Trauma not Drama

Now that I know my husband is going to live, I can write about our week.

My birthday was Monday. It began with me rushing my husband to the doctor because he was feeling so awful. After I broke down in the office and made sure we were leaving with some kind of plan to get him better, the rest of the day went well. My husband stayed home and rested, I went for a lovely hike, shopped for a bit and brought home sushi for dinner. The next day began like any other work day. But like the saying goes, our lives changed in an instant. I received a call at work from the hospital, with a doctor on the other line saying my husband had a heart attack and they were in the process of putting a stent into his blocked artery. I’m not sure I understood everything he said because I was so confused.

Wait. What just happened? I remember asking, “Where do I go when I get there? How do I see him?” I called my sister on the way to the hospital so I could freak out to her and she’d calm me down. She told me, “Remember, you’re a Williams Woman. We’re tough and strong and you’ve got this.” But…EVERYONE has a breaking point.

Once I got to the hospital, they couldn’t find him. I was sent to the ER even though I told the front desk that he wasn’t there because I just received a voice mail from the surgeon and he already put a stent in my husband’s heart. But nope. They sent me to the ER anyway. And, of course, he wasn’t there. They sent me BACK to the main entrance but thankfully found my husband because I was already giving the guy at the desk my mean librarian look (staring down over my glasses). When I got to Wal’ss room, he was talking and he was happy to see me and he told me everything that happened.

He was working on a printer at a local university. Once he left the building, he didn’t feel well but got in his car and started to head home. But the pain in his stomach was coming up his chest and it just didn’t feel right, he said. Thankfully he knew where the health clinic was, so he drove there. His legs weren’t working well, but he made it into the building and told them he was in trouble and thought he might be having a heart attack. They rallied around him, got the ambulance there in minutes and he was off to the hospital.

They saved him.

As soon as he got to the ER, they just wheeled him through and went directly to the cath lab. We now know that he had a 95% blockage. But the surgeon put the stent in and truly saved him. But what we also found out is that he has two other arteries that are 100% blocked.

Every few hours since Tuesday afternoon, we get a little more information or another scare.

Tuesday night my husband experienced flash pulmonary edema–his lungs immediately filled with fluid and he was drowning in his bed. This happened just one hour after I left his bedside and his first thought was, “I won’t get to say goodbye to Holly and Bri one more time.” A nurse rushed down the hall and retrieved a biPAP machine and slapped the mask on Wal’s face. The machine uses pressure to push air into your lungs and Wal said as soon as the mask was on he felt relief and knew that they had saved his life again.

When I walked into his room on Wednesday morning, I found my husband with the mask on his face and he was miserable….but alive. I met the surgeon who put his stent in, and he expressed how serious the heart attack was. I met a cardiologist and while the mask was on Wal’s face, I explained what happened to him last year and the lung damage he now has from the infection and ventilator he was on in February of 2020 due to pneumonia and the flu and possibly COVID-19. But also mentioned his incredibly high cholesterol he’s had for years that medicines have never been able to touch. The rest of the day, Wal tried to nap and I rubbed his legs, texted his friends to keep them informed, talked to his family and we both called our son to check in. He was better before I left that night, but we just didn’t know what would happen next.

Thursday I worked all day. When I called in the morning, Wal was not great. Couldn’t breathe well. I felt weighed down that morning. I hadn’t cried since this happened, just choked up a few times, but I felt like I was going to completely lose it. What was going to happen to my husband? Will he live and if so, what will his life be like? Will he work? Have to be on disability?

I called Wal again a few hours later and he was ok. He called me in the afternoon and he felt quite a bit better. A cardiologist talked to him and told him he had a “widow maker” heart attack. He was so damn lucky to be at the university when this happened, because more than likely if he was home, he wouldn’t have gotten to the hospital in time.

But he did.

Today, Friday, talk began about my husband coming home. His eating habits, exercise habits, his life–will need to change. No more salt, fast food, fried food, fatty food. More vegetables and fruit and whole grains and exercise. He will need to go to cardiac rehab for at least a month where he’ll have access to physical therapy and dieticians and therapists. The latter is the one I hope he uses more than anything. But he will need a biPAP machine before he can come home. So it may be a few days yet. For the first time in any of his hospital stays, he’s ok with staying there. Having a near death experience (or two in one day) can change a person.

At some point, bypass surgery will have to take place to work on the other arteries, but his heart needs to get stronger for that to happen. Right now, the cardiologists don’t even want to talk about that because we have to get through this event first.

My husband’s spirits are good right now. Like mine and our son’s, his mood changes from moment to moment. We’ve all been through so many traumatic events in the past few years, that this one is making us all feel…almost numb. At least that’s how I’ve felt this week. This morning I was almost in a horrendous car accident because my mind was not on my driving…at all. I didn’t even feel like I was in the car. Nearly being t-boned got my focus back and I was pretty much ok the rest of the day.

I know we need to live one day at a time, which I’m absolutely horrible at, but I know I need to find that patience somewhere inside of me. I am feeling overwhelmed and sad and angry, but maybe if I can slow down and try to live day by day, then I can find some kind of control over my emotions.

Or I could take a vacation and sleep for a few days.

But right now, I am just grateful for the many medical professionals who saved my husband’s life this week. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to thank many of them in person. But a big THANK YOU also goes out to my dear friends who listened to me this week, drove me to the university to get my husband’s car, and made meals for my son and I. I have the greatest support network in the world. I love you and I am grateful for all of YOU.

Hug someone you love today, friends, and live in that moment.

Hold on tight.