Every little heart beat, almost 1000 times a minute, each one important, yet generally we don’t notice most of them. I know I didn’t. Not until 2 years ago, April 25th, 2017. That was the day, the day I started paying attention to the beats of my heart, every one.

You see, that was the day I was diagnosed with severe congestive heart failure (heart doesn’t pump properly), dilated cardiomyopathy ( giant swollen heart and dilated blood vessels) and a blood clot literally inside my heart, not a blood vessel ( like in a heart attack), but inside my left ventricle. I’ve been a nurse for 15 years, I had never seen that one. Did I mention that I was 37 years old…mic drop!

Of course, like most of my life, I didn’t get to this point by the usual path. Standard symptoms of CHF are shortness of breath, swollen legs and feet, weight gain, trouble breathing while lying flat and fatigue. I had no trouble breathing or swollen legs or feet. I did gain weight and I was always tired.

Of course I was, single mom of a busy 4 year old who also worked full time plus. I figured tired was just part of the deal. I’ll own that I’ve always been on the heavier side, so some weight gain wasn’t that unusual.

My only symptoms were nausea and stomach pain. I’d been to the ER multiple time, a GI doc and had had an upper GI this same day.

So, I was in the ER again, my poor momma with me, I’m sure scared to death. I called a surgeon I know since the ER doc was thinking maybe cholecystitis ( gallbladder infection). He ordered a chest and abdominal CT. We were looking for a hiatal hernia ( hole in the diaphragm). What we found was very different. The scan showed the blood clot inside my heart, my left ventricle to be exact.

WTF!!! OMG!!! I sure there’s more three letter expressions of disbelief I could add… but you get the point. How did THAT get there??

I swear in that moment I thought, “I’m gonna die, I gonna die, how did this happen”. Needless to say, I was freaking out!!

The nurses actually had to sedate me, I was a bit hysterical. All I could think about was, I’m dying and my little girl needs me. This can’t happen!!

The rest of the day is kind of a blur. I do know I had an echocardiogram, some blood work and was admitted to the hospital. I remember my mom being there, my sister came and so did my then boyfriend. My baby sister, Brooke stayed the night with me while my mom went back to my house to take care of my daughter.

I don’t remember much from those first few days. What I do remember is my sister being there every day and behaving way more grown up than I’ve ever seen. She asked the questions I didn’t have the presence of mind to ask, she took notes and she was Awesome!! I’m still impressed.

I spent 4 days in the hospital, that time. I was discharged on a Friday afternoon. My close friend Karen, took me home. It was surreal. It still is sometimes.

That day showed me that life, health and people who love you are things you shouldn’t take for granted. I’m so thankful to be alive right now and for the friends and family that rallied around my daughter and I. Each one of them is a blessing and I count those with every little beat.

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