I suppose looking back it started when I was 32 weeks pregnant, I was not feeling right, couldn't put my finger on it, my blood pressure wasn't great, kept getting palpitations and what I can only describe as low blood sugar. I saw my midwife but she dismissed how I was feeling, after all it was my third pregnancy and I was a full time teacher so that was what she put it down to. Luckily my GP listened to me and signed me off work.
Then at 35 wks pregnant I started to feel heartburn radiate into my ears and jaw, I was becoming very short of breath with little exertion. I saw a midwife at the hospital as I was being consultant led due to the baby being so big. She dismissed me saying she had never come across these symptoms. I had my son via elective cesarean section on 28th February 2012, my blood pressure was very high before the procedure and they discussed whether or not to proceed. My son was only 8lb 3oz.... My smallest baby, with the other two weighing 8lb 7oz and 10lb.
Recovery was good and I was starting to get back to moving around, then on day 8 whilst breast feeding the baby I started to feel nauseous, I felt clammy, my arms felt heavy and I had the heart burn feeling in my ear and jaw. I feared I had an infection due to the cesarean section so went to see a GP at my surgery, not the one who had signed me off work. He was very dismissive and told me I was having panic attacks and sent me home.
I googled how to ease panic attacks as I didn't want them taking over my life. Four days later, on the 11th March, while out on a family walk I started with the same symptoms again, so sat on a park bench for approx 40 minutes. I tried breathing into a plastic nappy bag with no avail.....On my way home I sent my mum a text saying I'd mention it to my midwife the next day, she advised that I go to hospital.
As I was within 2 wks of my cesarean section we went to the maternity ward. They couldn't pin point what was wrong but decided to keep me in overnight for observation. A chest xray ruled out a blood clot. During the night I had another episode of symptoms again so they moved me and the baby to the cardiac ward. The next morning I was told I had to take clopidogrel so couldn't breast feed. Whilst giving the baby his last feed I started with symptoms again, this time they were really strong. I hesitated to ring the bell, after all it was a Panic attack.... And I didn't want to cause a fuss..... Then I looked at my beautiful boy and reached over for the alarm. The nurse came in and turned on the ECG machine and pushed the alarm bell in my room then ran.... She ran so fast out of the room calling for help... Like you see in Greys Anatomy.... Code blue..... To be honest I was mortified by all the fuss. The room was filled with consultants, registrars, JHOs, SHOs nurses all panicking.... I was told I was having a huge heart attack. Andrew my husband arrived at this point and I will never forget the look on his face from the doorway.
I was rushed off for an angiogram where they diagnosed me with Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection. It meant nothing to me, I was initially told they would treat me medically, then after a short time they decided that I actually needed bypass surgery. Within 30 minutes I was being wheeled out of the room when I turned to Andrew and told him we needed to name our son, we had been unable to agree on a name.... I got my way and we named him Eoin.... Bit far to go to get my way mind you!
I was in theatre for nearly 9 hours, whilst prepping me my third artery dissected, I was very unstable and was given my last rites in ICU. I have a condition called Adies Holmes syndrome, I don't have any reflexes and my left eye doesn't constrict to light. I'd told the nurses on admission but not many people have heard of this syndrome. I remember joking in the last about being in hospital and them thinking I was brain dead because they got no reaction in one of my eyes.... Well this is what happened when they brought me into ICU, a quick phone call home to Andrew saying that I needed a ct scan. Luckily he remembered about my eye so told them.
I needed 6 grafts which were taken from veins in my legs. I needed to learn to stand and walk again with the help of a physiotherapist. I was in hospital for most of the next 2 months. I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, with left ventricular dysfunction and a slight heart murmur in my mitral valve.
I've been told I will need a new heart at some stage but they want to wait as long as possible before doing anything.
How am I now? I am alive. I've been retired on ill health from teaching and started receiving my pension at 35.
A typical day for me is waking up, weighing myself to see if I have gained any weight – this is an indicator of fluid retention. I then take 7 tablets, two of which are diuretics. I spend the next three hours in bed so I am close to the toilet. I go back to sleep until mid morning, I get up have lunch and then go back to bed mid afternoon for another sleep, get up have dinner then rest on the sofa until I go to bed. I get out most days when I take the two older boys to school or collect them. I have a lady who comes to help while my husband is at work, she looks after Eoin and sorts out the house for me.
I am exhausted by doing nothing and family trips need to be well planned in advance.
But I am here, I am alive, I saw my baby sit up, crawl, walk and now he's starting to talk.
What does the future hold? I don't really know? Will I be around to see Eoin start school? I try and look after myself as best as I can, I don't add salt to my food and cook from scratch so most meals have minimal salt content.
I can get down about everything but my husband reminds me of what we have and how far we have come. We are a great team. He is my rock. People forget that he has been through so much as well. He has watched it all, he has the world on his shoulders. My hero, I wouldn't be here without his support.
If it wasn't for my mum insisting that I got to the hospital I would not be here today. She cut her holiday short and flew with my dad from Dubai to be at my bedside when I woke from surgery. She stayed at my house and looked after my home and three boys whilst I was in hospital and for a number of weeks after I came home. 13 weeks in total. She's there for me any time I need her and would drop anything to come and help me.
Pictured a week after surgery