Posts Tagged ‘Prinzmetal angina’


Word of the Day: Red

open hands

Beginning when I was 39 years old and had a 4 year old, 9 year old and 13 year old, I had two back-to-back heart attacks even though I was perfectly healthy. When this occurred in 1999, WebMD didn’t even list my heart condition as a possibility for such human beings. Fortunately, that has changed.

But, there is still much to be done for Prinzmetal Angina, which affects 139,000 Americans. Prinzmetal (named after the researcher who discovered the phenomenon) has a 50% death rate and when diagnosed (only by the divine intervention of God), I was told I could have a heart attack every 10 to 15 years from that point forward. We still don’t know much about why my coronary arteries like to spasm out of the blue and cause blood clots and their resulting heart attacks.

I seem to like to have my heart attacks in pairs and I hate being late, so a little over 14 years later, I had heart attacks # 3 and # 4.


The 12 Days of MIP: 4 & 3…

blood pressure

Book Club Members: Please send me any questions you’d like to ask Jane Christmas. I need to send them to her now. Go here to submit them to me.

It’s time to reveal two more of my favorite posts from 2013. While they may not be your favorites, read on for why they are on my list:

Number 4:

Think You Don’t Have What It Takes to Change the World? Think Again…

If I didn’t have two supportive families in my corner, there are a group of friends from my Virginia days who I think of as family. Being half the country away from them just physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually hurts. These folks love me as I truly am…warts and all and they didn’t have to. They get why I’m so serious about my faith; they laugh at the same inane stuff that I laugh at; they care about the things I care about. Occasionally, we get a chance to fly back to the east coast and spend some time with them. The visits, even if I feel like I’m wearing out my welcome with invading their homes for so long, seem far too short. There is just something special about a group of friends who have a lot of history together. We have some wild stories to tell about how God has worked in each of our lives and in how He’s worked with us, together as a group.  I’m sure that if we were to share these wild stories with those outside our group, there would be a great deal of skepticism. But, there’s one thing you can’t argue about–we have been servants for God, each in our own way…just doing what God asked each of us to do. And in the process of just simply answering the “call,” lives have been changed all over the globe. The bottom line? You don’t have to be anything special or unusual to change the world…you just have to go do it. Click here to see what I mean.

Number 3:

So, Where Are My Posts?

This is not my writing at my finest, honestly. Why? Well, it’s just a newsy post about what happened to me last summer when my Prinzmetal Angina condition decided to rear its ugly head for the first time in 14 years back in June. It’s the one time I wasn’t able to keep to my regular blog schedule this past year. This was my “I’m Still Standin'” post, even though 2 heart attacks almost ended my life. It was the easiest way to update everyone on what happened to me without having to recount the details a ridiculous number of times. And it was, for quite some time, the most viewed post on MIP. It spiked my readership pretty considerably, so I guess if I want more exposure for my blog, I need to have a few more heart attacks. Relax. Just kidding! So, if you want to read the account one more time about my brush with death, click here.

Friday’s Post: An Interview with Jane Christmas!

You might also like: The 12 days of MIP: 6 & 5; The 12 Days of MIP: 8 & 7; The 12 Days of MIP: 10 & 9; and The 12 Days of MIP: 12 & 11


The 12 Days of MIP: 6 & 5…

puzzle hearts

Today we hit the “halfway mark” for the 12 Days of MIP. If you aren’t up on what this series of posts is all about, click here. Once again, these posts are polar opposites! So, without further adieu, here they are:

Number 6: 

Lessons Learned from the “Woman’s” Exam…

Some days the world just seems ridiculously bent on being mean to the female gender. Nowhere is this more obviously displayed than the demeaning annual check-up with our OB/GYN doctors. It’s bad enough that our private parts are exposed to people we don’t know well enough to even send a Christmas card, but then as we age, we get more humiliation–such as getting our boobs squashed by a very mean machine. So, what’s a girl to do? Make fun of it, of course. Click here to see what I mean.

