First of all I must say; I know this sounds like I am angry about the way he was sent home- but I truly am grateful for everything Vancouver General Hospital and the paramedics did for him. The story is intense, but I just tried to write everything as objectively as possible. This helps me process things, so I can move forward.
What happened exactly?
It was 2:24 pm. At the time, Nathan ("Nate") was home, sitting on the couch. He was not physically exerting himself. We had a stressful morning of getting through a lot of paperwork for life stuff, but that played zero role in the cause of this.
Nathan went into acute cardiac arrest, and was gasping for air and gripping his chest when I found him within 1 minute of the attack beginning. Because he was on the couch, fortunately he did not collapse and hit his head.
Immediately I dialed 9-1-1 and put the emergency responder on speaker-phone to have them feed me directions, as I screamed my head off. I am 5 years out of my nursing practice, and needed the guidance as I was in shock.
"BREATHE! BREATHE! KEEP BREATHING! BREATHE" I shrieked at Nathan, as he continued to gasp for air.
His face began to turn blue. His arms and legs; flaccid. Nathan was unresponsive.
I slide him off the couch onto myself, then onto the floor, while supporting his head. It was imperative to get him on hard ground in order to provide the vital chest compressions.
He began to vomit, and I turned him into recovery position so he would not aspirate this.
The 9-1-1 responder talked me through everything. I kept chest compressions 2cm deep, and as regular as I possibly could, with my own physical impairments. We counted together- "ONE. TWO. THREE. FOUR. ONE. TWO. THREE. FOUR..."
Nothing in me would allow Nathan to die. No part of me could let him go.
Within 6 minutes of the call, 3 ambulances and 2 firetrucks filled the little street we live on. About 10 people filed onto the front lawn, donning their personal protective equipment (due to COVID-19 precautions). They needed to protect everyone in the situation, but those 3 minutes before they stepped in were the longest and most horrifying minutes of my life.
I provided 9 minutes straight of life-saving CPR before the paramedics took over. They then continued CPR, inserted an artificial airway, and provided 2 shocks with the defibrillator.
He was then taken into an ambulance where they continued to work on him in the vehicle until about 2:55pm. Then they carted him off to Vancouver General Hospital.
Again, COVID-19 complicated things, and I was not able to go with him to the hospital. Fortunately my brother, David, came and picked me up in an Uber so I could follow along to figure out what was going on, and advocate for Nathan.
Once at the hospital...
Nate was taken to the Cardiac Cath Lab and a stent was placed in his left anterior descending (LAD) artery within 40 minutes of his arrival. The stent was placed using balloon angioplasty, through 2 tiny vein punctures in his wrist. This is an incredible procedure, and the type of stent used shouldn't ever require replacement.
The "Home is best" philosophy...
1 week and 2 days later, Nathan came home. It was far too quick of a discharge and he still is not drinking regular fluids or eating normal meals. He failed his "swallowing assessment" while in ICU and had no further follow-up for the dysphagia. His esophagus is damaged from intubation, and he was relying on IV fluids until an hour before discharge; but they eagerly kicked him out into a taxi home.
The hospitals are trying to remain as empty as possible due to the pandemic at hand. The staff sent him home without initiating any of his follow-up care, and without some of the essential medications he was being given while there.
I spent the past 5 days struggling my way through full-time care, while arranging all of his follow-up appointments, medication coverage, and arranging referrals. This has been incredibly difficult as I am still recovering from my own major health challenges, which affect my cognition and physical functioning greatly.
We had been trying to figure out the chest pains he had been having, for 6 months. As an ex nurse I could see clearly from day one that it was unstable angina. Specialist after specialist turned him away, or refused vital tests which would have concluded this sooner.
The cardiac problem could have been found, had the doctors have listened to me and put a holter monitor on Nathan. 2 months ago we had been turned away by a specialist who was booked to do a cardiac stress test on him- He claimed it was "anxiety" Nathan was dealing with.
