On November 23, 2012, thirteen years to the day I met him, my husband had a heart attack.
Picking up tile for our kitchen reno, his elbows began to hurt. In fact, on a scale of 1 to 10 for pain, his elbows were a 9, his heart, he said later, was maybe a four. Not surprising of course that he didn’t really know what was happening. Like most Canadians, we are not well versed in the symptoms of a heart attack.
He drove himself home, where he fell out of the truck onto the driveway. It was then he knew something was seriously wrong. He managed to get in the house and grabbed his iPad and looked up signs and symptoms of a heart attack. He then called 911.
I was coming up our street when I passed the ambulance. “Odd,” I thought, “where is that coming from?” I pulled in the driveway and saw his truck, came in the house and looked down the hallway to see our bedroom doors closed over. He must be having a nap I concluded and proceeded to put the groceries away, letting the worry of the ambulance leave my mind as fast as it had entered. I came to my office to start working and the phone rang. It was my neighbour across the street. “Hi Candace, let us know if there’s anything we can do.” I half laughed, “What are you talking about?”. “Oh, well we just saw Bill being taken away in the ambulance.”
I bolted for the bedroom to find my dog lying on our bed. Later I would find out that the ambulance attendants put her in there because she was losing her mind when they came in.
I was in a spin. I ran to the kitchen looking for blood. Surely he must have cut himself seriously while working on the kitchen I thought. Nothing. I paced and then picked up his iPad looking for a clue and I almost threw up when it opened. I knew then that he at least thought he was having a heart attack. I called 311 on one phone to find out where the ambulance was taking him and my parents on the other to come be here for the girls when they got off the bus.
The drive to the hospital was nothing short of surreal. I didn’t know if my husband was alive or dead, and my mind went to the worst possible places on that 20 minute drive.
Relief when I first saw him, soon gave way to disbelief when the doctors confirmed that he did indeed have a heart attack.
Tears. Anger. Fear. Guilt. Denial. You name it, we experienced that emotion in the days and weeks to follow.
What caused his heart attack? The first thing was stress. A master internalizer, my husband had been carrying around way too much on his shoulders and even added some more upon his self by taking on mammoth projects that saw him working 16 hour days sometimes. Secondly, smoking. The “it won’t happen to me” mentality kept him puffing away.
His heart sent him a wake-up call.
And why am I sharing all of this now? Because yesterday, while sitting in a restaurant for lunch with my husband a commercial from the Heart & Stroke Foundation came on that brought tears to my eyes. It makes me feel blessed that we have the opportunity to turn things around now and sad for those that will live their final years in ill health because they ignored the signs.
So, almost three months later, I’m ready to talk to start talking about matters of the heart.