Number 5:

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

After enduring two more heart attacks this summer for no good reason, many people asked how I manage to keep a positive attitude about my health adventures. My standard answer is, “I’m not sure I get a choice, honestly.” But, when I survived my first 2 heart attacks due to Prinzmetal Angina, I realized I did have a choice to make–I could either get busy living or get busy dying. I chose the former and to poke fun at it, whenever possible. You’ll see just how much fun I can have with Prinzmetal Angina when I reveal “Number 2.” But until then, how about reading what I think keeps me going, even in the moments when I find it hard to laugh about it? Click here to do just that.

Monday’s Post: Do you think we could use some suffusion?

You might also like: The 12 Days of MIP: 8 & 7; The 12 Days of MIP 10 & 9; The 12 Days of MIP: 12 & 11, and The Odd Days of December


The 12 Days of MIP: 8 & 7…

dental office

Book Club Lovers: Author Jane Christmas has offered to answer questions regarding her book, And Then There Were Nuns, for our book discussion this month. How do you feel about this possibility? Please comment below or send me an email. Click here to email. Thank you! And she just shocked the tar out of me today with the passage I read!

My next two favorite posts are, once again, an illustration of going from the sublime to the ridiculous. If you don’t know what I mean you may want to click here or here to see the other posts in this series!

Number 8:

The New Information on Prinzmetal Angina…

I completely understand why this post is not one of the most viewed items on MIP. It’s factual and probably not that entertaining. But, when I was first diagnosed with Prinzmetal Angina I was told that 1 out of 2 Prinzmetal Angina patients never even make it through their first heart attacks. Since Prinzmetal patients are often diagnosed in the prime of their lives (often in their 20s or 30s), this death rate leaves countless young children and spouses with a missing, but essential person in their lives at an age when few are expecting to say goodbye to their wives, husbands, mothers or fathers. That death rate is unacceptable to me and to the 139,000 other Americans who live with this condition–a condition that is not mitigated by exercise, eating right or taking your heart medications regularly.

When you’re in the hospital recovering from a heart attack, you’re strapped down, almost literally, by a pile of machines. Thus, you can’t go anywhere. You have a LOT of time to think. While in the hospital the first time, I found it astonishing that I had survived at all. I couldn’t fathom any logical reason why I would survive while all the other patients in the CICU that week never made it out of there (except in a hearse). One of the few reasons I believe I survived is that I have a “big mouth,” both in speech and in writing. And so, I believe I’m here to spread the word about Prinzmetal Angina and to suggest that more research needs to be done to prevent Prinzmetal deaths. In the 14 years intervening between my two sets of heart attacks, we do know more and let’s hope we learn even more in the next 10 to 15, when I probably will re-enter the hospital with heart attacks yet again (a near certainty for Prinzmetal patients).  And finally, I believe I’m here to remind folks that you can have heart attacks even if you do everything right; thus, it makes sense to take care of yourself so that you have an excellent chance of recovering from those heart attacks. My belief about that probably saved my life 4 times in 14 years. Still want to pick up that donut or cigarette? Put it down now and click here.

Number 7:

Lessons Learned from My Dentist…

One thing I noticed, as my parents aged, was that they had a never-ending series of medical appointments to keep. This and attending the funerals of their friends became a full-time job when retired. I, myself, have chosen to work from home, at least for now, because similar things are happening to me. This is not encouraging since I’m still in my early 50s. Since I don’t have interesting discussions at the water cooler anymore, visiting the dentist semi-annually can become the highlight of my day. (Pretty soon I’m going to be talking to random strangers who all try to get away from me as fast as they can.) Click here to see what I mean.

Friday’s Post: The 12 Days of MIP: 6 & 5

You might also like: The 12 Days of MIP: 10 & 9…; The 12 Days of MIP: 12 & 11; and The Odd Days of December


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.




