Saturday, May 16, 2015

A Cautionary Tale: Check Your Blood Pressure

For my children
Rumi quote, yahoo
I mentioned to daughter Elissa that I was having some shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness and pesky acid reflux, and it was a pain in the neck.

"Doesn't sound like a pain in the neck to me," Elissa responded.  "Sounds more like the symptoms of a heart attack."

"A heart attack?'   We were walking together to pick up Philip from school. Elissa had decided at the last minute to join me, a rare occurence.

"Yeah, a heart attack or a stroke. I was just reading about it."

"No way, Elisaa.  I feel fine. No pain in my chest, or down my left arm or  numbess or anything like that!"

"Well, mom. It's different sometimes for women. They have these little symptoms they don't pay attention to, and then whammy.  That's why it's called the silent killer."  

Good grief, I thought to myself, this is getting serious.

We walked on in silence. Philip's hands felt warm and soft in ours. I could tell Elissa was mulling it over.  It wasn't long after I got home that I got the message: "Mom, it's Elissa.  I talked to Michelle, and I'm picking you up to take you to the ER at Toledo Hospital."

"No way, Elissa!"
"Yes, I'm on my way over." She hung up.  Really?  As soon as I sat down to absorb this unconditional order, Michelle called. "You ARE going with Elissa or I WILL call 911 now and get an ambulance to take you. NOW!"  She hung up.

Holy cow. All of a sudden my options were limited to ride with Elissa or go in an ambulance to the ER.  Against my grain, I gave in. I went out the door with Elissa, kind of in shock but with hardly a whimper.

"Hardly a whimper?!  Baloney mom, you're stubborn as an ox."

As we drove to the ER, we pondered the accidental way she got the news. Elissa was as cool and calm as could be, while I grew more and more anxious.  "If we hadn't been walking together, you never would have said anything," she said with a half-smile.  That's true. She knew her mom.  I wouldn't have called her about it. But I actually had done something out of character that very afternoon. I had called my doctor. I told whoever answered the phone about my symptoms, and they made an appointment for next week for me to "talk about my meds."

"To talk about my meds?"
"Yes, we have to put down something."
"Well, I'm calling about these other things,too, so will you please have the doctor call me." That never happened.  I must say I don't even know what made me call in the first place, except that I had been working hard in the garden and feeling this shortness of breath for a few weeks, just not my usual self, and I was wiped out after my fitness workout a few hours earlier.

A simple little mention on that rare walk with Elissa, and I suddenly found myself totally in the hands of my children, going to the ER when I wasn't sick.

"I'll be embarrassed when they see nothing is wrong," I confessed to Elissa. "Too bad, mom, better safe than sorry."
Well, by God, that's what it turned out to be.  I soon learned the not-so-pleasamt news that my blood pressure was 256/78, and going up as I was wheeled into an emergency examination room.  A nice nurse, Jeremy, took my blood pressure again and hooked me up to an IV.  My blood pressure was then 260/147. I heard Michelle gasp, bless her heart, as the nurse immediately left the room and returned 2 seconds later with something to put into that IV, meant to lower my blood pressure asap.

By then I was in tears, my girls were in tears, and we were all thankful I was where I was supposed to be.  The doctors came in and I got lots of talking to about the danger I was in.

"Damn mom, you could have had a heart attack or a stroke."  A heart attack might not be so bad, but a stroke? No way. Anything to avoid that. We had a kind of hospice farewell moment, like a dress rehearsal for the real thing.   I told the kids I loved them, had a good life, was ready to go, only wanted them to be happy, no guilt, no remorse, just remember the happy times we shared.

"Well, you're not going anywhere," Elissa whispered.  "I'm not ready for you to go," Michelle said emphatically.  I found myself thanking God for my dear children.  A brief image of my brother Loren came over me, a voice without words settled on me.  Loren died of a sudden heart attack while on a hike five years ago in May, when I was in Ukraine.  Loren was near, I thought to mysef in awe.

"I swear it was Uncle Loren," Elissa said just then. "He gave us a message, Mom."

I must admit, for the first time since he died, I felt his presence.  I think he got through to Elissa, if not to me, gently but persistently.   "Divine intervention," Elissa  said.  A Rumi quote came to me: "There is a voice that doesn't use words. Listen."  My girls had heard that voice and made a decision and wouldn't take "no" for an answer. It probably saved my life.

Now I know better.  The symptons of high blood pressure, or hypertension, are not obvious.  You have to keep track of your own numbers.  I bought a new blood pressure monitor to do just that. My girls are on me, but I know I have to take charge.  It's a hard way to learn an important health lesson. And yes, it pays to listen to that voice that has no words.

What the Body Says, by Mary Oliver
I was born here, and 
I belong here, and
I will never leave.
The blue heron's

gray smoke will flow over me
for years
and the wind will decide 
all directions

until I am safely and entirely
something else.
I am thinking of this
this winter morning

as I sit by the fire
and the fire in its red rack
keeps singing
its crackling song

of transformation.
Of course
I wonder about
the mystery

that is surely up there
in starry space
and how some part of me
will go there at last.

But I am talking now
of the way the body speaks,
and the wind, that keeps saying, 
firmly, lovingly:

a little while and then this body
will be stone; then
it will be water; then
it will be air.

For some information:
http://www.webmdcom/hypertension-high-blood-pressure  (American Heart Association)



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