The Beating From Within

As I sit here, I am still processing what has transpired over the past couple weeks… I debated sharing something so personal this publicly, but it is the easiest way to let my friends & family in and inform them.

As I mentioned in an earlier post here, there were several reasons why my presence on this blog has wavered recently, and the main reason is this:

On a Monday evening in late January, I passed out after getting out of the shower.  Fainting was never uncommon for me (as I have passed out maybe once or twice a year since high school), but back then it wasn’t made into a big deal. When it first happened, they took blood work to see if I was anemic, and I wasn’t. I didn’t really follow up, and neither did they. People fainted all the time, right? So, so what? It did not happen enough to interrupt my everyday life, and there was probably a perfectly reasonable explanation for what caused it in the first place.

But this Monday night was different. Luckily, this particular time, my boyfriend JJ was there with me and witnessed the episode. (Usually, I am by myself.) He actually caught me before I hit the ground. From that point, he said I went into a seizure, and then stopped breathing. He immediately did CPR and within a couple breaths/pumps I was okay. When I finally came to, I knew where I was (lying on the bathroom floor) and could sit up.  We called my mom and told her what happened. The fainting was obviously familiar to me, but to stop breathing? Maybe JJ was mistaken. Maybe he was scared and just overreacted, I wondered. As I felt a little weak but otherwise fine, I went to bed and into work the next day.
Later on that next afternoon, I went to my doctor for a procedure. I passed out from the pain of the procedure- not much of a big surprise as pain can trigger fainting, but it took me a long time to recover and feel well enough to sit up. I could not do anything for nearly 20 minutes. They would not let me leave to go home alone, so I called a friend, Debra, to drive me home. However, after I told the doctors what happened to me the night before, they thought it best to go straight to the ER.

At this point, JJ had left work and had arrived to the ER, along with Debra. After taking my vitals, they did an EKG test and a CT scan on my head. Everything came back normal, but they still wanted me to see a cardiologist and follow up with my PCP. So I did that, more EKG tests, and had an echo cardiogram (ultrasound, basically) done on my heart. Again, everything was coming back normal. I was getting frustrated. Maybe nothing was seriously wrong, and we all just overreacted.


My cardiologist still wanted to do a tilt table test as a next step. During this, you are strapped to a table and moved slowly into an upright position. They monitor your heart rate and blood pressure and try to induce fainting so they can see what happens. I had this done on President’s Day, Feb. 15th. I passed out shortly into the test (a good thing, actually- otherwise they wouldn’t have found anything). But when I fainted, my heart stopped for 20 seconds. Because of this, my doctor recommended a pacemaker. He said that my blood pressure is fine, and normally my heart is fine, but when I faint, there’s something that is not sending the signal to my heart to keep beating. It is a necessary precaution.

As you can imagine, I was in shock. I am 25 years old, with a completely healthy heart. Pacemakers, I thought, were for the elderly and people with severe heart conditions. And then the realizations hit me in waves. I’m in the middle of training for the full marathon on May 1st, so I have to stop running? I was working so hard to accomplish that, and had wanted to cross that finish line so badly… And for travel, can I still go through metal detectors? How will this limit me? I know I’ll have a visible scar spreading across my chest someday in my wedding dress. The thought of something being planted inside my body to keep me alive freaked me out, and as I am writing this I am still scared, but I’ve decided I am ready to take it on. My health is not something I am willing to gamble with. Pacemakers have been around for many years, and in my condition, the potential benefits outweigh the risks. My doctors are incredible, and my family & friends have been wonderful. Not to mention JJ, who has been there through the entire ordeal. I made an awful joke about it over Valentine’s Day weekend after we got the results, but he really does keep my heart beating.

So, after a second opinion and a lot of thought, I have agreed to get a pacemaker, and will undergo surgery this week.

Since coming back from Minneapolis, reality has begun to set in. I can no longer push this to the back of my mind, but I still have tried my best. Last night, JJ and I attended PostSecret: The Show in Cleveland. (You can learn more about PostSecret here.) It is something that has always been close to my heart ever since I discovered it. We made a last minute decision to go, despite how tired we’d be (especially thanks to Daylight Saving Time) and how big of a week we both had to prepare for. Since I will be cooped up in my apartment recovering, I want to do as much as I can before the surgery.

In the bathroom at the theater, there were post-it notes decorating the walls and lining the mirrors and stalls, exposing secrets of strangers.

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Some were funny, some haunting, some sad. What I love about this is that it is okay to be vulnerable- we all are. And yet, we are all in this together.

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You never know what someone is going through. You also don’t realize sometimes how blessed you are. I am nervous for Friday, and that’s okay. I’m allowed to be. And while I could easily sit here and feel sorry for myself that this is happening to me and that I can’t run the race I’ve been training for, I’m lucky to have run at all, and to have the chance to keep going.

In closing, while I don’t know how a pacemaker may or may not change my life, I know if it is what I need to do, then I have to get it, even if it seems unfathomable at 25.

My surgery is scheduled for this Friday, March 18th. Four days from today. It’s simple and I’m sure to be successful, but I’d appreciate your prayers nevertheless. They’ll keep me overnight, and I’ll be released the next day if all is well. Some people have asked, and yes, of course- I’m dreading it. I don’t do well with hospitals, IV’s, any of that. There’s no guarantee that this will even work, and I have to be aware of that fact.  My amazing mama is coming down to stay with me for a couple days, as I’ll be out of work for some time. I will do my best to give an update when I’m feeling better, but this is probably the last I will write for a while.

 

 

Before signing off, I want to give a tremendous thank you to both my amazing boyfriend and my wonderful parents, who take such great care of me and help me always. I love you more than you’ll ever know. 

I’ll see you guys soon.

 

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Thx, Mpls.