The New Information On Prinzmetal Angina…


For the last 2 days I have sarcastically witted on about my last 2 heart attacks. But, it’s time to get serious. In 1999 I tried and could not find very much information about Prinzmetal Angina. I had to rely upon the information coming from my cardiologist and personal doctor. Here is what I was told:

  1. Prinzmetal Angina occurs when coronary arteries spasm. If they spasm hard enough, they create a blood clot which then prevents blood flow to the heart. This creates a heart attack.
  2. You can have Prinzmetal Angina without any of the “traditional” heart attack risk factors. This was, and is, oh, so true of me.
  3. In 1999 1 out of every 2 Prinzmetal Angina heart attack victims died.
  4. Negative stress is related to this condition.
  5. Eating right and exercising regularly will not change my risk of having a heart attack.
  6. An EKG and a stress test will often not show a Prinzmetal attack. This is also true of me.
  7. A Prinzmetal patient can expect to have a heart attack every 10 to 15 years. My 3rd and 4th attacks (I actually suspect I may have had a 5th attack that went undiagnosed, based on my symptoms.) came just a little over 14 years after the 1999 attacks.
  8. Prinzmetal attacks often occur when a person is at rest. Three of mine occurred this way.
  9. No one knows why Prinzmetal Angina occurs. You can’t even do an autopsy on a deceased Prinzmetal Angina patient to gain insights.


Here’s the good news: Largely thanks to the Internet, I can now find droves of information on this topic! So, here is the new information I am learning:

  1. Cocaine use is a causal agent of this. (That should be easy to stop.) 🙂
  2. They often occur like “clockwork” between the hours of midnight and 8 am. (The last 2 heart attacks occurred almost exactly a week apart right around midnight.)
  3. Beta blockers, commonly used for treating heart patients, are often “bad news” for Prinzmetal Angina patients. I was on a beta blocker when # 3 and # 4 occurred. Because of this new finding, I am now off this med and have been switched to a newer med.
  4. Exposure to the cold can bring on an attack. This is not good news for my migraines, where colder “climates” often help!
  5. 50% of Prinzmetal Angina patients have no conventional risk factors. Thus, you can be a professional athlete in perfect shape and die from this.
  6. Angiography can be used post mortem to examine the spasmed coronary arteries of Prinzmetal Angina victims. This means the medical community might be able to actually make some progress in figuring out what is causing this condition!
  7. When this occurred in 1999, my mother told me that her grandmother (my great-grandmother) died very suddenly at a young age. She wondered if her grandmother could have had Prinzmetal’s and it just had not been a diagnosed condition in “her day.” Now, there seems to be evidence that there could be a genetic component to this condition. In other words, Mom may be right. In fact my mom was always right, so let’s just go with what she said to save time.
  8. Conservative estimates suggest that 140,000 people have Prinzmetal Angina and most are younger heart attack patients than regular heart disease/heart attack patients.
  9. My new cardiologist has another Prinzmetal Angina patient. She also suffers from migraines. Migraine is a known risk factor for stroke. Migraines are caused by constriction of the vascular system of the brain. Strokes, of course, are related to heart attacks. Thus, there may be some connection here that warrants further study.
  10. The American Prinzmetal Angina Association has been formed in order to educate, support research grants and connect doctors who know things about Prinzmetal Angina!


Tomorrow’s Post: How MaryAnn Survived 4 Prinzmetal Angina Heart Attacks….

You might also like: Lessons Learned from Recuperating, Lessons Learned from Heart Attacks 3 & 4, Thank You, SCC, So, Where Are My Posts?, 2 Heart Attacks Too Soon, Part 1





Lessons Learned from Heart Attacks 3 and 4…


Warning: You may want to get 2 beverages first. 

For a little background on why someone like me would wind up in the hospital with heart attacks last Monday, please go here.

The very last thing a cardiologist should do to a writer is strap her down to a hospital bed for 8 days with medical “leashes”, put her on morphine and Xanax, and then think that she won’t use this “quality creative time” to her full advantage. I hope you’re up for a little gallows humor, because I’m about to explode with what I learned.

