There’s this story that’s been clawing it’s way out for quite a while now. It’s personal and I wasn’t sure how much or even if I should share this. But I am because I know hope & realness is what people need these days, what I need these days.
As many of you know back in 2015, at 36 years old, I had surgery to implant a pacemaker. This came after a 4 fainting episodes over the course of a few months with the last one being with injury. Long story short, after testing the Drs stated that during certain conditions my blood pressure was dropping and my heart was eventually stopping during these episodes. I was told with such little warning, less than 10 secs, that I could either get the Pacemaker put in or risk losing my license indefinatley ( even though none of this ever happened while driving!) 7/28/15 I went under the knife and my life changed.
Here’s the thing I can only tell this story from where I am NOW in 2020. Looking back at the incidents where I had fainted and I saw a lifelong pattern.
For most of my life I’ve desired the ability to fade into a wall. Not that I didn’t want to participate in life or social events but I just didn’t wanna be seen (….as weird, uncertain of myself, FLAWED….you get the drift.) Being seen = being vulnerable & that scared the hell out of me. I can look back now on all of those fainting episodes and see the connection. One time I was outside a local coffee shop when my best friend walked up. We stood outside in the hot summer sun and talked. I started feeling lightheaded prob a good 3-4 min before I ever spoke up, used my voice to let her know something was wrong. Thankfully I got back in my car right before I went unconscious.
Another time I was out with friends at a cool little piano bar. We’d had a few drinks before getting there, the bar was busy, and I felt incredibly anxious as soon as we walked in the door. I tried to calm myself in the bathroom without any luck then decided to go outside & have a cigarette (I QUIT after the PM was in btw!) I felt weird, lightheaded as soon as we walked outside. I was standing with 2 ladies in the medical field but I was mortified to have to tell them I didn’t feel well. I was afraid they’d think I just couldn’t hang with them… and look totally uncool. So, instead I waited until the absolute last minute and got out “I don’t feel so good….” before I hit the concrete. There I was laying unconscious on the sidewalk in Downtown Greenville. Needless to say that WAS A scene lol. EMS took me to a local hospital where they patched me up and checked me for head injuries.
Here’s the thing….I hated that Pacemaker. I could feel every time it went off as it would pace my heart. I became depressed and even more anxious. It was literally a governor for my heart…much like a car that can only accelerate so much, this mechanical device was dictating the limits of my heart. I would have given anything to have it taken out but remembered what that would cost me….my driver’s license and now even trust in my own body to stay upright.
Starting in late 2017 I began having intense daily facial swelling, lightheadness when leaning over….no drs could figure out what it was. Not allergy, not stress, was even told it wasn’t heart related. Finally in the fall of 2019 I entered the right search words into google. Superior Vena Cava Syndrome. My pacemaker wires had created so much scar tissue in that main artery going into my heart that the blood in my upper extremities was not draining back into my heart properly. Testing and Drs confirmed my suspicions.
My cardiology team developed a plan….they would do a very delicate and dangerous surgery to remove one pacemaker wire to hopefully create an open tunnel to unclog the vein. The surgery was risky cause this wire went all the way down into my heart….one wrong move and they could literally have pulled my heart wide open. I was scared beyond belief.
I scheduled the surgery Dec 19th so that I would be finished with Christmas orders and could relax about that. Before drifting to sleep on that operating table I prayed that not only would I wake up but that this would give me a second chance.
Imagine my surprise when I woke up in recovery to be told that they removed BOTH my pacemaker wires AND my pacemaker!?!?!? And unfortunately none of that opened up the Vena Cava at all. My husband came to see me in the recovery room and I lost my shit. To the point that I was the person being told by the nurse that I was gonna have to calm down…there were other people in there. All I could see was ANOTHER surgery to replace the PM and still no resolution on the blocked Superior Vena Cava. Another PM could never be placed in my upper body again and instead it would have to be hardwired onto my heart. I didn’t want that.
So when the Cardiologist came by my room that afternoon we talked. The little girl, too scared to ask for what she really wanted, too scared to even hope that it was possible, asked the impossible…..”Dr. what if we just left it out?” He looked at some records, thought for
a minute and told me…..you know what I THINK YOU HAVE OUTGROWN this pacemaker…it’s hardly pacing at all anymore. He agreed to test things and see how I did with this out.
Yes, on Dec 19, 2019 I became FREE.
I’d be lying to say that it was all wine and roses though. This safety net was now gone. I decided to go to my family Dr and finally admit I had anxiety and began taking meds as needed. The Vascular surgeon agreed also that no further stenting etc was necessary as my body had started making wonderful collateral veins to reroute around the blocked Vena Cava….aren’t our bodies amazing ?
I should also mention that after my 40th birthday last May I decided to start saying “yes” to as much as I could. A women’s circle in Greenville: YES, Deep inner child work- YES, Befriending folks so different than me – YES, Letting go of deep seeded beliefs about myself -YES. I also remember a pivotal FB post made last July in which I talked openly with some business struggles I had been encountering. The amount of folks who shared their own struggles freed me as well. Proof that sometimes just sharing our pain and struggles will come back to us in incredible ways!
See I knew when the Dr. said I’d outgrown the pacemaker – I knew that he was right. Cause really what I had needed all along was a voice….a voice & permission to simply say (if it is too hot or I’m pms’ing) …”Hey, I need to sit down and relax for a second…” Even if that mean in the middle of a store etc. Noone is gonna think any more or less of me..or if they do….screw em lol.
As I write this now on my 41st birthday….almost 6 mos from having my Pacemaker explanted I haven’t had any issues at all. I make sure my water intake is what it should be and I am loving myself more. Finding things that enrich my soul more. Today I am so very thankful that even though we THINK we know how our story may end, there are far BETTER things for us that we can sometimes we can even imagine.