Last week, I thought I was having a heart attack! I had terrible pain in my chest and had been having it for days. Then the numbness started in my arm. I pretended not to notice but it began to creep up into my jaw.
I kept saying Bible verses over and over. Actually, I’d been repeating them for several days. I was trying not to let my imagination get away from me. I prayed again and again, “LORD, please show me what to do. Give me a sign…” It kept getting worse and worse. I’m pretty sure He WAS showing me what to do: GO TO THE HOSPITAL! I had hoped my sign would be that it would just go away.
I’m a believer and follower of Christ so I know where I will go when I die. I was still scared. I thought of my family-especially my beloved. He loves me so much. He would be heart-broken if something happened to me. And my children… I thought about the kids I help at work, my preschoolers at church…the girls I get to study with at the jail. I was getting morbid. I thought of people who had recently died of heart attacks. Is this how they had felt?
The morning it was so bad, I called my beloved, my daughter and even my son, who doesn’t like to talk on the phone. I didn’t mention my chest pain or the numbness. I just wanted to tell them one more time that I loved them very much.
It was a really long day, trying NOT to think about a heart attack. I carried Bible verses in my pocket that I looked at every hour. They were some of my favorites. Psalm 46:1-2: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear… And, then verse 10: Be still and know that I am God. (I still have the paper.)
Finally that evening, when my symptoms worsened, I called my husband who was on the way home from Lexington. I told him I thought I needed to go see a doctor. “When?” he asked, surprised. “As soon as you get home,” I answered.
He was immediately alarmed. We have been married for 35 years and he has never heard me ask to go to the ER. In fact, I have never ever BEEN to the ER. He turned on his flashers and laid on the gas, making it to P’burg in record time.
In the emergency room, I was taken straight back. An EKG was done and blood was taken. An IV port or something was put in. (MAN! That hurt!) They asked 7,000 questions about my health history but it didn’t take long. I don’t go to the doctor regularly so I didn’t have much to report. And I typically don’t medicine, though I did start taking a baby aspirin a month ago when my symptoms started. (A pharmacist friend told me back then, without knowing I was having a problem, that women over 50 die of heart attacks more than anything else. I bought aspirin the next day.)
Tests were run, more blood was taken. Doctors and nurses came in and out along with bunches of other important people who work for the hospital. (I asked everybody’s name because I hadn’t ever been in the ER before.) My EKG looked good, they said, which was a huge relief. It was almost 2 a.m. I would need to stay until a stress test could be done.
My stress test was great-praise the Lord! Turned out it was my stomach. After they mentioned it, it made a lot of sense. I won’t bore you with details…I’ve had problems for a few years.
Everyone at the hospital asked me if I had come straight to the hospital when my symptoms started. They were all surprised and not impressed that I had put it off. I had ignored serious signs of a heart attack. They were classic signs that usually are not indigestion. I finally caved when I thought I was going to die. I ignored the stomach problems, too for a long time trying to self-medicate.
I know, I know, I KNOW that life is short. People, old and young, die every single day. Floods come, cancer strikes, automobile accidents happen. Life is a vapor and we are not promised tomorrow.
So, why am I telling you all this? First of all, if you have any, ANY symptoms of a heart attack, don’t wait…get help immediately! Many times, it is NOT indigestion’ it really is your heart! Secondly, I have to ask….are you really ready to die? Have you made everything right? And I don’t mean a will. Will your family know you are in heaven and be relieved? Or will they be sure you are somewhere else, in torment? Thirdly, I didn’t realize there was a thirdly, do we make every day count? Are we doing our best to make the world better? It’s deep thinking for a girl who lives in a holler.
Now, with my new stomach medicine, I feel like I have a new lease on life! Many people have asked how I’m doing. “Great!” I answer without pause, “It’s amazing how awesome you feel when you know you’re not having a heart attack!”
Dawn Reed is a columnist for the Hazard Herald.