  1. Two sips of Merlot and I’m in the ER. I always knew I hated red wine.
  2. I think I now have a phobia about Merlot/red wine.
  3. Nurses have amnesia, particularly when it comes to remembering my birthdate. Thanks to them, I can’t seem to forget it. As a token of my gratitude for helping my memory, I’m sending them Merlot wine.
  4. My scooter still works. I didn’t even know I had one.
  5. Don’t hug and kiss the Careflite nurse.
  6. I got to cross off “Ride in a helicopter” from my Bucket List, but I don’t remember putting it on my List twice. Maybe it’s the morphine.
  7. I also got to cross off “Travel down the main thoroughfare of our fair town with police permission while wearing nothing but a hospital gown on a gurney accompanied by 2 guys who aren’t my husband at 1 am in the morning.” Yeah, I was surprised that was on my Bucket List, too. The hubby was even more surprised.
  8. We need to repave the main thoroughfare of our fair town. Remind me to vote for local road improvement at the next election.
  9. If you’re claustrophobic, don’t ride in a Careflite helicopter. If you’re bigger than me, you may need to become a Cirque du Soleil contortionist to fit.
  10. I have an alter ego. Her name is Mrs. Hook.  And apparently, my alter ego has a different address. She’s smarter—she decided to live closer to our local schools and my church. I wonder what illnesses she has. I hope she is okay.
  11. While attaining my counseling degree, I studied nonverbal client behavior. That is not a good skill to have when watching your catheterization team look at your coronary arteries.
  12. My nurses loved my mani/pedi. Note to self: Always schedule a mani/pedi 3 days prior to your next heart attack.
  13. I have “young skin.” This gives me a new reason to stock up on my favorite Bath & Body Works products, right? Think I could be their “Jared”?
  14. I baffle doctors and nurses because I don’t smoke, drink, eat too much, and exercise too little. They aren’t used to patients who follow their instructions?
  15. I now know why I’ve been reading all these books on Heaven and death. God’s sick sense of humor just moved to a whole new level of twisted. Where were the books on resurrection????
  16. Since I had symptoms prior to the gurney ride, my doctor ordered a nuclear stress test, in which they shoot dye into your coronary arteries prior to making you run on a hamster wheel until you fall off. Thanks to the Merlot, that was cancelled. I consider this a good thing since I only want dye applied to one part of my body—the part with the gray hair.
  17. While scheduling the stress test, the receptionist gave me the following instruction: “No funny stuff between now and then!” I guess heart attacks are serious???
  18. Always chew the chicken in your mouth prior to the next morphine drip.
  19. I neglected my children’s musical education—they didn’t understand my Carly Simon reference when I uttered: “I haven’t got time for the pain.” Of course, it could be that I was morphine mumbling it and trying to chew my chicken at the same time.
  20. I can recite the Lord’s Prayer in my sleep, unless the sleep is induced by morphine. Did you know Carly Simon lyrics are part of the Lord’s Prayer? Me neither.
  21. I know night nurses can get bored so I like to keep them entertained with projectile vomiting every so often just to break up the monotony. Let’s just say my capacity to do this means I coat walls better than industrial spray paint equipment. Guess that will teach them to put that little plastic tub too far from my hospital bed, hunh?
  22. My aforementioned little skill requires the contractor size of a Hefty bag to contain the clean-up materials. Maybe I can be Jared for Hefty??? Okay, so that would be awkward, too.
  23. The hubby can conduct business from anywhere. For his next magic trick, he plans to take conference calls on Mars.
  24. The hubby has an interesting career. You have no idea what Morphine MaryAnn does with the conference call term, “cows in heat.”
  25. Morphine confuses my sense of direction. I thought my room was in the corner. That may be because I spent a good portion of my childhood there.
