I just turned 29 for a second time, my husband only a few months behind me. We have known one another since childhood, a quiet guardian through my youth. When we finally came together we each had baggage, most of mine from childhood and not so much my first marriage. He had an amazing son I love as my own, and together we created two beautiful tiny girls. This is where mom was, maybe not in age, but in family standing when she lost my father very suddenly due to heart complications. A day expected to soak up the California coast on comfortable September afternoon and swim amongst the deep ended before it could begin for my father.
In October as our sweet baby girl hit five months old, Josh began to complain of a stabbing ache in his back. I think something is wrong with my heart, but the pulse he read to me was low to my “tachycardic” standards. I wrote it off as another time that my husband was overdramatizing an ailment as he, and most men, are want to do from time to time. We were supposed to be on vacation, visiting home for my brother’s wedding, and his boss had not hung up from stressful calls since our plane had touched ground in Texas.
After a couple of hours of his dramatized charade he ended up in bed, from which the pain was so bad that he was unable to rise. Suddenly it occurred to me that quite possibly it could be the Lupus he was refusing his treatment for. I looked up all the possible things that his kidneys or liver could be doing to cause the pain, I asked my mother for tylenol, “all I have is aspirin.” Anything works I thought as I passed on the aspirin. The pain subsided, and though he was quite woozy, we were able to enjoy the rest of our visit home.
As soon as we returned home I sent Josh to his internist to be tested for the results of his Lupus treatments over the summer. He had never attended his follow up appointment. Upon his return we found not only was the Lupus back with full force, but his blood tests revealed evidence of a recent cardiac arrest. That Aspirin quite possibly saved his life, the saying that there is a reason for everything is proven through and through to me time and time again.
We went about life as normal, he did not have time for the Lupus treatments, and the Cardiac Arrest the doctor attributed to the stress of work and travel.
On the eve of Thanksgiving it struck again, with vengeance. His pulse was in the upwards 100’s. He calmly put on a coat and drove himself to the ER two blocks up the road. He sat in the waiting room for a long while before the communication got to triage that he was indeed experiencing a cardiac episode, and later determined a second cardiac arrest.
We were in the middle of signing papers on a new house when the doctor told him that he had a hereditary heart complication, in which his heart could not regulate itself. There is no medication, the only real solution is a pacemaker. The process of tests to get to this point will take up to two months before the matter is resolved.
“How are you not totally freaking out,” my friend asked. “I would be in tears.”
“I have a plan if things go further south.”
“That’s life. This happened in my own childhood, and the reality is any of us could die at any moment. I can obsess and shut down, but then I’m letting my girls down and quite honestly that is no way to live. So I decided I could take a moment and create a game plan in my mind for the scariest scenarios and then file them in the back of my mind. I rest easy knowing no matter what happens they are there. Nothing can prepare you for the grief, I know this, so today I am free to embrace the present.”