the boys

the boys

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fancy Fainting Part 2

I love this story and I love telling it.  I imagine it is somewhat therapeutic for me...and of course I clearly love to tell stories so it's a double bonus.  Many of you have probably heard it before....some of you experienced some of it with me.  One particular friend experienced it up close and personal. 

On Memorial Weekend I wrote a blog entitled Fancy Fainting Part 1.  Well, fast forward about three and a half weeks to June 22nd.  I had made it safely down to Alabama despite the doctors orders not to drive.  I had visited with Dr. Robinson, our team physician for the Alabama Gymnastics Team.  He agreed something was amiss and sent me to a neurologist where I checked out fine....that's right: my brain, despite various concussions over the years of gymnastics and general hyperactivity, was in perfect working order.  Insert obvious comments here.

So on to the cardiologist I went.  No biggie.  June 22nd.  About 3:00 in the afternoon.  Dr. Anne Lewis....after whom I later named my first dog Louie (God rest his little soul).  Got my first test out of the way, an echo cardiogram.  It showed some abnormalities so I figured they had pinpointed the issue.  A gymnastics alumni had just educated me on mitro valve prolapse about an hour before my appointment.  It was the week of gymnastics camp and many alumni were in town.  When they told me it was MVP I thought "OK, cool.  I can manage that."  A little change in diet, maybe some meds and I was good to go.  We went ahead with the final test.  The tilt table test. 

I was in my little room all hooked up to the monitor just waiting on everyone to come in and start the test.  I remember actually playing with my heart rate.  I would look away from the monitor and slowly decrease my heart rate by calming myself down and breathing slowly.  I could get it pretty low. Lucky me!! 

In comes the nurse or the tech or whomever was working with me that day.  My teammate Shay was interning at Dr. Lewis' office so she was in the room with me too.  If I remember right this was the first tilt table she had helped with.  Shay, correct me if I am wrong :)

So the whole point of the test was to strap me to a table, stand the table up on it's end, and monitor my heart rate and blood pressure at various angles from standing to lying flat.  Overall I think it was supposed to last for 45 minutes.  About 3 minutes in things starting going south.  Well, not things so much as all of the blood in my body.  Headed straight for my feet.  Not so much in my head.  About 5 minutes in, it happened. 

The last thing I remember is looking over to the monitor and seeing my heart rate in the low 30's. Then it stopped all together although I clearly don't remember that part.

The next thing I remember is being PISSED!!!  Super, super mad.  Although no one would ever have been able to tell because I was still unconscious for all intensive purposes.  I can honestly say my heart rate is just increasing writing this....which is a good thing overall :)  Better than the alternative. 

I was mad.  Did I mention that?  The reason I was mad was because I could suddenly hear the people in the doctor's office calling my name.  Just like in the movies, it sounded far away at first and then stronger and stronger.  "Gwen.  Gweeeeeennnnnnn.  Wake up.  Can you hear us Gwen?  Gwen, can you open your eyes?  Gwen, Gwen.  You gave us quite a scare, Gwen.  We are going to put a pacemaker in you.  Your heart stopped and it took us a while to get it going again.  Gwen.  Gweeeeennnnn.  Can you hear us?"  I can hear those words as if it just happened yesterday and not 12 years ago...almost to the minute as I write this, oddly enough!!!

I was mad because in the nearly 60 seconds that my heart stopped on that table in Tuscaloosa, Alabama I had died and gone to Heaven.  I know that is where I was.  I have no doubt.  I don't even have a desire to try and convince anyone.  I know where I was and what I experienced in those 50-ish seconds.  And I was mad because I never wanted to leave.  Not a death wish by any means.  Not even in the slightest.  I had a lot to live for.  I had just finished 14 years of gymnastics and I was finally ready to move to the next phase of my life. 

It was just that heaven was the most wonderful and lovely place anyone could possibly imagine.  A place that no one would ever, ever want to leave.  I was so mad at the people who took me away from the most peaceful of places.  I even tried to stay there.  Tried to go back.  Tried to hang on to that lovely place called Heaven.  I am, of course, thankful now that they saved my life but in those few minutes between Heaven and being fully alive again, I was angry.  Lucky for them I didn't even have the strength to open my eyes for another several minutes.  And by then there was such a flurry of action and reacting that I got caught up in the drama.  It took me until later that night in my hospital room to be able to sort of realize what all had happened.  And then it took me another few months before I could put it into words and tell anyone.  I told a few close friends and even fewer family members.  Just sort of testing out how it sounded out loud to tell about the experience.

About two years later I was a regular guest speaker at American Heart Association events in the Birmingham area.  I was the guest speaker at one of their kick off events for fund raising.  Having benefited from their fund raising events with a state of the art Medtronic Pacemaker, I enjoyed giving back to them in the best way I knew how.   I have always been a fan of public speaking and anyone that knows me knows that talking about myself comes very easy.  I don't need index cards or notes or a teleprompter to tell my own story.  I usually just wing it and see where the event and the audience takes me.  I can usually read them pretty good and this particular audience was very welcoming.  I found myself telling the story and leading into my experience with Heaven.  It was such a rewarding experience. 

Now I want to tell everyone!  Again, not to convince or convert or turn anyone.  Just to simply share in the joy that is God and Heaven.  To tell people that it exists and it is as wonderful and exquisite as you could ever dream it to be.  It is real.  I have been there.  I have felt it.  I have experienced it.  I know that everyone reading this has had their own life experiences and have certainly lost love ones.  I hope, I very sincerely hope, that this gives each of you some peace to know that Heaven most truly and surely does exist and whomever is there is in eternal happiness.  I hope to see you all there someday. 

Dr. Lewis, if you ever read this I want to say thank you again.  I don't know if I have ever told you this story, but perhaps you have heard similar stories from other patients whose lives you have saved.  I sure was mad at you and your staff that afternoon, but I really can't thank you enough now.  You and your staff gave me my life back in the most literal of senses. 

And to Dr. Robinson, you will always hold a very special place in my  heart.  No pun intended.  Your willingness to follow through on what might have seemed like nothing but turned into something quite literally saved my life.  I don't think anyone looked more surprised than you did that evening when you stopped by the hospital to make your rounds.  I vividly remember you telling me that you send hundreds and hundreds of patients for similar tests all looking for this very thing and never really expecting it to happen.  Thank you for your diligent follow through. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow... Amazing post, Gwen. LOVE this story. :)

    ReplyDelete