  26. Doctors and nurses don’t believe me when I tell them the truth about my medical history. Of course, I’ve always thought my life story would make a good musical comedy. At least it would be more believable than “Cats.” My theory? “Cats” was dreamed up during “quality creative time” while on morphine.
  27. Doctors are finding more Prinzmetal patients these days. Dang. I liked being unique.
  28. However, few Prinzmetal patients actually produce heart attacks from their vasospasms without other heart disease risks. Guess my over-achiever/perfectionistic tendencies apply to my insides, too. Probably need to work on that sometime, hunh?
  29. If you’re “tied to your hospital bed,” you go to bathroom by “committee.”
  30. I never liked committee meetings.
  31. I missed my treadmill. Yes, I missed my treadmill. Maybe I need to check into Bellevue next.
  32. Last time they put me on Demerol. This time they said I would become too addicted to Demerol. (So, you can get addicted with a 14 year absence of Demerol in your system???? That’s impressive. Must add this to my things to do as an over-achiever.)
  33. They injected morphine ad nauseam (literally) and then told me to get off the morphine because I might get addicted. This little “lecture” came 24 hours after the first injection. You can get addicted to morphine within 24 hours of the first injection? Yay—another way to be unique! And I have so much access to morphine living in small town suburbia. And my favorite way to entertain myself on the weekends is to stick needles into my veins.
  34. Does morphine come in Merlot flavor? If so, I’m sending a case to my new favorite doctor, along with a 6 month supply of needles I found at Wally World on sale. I think they were on sale because they were “reconditioned.”
  35. While attaining the master’s in counseling, we talked a lot about projection. See # 33. Dr. Freud would be so proud.
  36. I’m supposed to endure torturous pain without morphine or Demerol. But, Xanax is fine? They didn’t study the same textbooks I studied. Uh, Doc? Xanax comes in pill form, thus eliminating the inconvenient need for needles from Wally World. (It’s so inconvenient to run there when you’re in withdrawal.) I guess morphine/Demerol addicts never take pills too often.
  37. I think I’m beginning to understand why addiction is such a problem in the U.S.  And why counselors (who generally try to help addicts) so commonly abuse drugs.
  38. A heart attack will bring a couple together more than a marriage retreat. Unfortunately, they’re usually more expensive than a marriage retreat. I personally think the reason why heart attacks bring couples closer together is because heart monitoring electrodes look so alluring by candlelight. They complement the IVs  quite nicely.
  39. A heart attack is not enough for me. I like to throw in migraines, anaphylaxis, non-stop nausea and pericarditis just for grins. You know how I hate boring. My doctors and nurses were not amused.
  40. Want to clear your busy schedule for a while? Have a heart attack. BOOM! Schedule cleared. Even your demanding writing schedule lightens up.
  41. In a unit where you’re encouraged to rest, the nurses and patients are pretty deaf. At least that’s my conclusion after hearing them yell at each other. Either that or morphine and Xanax improve my hearing.
  42. To deal with # 41, ask the youngest to fill up your iPod with inspiring songs.
  43. The same child informed me, after heart attack # 3, that I have now had as many heart attacks as children. He said, “No more children, Mom.”
  44. After heart attack # 4, I started looking around for my 4th child. The daughter always wanted a little sister. #4 is my “favorite” since she never required diaper changes, potty training, “the talk”, adolescent tantrums or enormous college tuition bills. She has good skin like her mother.
  45. It really hurts when you fall out of your hospital bed after hearing the Newsboys lyric: “They Don’t Serve Breakfast in Hell.” What?! No IHOP in Hell???? Geez. I guess I really will have to believe in the Big Guy now. I don’t want to miss breakfast.
  46. The youngest apparently has the same twisted sense of humor as God.
  47. I am blessed to have the best prayer warriors on the planet in “my corner” to make sure I don’t miss breakfast—ever. No Merlot necessary.

