How I Cope with a Heart That’s a Ticking Time Bomb…


Warning: You may want to get 2 beverages first. (I promise I will go back to shorter posts soon!)

My cardiologist said, quite accurately, “A Prinzmetal Angina heart attack leaves the survivor shell-shocked.” And even though I survived 2 other Prinzmetal Angina heart attacks in 1999, I’m right back to shell-shocked. Thankfully, because of the 1999 episodes, I know that, with time, this feeling will dissipate. Still, I do find myself reminding myself to breathe!

Let me first briefly tell you what I learned about coping with this condition in 1999 (Go here for a more thorough discussion of what I learned then.).

  1. God is in control of my life, death and Heavenly journey. Not me. Not medical science. Not anyone else. But, that is a good thing, because I could not be in better hands.
  2. I was a youngish person who now was viewed, by most, as a person with a heart condition. (This was a tough thing to accept.)
  3. The toughest part of surviving a heart attack is looking at the scared faces of all the people who I love and who love me.
  4. Prior to 1999, I had a lot of low self-esteem issues and wondered why I was on the planet. Based on the love shown to me in 1999 in a multitude of ways and on having a lot of hospital bed time to think about why I was on the planet, I no longer have these issues!
  5. The toughest part about knowing I could have another heart attack in 10 to 15 years was that my youngest might not be out of the “nest” yet and my husband must travel extensively for work. I hated the thought of a nanny having to take care of him. Therefore, I chose to take darn good care of myself “in between” so I could survive the next heart attacks. (Looks like that was a good decision, hunh? My docs would probably agree, too.)
  6. There are worse places to die than in a hospital. I had pain meds, an attentive nursing staff, a loving family, generous friends, a comfortable bed, adequate nutrition, and awesome doctors all looking out for me. Shortly after coming home, we rented “Saving Private Ryan” to watch. After watching someone die on a battlefield, I was thankful my brush with death was not in that horrible manner.
  7. If one survives a Prinzmetal attack, one should not waste any more time getting around to doing what God created him or her to do. I may not always perfectly understand His plan for me, but I’d better make a tremendous effort to do what I think He wants done.
  8. I can either lie in my bed and wait for the next attack or I can live my life to the fullest and let whatever happens happen. I chose the latter, since it seemed that I had flashes of heart pain whether I rested or got up and moved around. You can’t live your life well if you live it with constant fear.
  9. Whoever is in front of me right now is God’s agenda for MaryAnn today.
  10. God gave me certain gifts to use for His will for this planet. I need to stop doing things that I’m lousy at doing and get busy doing the things He intended me to do and gifted me to do. That would be why I don’t stress too much over housework and cooking anymore. I don’t enjoy these activities and others are better at them than me. Why not let them do what God intended them to do??? In the beginning it was difficult to quit bringing home-cooked food to friends and to let the dust bunnies build up, but I learned that the friends still appreciated “take-out” and that the dust bunnies will still be there tomorrow waiting until I can get around to them. Besides, my children needed to learn how to cook and clean anyway.
  11. Everyone has challenges in their lives somewhere. Mine just happen to be health problems, so I choose to view them as “lessons” for my life and call them “health adventures.” They certainly keep my life from being boring and I hate boring!


So, what did I learn this time around?