This time last week I was watching the sun rise over Chicago, headed to Minneapolis to present at the Sigma Tau Delta Convention. You can learn more about my experiences at past conventions here.

Without further ado, here is a wrap-up of our visit to the City of Lakes.

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Flying out from Chicago.

 

After arriving, we checked in to our hotel and headed to the convention to pick up all my conference materials. We explored the city through the skyway, which is a wonderful thing to take advantage of in cold weather, but confusing as hell at first.

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Minneapolis Skyway.

Walking around, we saw the Orpheum Theatre, State Theatre, The Skyway Theatre, Target Center, Target Field, Nicollet Mall, and the Convention Center. We had a drink at Union and people-watched.

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Orpheum Theatre.

We chose a spot for lunch called The Newsroom. The bar is in the shape of a ship, as you can see below, and the entire place is designed with eye-catching newspaper articles. Certainly a unique atmosphere, with pretty good burgers, too!

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The Newsroom.

That evening called for an early night, as we were running on only 3 hours of sleep and I had to get up early for my presentation the next morning.

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My biggest supporter.

I was up and dressed at 6:30 a.m. Right before my session started at 8 a.m., I got the chance to see one of my professors from college, Dr. Vaccaro! It was fantastic to have her in the audience. There were four others presenting at that time, all with their own interesting creative works. Afterward, we had a wonderful discussion analyzing themes of language, the idea of home, and the writing process.

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Dr. Vaccaro & I.

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Presenting my poetry collection.

*Note: It’s pretty hard to get a picture of someone reading. You either have your mouth wide open or are looking at your paper. But you get the idea.

 

After my presentation, I kicked off my heels and changed into something more comfortable. We headed to Matt’s Bar for the famous Jucy Lucy- a burger with the cheese melted inside the meat instead of on top. It may not look like much from this picture, but it was one of the best burgers I have ever had. Melted cheese is everything! I love discovering hole-in-the-wall places like this.

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Jucy Lucy!

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Matt’s Bar.

 

Next, we headed to the Mall of America. You’ve got to see some of the touristy stuff! Although we didn’t buy anything but ice cream, the four levels of shops were incredibly impressive. Lots of window shopping and walking. This place even has a theme park inside!

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Mall of America.

Later that night, we got dressed up and headed to the Guthrie Theater after a nice Italian dinner. We saw The Critic/The Real Inspector Hound, which was hilarious and thoroughly entertaining, a murder mystery with a surprise ending.

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Guthrie Theater.

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Drinks before the show.

Check out one of the shirts I got at convention. Seeing the merchandise is one of my favorite parts simply because of how witty and creative English majors can be.  Like magnets that say “Metaphors be with you.” I mean, come on. I live for this.

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Best shirt.

After breakfast Saturday morning, we scored big with getting into the Walker Art Center for free. Because it was a gorgeous day, we left Loring Park and the well-known Spoonbridge and Cherry to explore Lake of the Isles Park.

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Spoonbridge & Cherry.

This place was fantastic. Lake of the Isles, Lake Calhoun, Cedar Lake, Lake Harriet, etc. There were runners out everywhere, and moms pushing babies in strollers, and plenty families with their dogs out for a walk. I can only imagine this place in the summer!

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Lake of the Isles.

Saturday night was the Red & Black Gala Dinner and Awards. I ran into Dr. Vaccaro and was able to meet several students from Westminster College, my alma mater. We all sat together at dinner, which was lovely. JJ & I recounted memories from our time there during undergrad, and they told us of what all has changed since four years ago. Reminiscing and swapping stories brought back a lot of feelings of nostalgia.

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WC group.

Then, to my complete shock, my name was called during the award presentations! As soon as I heard “This Side” I froze and said, “Oh my God” and then my brain reminded my legs to move, and I collected my prize (a check for $375) and got my photo taken with the Executive Director of Sigma Tau Delta, William Johnson. My poetry collection “This Side of the Sun” had taken 1st place in the Alumni Epsilon creative works category.

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1st place!

It’s a well-known joke that writers don’t make any money, so I was overwhelmed with shock/happiness when my name was called. I am so glad JJ was there to share this experience with me.

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At the gala.

After the gala, we met up with the rest of the WC group for drinks at The Local, where I awkwardly got hit on by a very drunk man on my way to the bathroom and also had one of the best Irish whiskey cocktails in existence.

Might have to take that back…because after we left The Local, we saw a blues rock band play at Dakota, a swanky yet intimate jazz club. The atmosphere was great but the live music and drinks were even better. I don’t even like gin that much, but Sweet Thunder was delicious.

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Cocktails at Dakota Jazz Club.

 

Sunday morning after breakfast at the hotel, we took an Uber over to Minnehaha Falls. Our flight didn’t leave until the evening, so we had time to kill.

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Hiking.

I’d been told that no matter what season you visited in, this was a beautiful place, and it didn’t disappoint. Many people were ignoring the “No Trespassing” signs and climbing out onto the ice.

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Minnehaha Falls.

Because I was starving (and I get very hangry) we had my favorite meal of the day at Nicollet Diner. And ohmygosh. I couldn’t even eat my chicken sandwich like a normal human being because it was dripping and spilling its goodness everywhere. Don’t even get me started on the milkshakes. So delectable and the full size is no joke.

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Yummy.

Although we could barely walk after, we wandered around Uptown, and then after checking out of our hotel, got a view of the Stone Arch Bridge, the old flour mill, and Mississippi River.

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Walking across the Stone Arch Bridge.

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Mississippi River.

All in all, I got to reconnect with friends old and new, tour a city I’d only passed through, hear some amazing written work, present my own, consumed such good food, and went home feeling accomplished.

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Flying home.

 

Until next time, Minneapolis.

 

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