Next Post: Lessons Learned from Recuperation…

You might also like: Lessons Learned from Committing a Neatness to my Laundry Room, Lessons Learned from a Routine Examination, Lessons Learned from My Dentist  


So, Where Are My Posts?


Warning: War and Peace was shorter. You’re going to be here a while.

“We interrupt MIP’s usual weekly posts for a rather odd event in MaryAnn’s normally boring life. We will resume MIP‘s regular “programming” when MaryAnn stops reaching for her nitroglycerin pills.”

I should have seen it coming. Actually, I did and it scared the stuffing out of me.

When I began this blog in January, I chose an ambitious goal–to post 6 times a week. If the Lord can work 6 days a week, I probably should, too, right? I also chose to do “series” posts on various days of the week, one of these being, “Slow Reader Thursdays,” in which I review books that I’m reading. I have a pile of books that should have been read a long time ago–many of them gifts from family and friends. But, attaining a master’s degree, working, and raising a family often left me too tired to focus on reading them by the end of the day.

I have been letting God “choose” the book to review each week–even if I look at the cover and have a “meh” reaction. These are mostly Christian books so far–which would be a big indicator of not only who my family and friends are, but also a little bit about me. Lately, God had me reading back-to-back-to-back books on death and Heaven. How did I respond to this? Well, I obediently read the first two and then pulled a big “Jonah” on the last one. I knew God was trying to warn me and yes, I knew what he was warning me about and I tried to substitute another, happier book. I should have known he’d throw a big whale at me if I did that and I live in central Texas where whales are so plentiful!

If you don’t know me well, we have to go back in history a bit: In 1999, at age 39, out of the blue, with no risk factors for heart disease, I had 2 back-to-back heart attacks. I was at a healthy weight; I had low blood pressure; I didn’t drink; I didn’t smoke; I didn’t have diabetes and no history of early heart attack. We also learned that my arteries were pretty clean for a 39 year old American woman who’s been through childbirth 3 times. So, why would someone like me have a heart attack, let alone 2?

It turns out I have Prinzmetal angina, or vasospasms. This means my coronary arteries spasm; the spasm causes a blood clot and the clot creates a heart attack. To this day the only thing they know is a risk factor for Prinzmetal, for sure, is cocaine use. I do have powdery stuff around my house, but we tend to refer to them as dust bunnies. There is considerable speculation that stress is a factor, but I don’t know how to completely rid my life of stress. If you figure it out, please let me know.

Here are the “facts” of Prinzmetal:

1. You cannot exercise or diet your way out of it.

2. 1 out of 2 die from Prinzmetal angina when they have a heart attack.

3. There is no way to diagnose your risk for Prinzmetal’s at this time.

4. If you have it, you can pretty much guarantee yourself that you will another heart attack every 10 to 15 years. And no one knows why.

5. Verapamil (I personally view it as a wonder drug.) can stop vasospasms. And this it did very kindly and very successfully, for 14 years. And that brings me to recent events in my life.

On June 6th, that “old, familiar feeling” from 1999 reared its ugly head again. And I was in the metroplex of the Dallas/Ft. Worth area (about 75 miles from my home), without my drugs. Why? Because I had been healthy as a horse for the last 14 years and I get tired of being a walking pharmacy and sometimes a girl just needs more room in her purse or a smaller purse. (Stupid, right? I agree. Lesson learned–from now on the heart meds will be with me, no matter what. If I’m swimming in a pool soon, I’m putting them in a ziploc bag and strapping them (very unattractively) to my bathing suit.)

Fortunately, I have the world’s best hubby and he rushed me to a nearby convenience store, grabbed Bayer aspirin and I crammed 2 aspirin down my throat. The pain, thankfully, eased. I got home and took all the heart meds. It eased more. I went to bed and stayed there most of the weekend. Unfortunately, by Monday, my blood pressure was still up and my heart was cranky (My term for flashes of cardiac pain, but not heart attack symptoms.). I decided to go see my local doc and he ran tests. No sign of a heart attack, but knowing my wacky history, he ordered a nuclear stress test for 2 days later (We needed a cardiologist on-site for the test and I live in a very small town and this was the first opening with the cardiologist.)