  1. Unfortunately, each heart attack is going to scare the crud out of me, despite my history with them. And, it’s going to scare the crud out of my family and friends, too.
  2. The most frustrating part of having a lot of life-threatening, painful conditions is that I live in a small town and have to be transported to a mega-hospital. Why? Because I then have to convince a whole pile of people, while in great pain, that I’m not an addict (despite being on heavy-duty migraine meds), that I’m telling them the truth, that I have a brain, that I do follow a healthy lifestyle, and I follow doctor instructions just as much as I humanly can. Thank God for my hubby, who is willing to tick off droves of people until they understand this and then change how I am treated.
  3. Some of the most dedicated, kind, and smartest people work in emergency rooms, cardiac intensive care units, and on helicopters. I needed their mercy and hard work and I got it, even with #2 happening.
  4. As you get well, the level of care goes down, at least in the hospital where I was admitted. Thus, family members advocating on your behalf is critical to long-term survival. It’s understandable, but frustrating. And family members are often forced to go through the “wringer” for you. Yes, there are “pain-in-the-neck” families who ignore doctor orders and conduct themselves in negative ways that add to the patient’s ill health. But, if you have a family that stands beside you during your hospitalization, thank the good Lord for such a family. They are saints.
  5. Hospital staff have unseen hurts. This may influence how they care for you, despite their best attempts to do otherwise. If you get the privilege of helping them with those hurts, your hurts get better.
  6. I’m glad I did that counseling degree.
  7. I need to get over my unwillingness to cry in public. How did my new doctor finally begin to understand how MaryAnn typically operates? I blubbered like a baby in front of him, out of total frustration and exhaustion. Yes, I shouldn’t fall to pieces with every little bump in the road, but sometimes tears are the best way to get through to someone.
  8. I now know why I pray every time I hear a siren, see a highway accident, or see a medical helicopter overhead. God reminded me of why when I was finally settled in my first Careflite. I still smile when I think about this. You never know when you’re going to need the prayers of total strangers.
  9. I am thankful for the Internet and social media. In 1999 my family and I had to retell my story over and over again to those who were concerned. It was an exhausting process, although we appreciated the concern. Today, I can quickly update people on Facebook, Twitter, and through my blog. So. Much. Easier.
  10. I am not alone. Usually, cardiologists only have a few patients, at most, with Prinzmetal Angina. Thanks to new research, we now know that there are at least 139,999 other Prinzmetal survivors besides me.
  11. It’s so much easier to recuperate with adult children in the house! It’s quieter; they know what Mom needs, and they can run to the store when you need meds or run out of toothpaste. While we were blessed with friends who came to our rescue in 1999 for all of these things, it’s nice to just hand the teenager your credit card and say, “I need…”
  12. I’m glad we updated our wills last fall. Thank you, Dave Ramsey.
  13. Death is not something to be feared. Not preparing for your inevitable, eventual death is selfish, foolish and makes life more difficult for your family—the very people who need less stress when grieving.
  14. I’d sacrifice my life here if that meant that all of my adopteds, family members, and friends all wound up in Heaven with me one day far into the future. Yes, it’s that important. (That is not something I was ready to say until this year.)
  15. If you’ve been holding back telling a loved one something you are convinced they need to hear and that may alienate you from that person permanently, say it anyway. You may not get another chance to do so. True love is being willing to live without it being reciprocated. Quit being such a coward.
  16. I used to think I had a relationship with Jesus. I was wrong. He has shown me a whole new level of “relationship” and it is mind-blowing.
  17. Pay attention when “circumstances” all start “pointing” toward preparing you for a future “bad” event. That’s God’s doing.
  18. Actually prepare for that bad event in advance the best way you can.
  19. If you fail to do # 18, God is amazingly patient and still has you in the palm of His hand.
  20. My back porch is the best place for MaryAnn to read, appreciate God’s magnificent creation and to unwind when stressed out.
  21. The best medicine for getting over a heart attack is hearing the voices of your children, your siblings, your “adopteds,” your hubby, and your extended family.
  22. My friends don’t listen to me when I say, “We’re fine.” But then, I usually don’t listen to them, when they say the same. It’s just their own personal brand of “revenge.”
  23. Southern hospitality is served up best when there is a crisis.
  24. They don’t call southern women “Steel Magnolias” for nothing.
  25. God has answered the prayer I uttered in 1999 to let me live through my children’s “growing up” years and then some. I am so blessed He chose to honor that prayer.
  26. Journaling can bring on a heart attack. Blogging about it can heal my heart.
  27. Anything I get to experience from here on out is a “bonus.” I need to fully appreciate that bonus.
  28. Whatever is evil on this planet sure doesn’t like me much.
  29. I hate to lose.
  30. Evil is in for a big fight. It just doesn’t know it yet. 


Note: I am going to take a “breather” from the blog for the next few days so I can do another kind of writing–thank you note writing! I promise to be back when I’m done with that. If you want to know if I’m still at home doing well, just pay attention to Facebook and Twitter–as long as I’m posting there, I’m good. 🙂

You might also like: The New Information on Prinzmetal Angina, Lessons Learned from Recuperating, Lessons Learned from Heart Attacks 3 & 4, and Thank You, SCC.



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This entry was posted on Friday, June 28th, 2013 at 6:50 am and is filed under Lessons Learned. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.


  1. June 28th, 2013 | BreAnn says:

    Wow, MaryAnn, I had no idea you had this struggle. And any time I ever see you, you have a smile on your face. Your faith, confidence, and honesty is inspiring. Everyone aspires to Live Big – but you are doing it. I admire your strength – it’s definitely something to marvel at. I don’t know if I could have the same positive attitude. I will definitely keep you in my prayers.

  2. June 28th, 2013 | maryann says:

    Wanna know why I smile? Because I’m looking at someone that always makes me very happy. 😉 Thanks for the wonderful compliments. You can live big, too, sweetie. Just make the people you encounter your priority wherever you are.

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