly pulling out my breathing tube which, unbeknownst to the doctors, was scarring my trachea to a minute opening not big enough to to fit a straw through.

They had to transfer me to a larger hospital that was equipped to help me breath rather than doing a tracheotomy on an attractive 22 year old newly graduated X-ray technician. I was in CPMC for three months as they tried to find out why I had the cardiac arrest.

They first thought neurology. This was before MRI came out, and the only options were a CT scan with contrast or an invasive cardiac radiology study. They put me on seizure medicine for a few months after micro-nasal trachea surgery was done to widen my trachea so I could breathe again. Unaware of the abnormal ekg readings I was occasionally getting, they were focusing on the brain.

I went back to NYC again for another throat surgery. At that time a young cardiologist was assigned to my treatment team. His name was Dr. Jerry Gliklich, and he saved my life! He was seeing abnormal heart function arrhythmias every other day or so.

Diagnosis: prolapsed mitral valve with abnormal ekg daily. I was prescribed 40 mg of Corgard daily until I moved to Arizona in 1998.

Back to the future

So you see, I've got a very interesting life story, and here I am on my couch in the 46th place I've called HOME! Yep, I've moved 46 times in my 62 years of living. It is where the resilience and strong will came from to help me get to 62 years old.

It's April 16, 2024, and I'm continuing my education. I went back to school during the pandemic and became a chef! I am now enrolled in their 14-month entrepreneurship program, which I will graduate from in October 2024. I'm in good health, but I could lose about 20 or more pounds and exercise more.

I saw my cardiologist here in New England. I lived in Arizona most of my adult life from 32 to about 56 years old, but I moved back here to the East Coast to help my nephew with his two young kids. He was going through a nasty divorce, so I decided to drive cross country in September 2018. I landed in New Bedford Massachusetts. I had all intentions of moving back to Arizona but...

The covid pandemic

I was stuck here in New England! There were no planes flying to Arizona for awhile which was long enough to make me want to stay here on the East Coast where I was born (New Jersey!). I do have a mental illness which kind of also saved my life. I was diagnosed at 42 years old with severe depression, bipolar disorder 1, ADHD, an anxiety disorder, and PTSD.

I went from working 50 hours a week with hopes of opening my own business such as catering, a small cafe, etc. What opened up my mental illness was a back injury that I had at work. I slipped on a puddle of water that was not cleaned up the night before I came into working that morning.

Flat on my back

I laid there until the next early morning person came in to open the store (a health food deli cafe). I was the deli bakery manager. That ended my working career, and I had to have extensive back surgery. I was told I would never be able to go back to the job I was doing. I went on social security disability insurance (SSDI) at 42 years old.

I've been on SSDI for 21 years from two diagnoses - a low back injury and mental health disorders (depression, bipolar, ADHD, anxiety, and PTSD). I was granted my disability on the first try. Many people on disability are denied at first, and the waiting time to hear from social security is often 12-16 months. Most folks end up getting lawyers, but I didn't need one because my injury and illnesses were the deciding factor.

To end my rambling, I'm happy, healthy, and safe and on the road to having a future part time business at 63 years old! That's my story and I'm sticking to it!


My baked bread from scratch

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