Late on Monday night, the heart attack symptoms returned with a vengeance. I took the heart meds and nothing worked. I alerted that spectacular hubby of mine and we dressed quickly and went to the ER (which we can arrive at in less than 5 minutes, if necessary.). Bing. Bang. Boom. I was on a CareFlite going to the same hospital I went to in 1999. I was met by the heart catheterization (I tend to refer to arteriograms as “heart caths.”) team and bing, bang, boom, I was having an arteriogram yet again. And yes, again, they saw vasospasms. Unfortunately, this time, the spasming arteries were too small to insert a stent to keep the artery open and heart attack free (as they had done in 1999). They shot nitroglycerin (I usually call this nitro.) straight into the affected artery to no avail. Oh and one other thing, you’re awake for arteriograms, so my “counseloritis” was reading nonverbal behavior and not thrilled with what I was seeing from the heart cath team.

Plan B? Change and tweak meds until a winning combination was found to stop the vasospasms. Plan C? Nada. There’s nothing one can do to replace or repair a still healthy heart.

Now all of the above would be plenty for a gifted cardiologist to handle on a normal day. But I like to check and make sure docs are really on their game when I visit them. Thus, I throw chronic migraines and anaphylaxis to a variety of drugs into the mix. These little conditions all irritate the other, thus initiating one vicious cycle after another. It’s just loads of “fun”–trust me.

Thankfully, Plan B worked and I was home by Friday. Having been down this road before, I know that lots of bed rest, taking it easy, and clearing my schedule post-attack is required. I did so, only deciding to plant myself in my church pew on Sunday morning so I could say goodbye to my pastor and his family. They were moving to a new church and they mean a lot to me and we mutually cried our way through the service. I didn’t stand for the singing and let people come to me, if they wanted. I felt just fine.

Sunday night I couldn’t sleep, despite taking the prescribed sedative. I’m rather gifted at being a night owl insomniac. It’s when I “write” in my head, unfortunately. Normally, I would combat that with some treadmill time, but of course, this was not an option post-heart attack. So, I decided to put the “writing” on paper in my journal and pray it was out of my head enough to let me sleep. I finished up at midnight.

Almost at the same time, that old, familiar feeling returned again. Seriously? I grabbed my heart meds and tried, again, “to gain the upper hand.” But again, no response to the meds. So we pretty much repeated our prior week’s journey back to the metroplex hospital. What ensued for the next 24 to 48 hours was not pretty. This heart attack was different–my pain ebbed and flowed; the pain “floated” from one part of my heart to another; I was extremely nauseous; I had a hideous migraine and nothing worked. For the first time, I gave into groaning and moaning, sometimes yelling at my very faithful hubby, who never left my side. He and my nurse worked their rear ends off trying to solve my “issues.” I couldn’t even feed myself or swallow my meds on my own. My arm and hand veins, probably remembering the IV and blood sample pain from the previous week, did a rather large disappearing act. So, very soon, not only were my arms and hands radiating with pain, but they were badly bruised and throbbing almost non-stop.

I wasn’t sure how much more I could take. Thankfully, the chaplain from our local hospital, also a personal friend, paid a visit late into the evening and mercifully counseled me. (More about that later!) I could only muster a weak smile of thanks.

At one point I asked if they could just put me in a coma. My only relief was to sleep for a few hours and as soon as I woke, the pain and issues all returned. For some odd reason, I elected to have the hubby feed me the really bad hospital mashed potatoes…very, very slowly. Unlike all my usual nausea self-help foods, this seemed to work somewhat. They asked me if I could handle Mylanta or something similar. Usually, that just makes my vomiting worse. Then, from the deep reaches of my ancient memories, I remembered that I could sometimes thwart my nausea with Pepto Bismol tablets. The liquid did me in, but for some reason, I could handle the tablets.