Who would ever think that perhaps anxiety could go hand-in-hand with severe chest pain and unexplained medical problems? *Eyeroll*
In a 2015 retrospective study of 97,254 Swedish adults who survived a heart attack between 2006 and 2011, the researchers concluded that people who survive a heart attack have an 18.3% chance of experiencing another cardiovascular event within the first year. (Source.)
Our lives are going to be a lot different from now on; Cardiac rehabilitation, physiotherapy, more mild cardio exercise, a more consistently healthy diet, and a LOT of medications for controlling Nathan's heart disease. Due to the fragility of his condition, we now have to be much more conscious of everything. He will not be driving for at least a month, and will not be back at work for quite a while.
An important thing to note is that he must strictly avoid being around any kind of second-hand smoke, which can exacerbate the problems in his chest and put him back in the hospital.
Nathan is lucky to be alive and to have a chance to turn around his health. I am honored to be by his side, to support him along the way.
We are so grateful for all the help people have provided along the way in us both getting through this. Thank you for your love, support and donations of medical supplies/supplements. We love you all so much. **E-transfers and digital gift cards are complicated to accept at this time.** If you would like to help, the best way is through physical gift cards to select grocery stores, or through purchasing an item off our Amazon wishlist. Thank you.
Beginning with high quality 135lb Italian paper and miscellaneous paint brushes, I lay initial acrylic washes of colour using my left hand. It is not my dominant arm, but its strength is more reliable than the other.
My right hand has more keen dexterity. I've figured it out that I can save mental energy for detail work by using my left hand for the "less important" steps in building images. Then, I work more rapidly with my dominant but neurologically-limited right arm, and a pallet knife.
It is really difficult to explain the complexity of how Multiple Sclerosis truly affects me, but I'm persevering and finding ways around obstacles day after day. When you need to make art, you find a way.
Last Thursday I saw my neurologist. While I have had a LOT of improvement with many symptoms, and some of the lesions have become less inflamed- they have not gone away and are unlikely to fully resolve.
That was that. It was confirmed I am at my new "baseline", and now is the time to figure out my next step.
My neurologist acknowledged my knack for persevering, and staying as positive as I am through all of this. Truly, the news that I may not recover more made me pretty devastated, because my personal expectations are high. I anticipated (hoped for) a lot more recovery by now and am grasping at anything that makes me feel slightly more "normal", or gives me any sense of accomplishment.
What ARE lesions, anyway?
"In multiple sclerosis (MS), the body mistakenly attacks the protective layer around the nerves in the brain and spinal cord (also known as myelin). These damaged areas are called plaques or lesions. ... However, lesions tend to happen more in people with relapsing MS."
This is what my brain MRI looked like in July 2019:
What does my MRI look like, now?
The latest scan was done without IV contrast medium (Gadolinium) and does not show all the inflammation, but you can see many of the current active lesions.
So, what does it all mean?
Much of the damage has turned into scar tissue. This means that while I still may recover slightly over time, it is unlikely that symptoms of this episode will fully disappear.
Something you may notice quite quickly is that I am very upfront and honest, possibly to a bit of a fault. My joke has always been that "I don't lie, my memory is too poor for that." I'm being entirely honest when I say that the past 6 months have really, really sucked.
What have my days or weeks looked like lately?
Rest. Rest. Appointment. Rest.
Sprinkle on a little bit of sadness and a lot of self defeat, but also pepper in moments of reflection, triumph, and celebration.
Hard lesson I have had to accept...
The resting often does not feel conducive to productivity, but without taking these breaks we surely break down. Sometimes when things aren't going smoothly with life, health, love or business, we can be extra hard on ourselves and less likely to make time for self care. Not making time for the things that bring mental peace or physical comfort, is the fastest way to absolutely crush your productivity.
It is very important to remember that taking breaks is not the same as failing, or falling off track.
Self care is different for everyone. It doesn't have to be fancy face masks, and sparkling bath bombs from Lush. Self care can also be as simple as playing Super Mario bros. for half an hour (or 3 days straight, which I may have done while recovering from a flu). Do something to let your mind stop beating itself up, and just relax!