Since this is not the normal treatment these days for nausea, it took them a while to get them to my floor, but I chewed the first two and felt less nauseous. I used that opportunity to eat more potatoes and a few other bland items. I asked if I could have more tablets. Two more were given and it improved even more. Pretty soon, the nausea was under control. Then, the medical staff could zone in on heart and migraine meds in full force to control these other issues.

Soon, the migraine was gone. The cardiologist did another arteriogram and indeed, I had had yet another heart attack. Tweaking meds began again. By Thursday, I was chomping to be discharged and now I’m back home yet again. Let’s hope I stay put this time.

Some have suggested that God is trying to teach me something and this is His way of getting my attention. I agree that I’ve learned a lot having had 4 heart attacks in 14 years, but trust me, I asked God what He wanted to teach me back in 1999 and I changed my lifestyle considerably and continue to do so, based on what I felt/feel He was/is showing me and teaching me. So, this time around I tend to think that God wants me, even in the midst of my agony, to be merciful to those around me who may be hurting in unseen ways. And that proved to be true. Some of the people taking care of me seemed to need an informal ‘counseling session’ from my hospital bed. Do I think there are other things I am to learn this time? Yes. Of course there are. He has been choosing to deepen his relationship with me even prior to these last 2 attacks and that proved to be really useful during the attacks.

The one thing that Prinzmetal teaches you emphatically is that you are not in control of your life. If you think you are, that’s an illusion. I know that God brought me into this world and He can take me out at any moment. So, I am literally painfully, aware that He is in charge–not me. And not my doctors and nurses. And I was ready to go to Heaven last Monday night if that was His will. (If you don’t believe me, talk to the hubby.) I don’t have a choice about it, so I might as well be willing. I choose to let Him order my life and whoever is in front of me, that’s my to-do list for the day. I cherish every moment here, but I also choose to look forward to Heaven where there is no more pain and I rest in Jesus’ arms and can be reunited with my “welcoming committee.” That’s not ghoulish…that’s just reality. And my God is very real.

Many of you have asked how you can help our family during this time. Trust me–we will contact you if help is needed, but by and large, we are fine. I just need time to heal. However, I do think 1 reason I was allowed to stick around for an additional 14 years was to make people aware of Prinzmetal angina, so please, please, please help me do that any way that you can.

And, of course, please pray for my family and friends. This is really tough on them when I go through this stuff, so I covet your prayers for them.  Finally, be the person God meant you to be. Don’t waste time on things that won’t get you closer to that goal. You never know when your next breath is your last breath. Doing that will help me the most, because I love you all and do get concerned when I see you straying from who you were designed to be. You will lower my stress level considerably if you get laser-focused on that. Change is possible–I’m living proof.

I now have a very interesting, very rare viewpoint that most do not get to experience and I actually consider it a gift to get to be a part of the Creator God’s master plan in small, but hopefully, meaningful ways because of my “health adventures.” Oh, and one more thing: I choose to poke a little fun at this, because what else am I supposed to do with this??? And so…stay tuned….your favorite “Lessons Learned” are coming your way sometime very soon. (In fact it’s already drafted–I tend to think God actually writes these–I’m not that funny in real life–trust me.) Laughter is a great healer and I prefer to think that God has the sickest, most twisted sense of humor on the planet when it comes to me.

In addition to sharing my “Lessons Learned,” I also want to share some of the stuff I learned this time, both practically and spiritually and share the things that God chose to use during the latest health adventures, so forgive me for interrupting the normal flow of posts here on MIP (Expect me to post at odd times! I don’t get to dictate my energy level or cranky heart moments right now.) temporarily to do so. I promise to return to them just as soon as God decides I’ve had enough helicopter rides for a while.

Tomorrow’s Post: The Song that Says It All…

You might also like: 2 Heart Attacks Too Soon, Part I; 2 Heart Attacks Too Soon, Part II; 2 Heart Attacks Too Soon, Part III; 2 Heart Attacks Too Soon, Part IV