when your husband has a heart attack

Free Scientology stress test

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Rob’s follow-up stress test is this afternoon. Commitments, and his bristling at the idea that I might be needed “just in case”, means I won’t be there “just in case”, and on the one hand, it’s silly to worry that anything dire will occur.

On the other hand, his brother-in-law barely stepped a toe off the treadmill after his stress test and dropped like a stone. Dead before he hit the ground and all under the watchful gaze of my sister-in-law, LW.

No guarantees.

The winter has been hard on us both. Dee brought home every manner of cold and flu available to her from school and soccer. Rob’s new stepfather infected us but good at Christmas with a chest centered viral nasty that undoubtedly set me on the path to a wicked case of Costochondritis from which I am still not 100% recovered.

Reno has been a strain in a myriad of ways and we are still quite a ways from being done as there are two more rooms to be gutted and the living room to finish.

Did I mention we haven’t had a real vacation in over a year?

Everyone we know holidays extensively during the winter months here. It’s really the only way to soldier through the dark, cold and snowy season and emerge mostly sane and healthy. But between reno expense, the Christmas season* and an unexpected need to fly and overnight in B.C for the in-laws wedding**, funding for a quick get-away to warmer and sunnier climes just couldn’t be spared.

It doesn’t help my peace of mind then to know that Rob is stressed from work, over-tired from reno and hasn’t been keeping up with his exercise the past few months. None of this bodes well for a stress test.

And it seems that my stress is what’s being tested.

I woke this morning with a crabby kink in my left shoulder-blade. Tell tale stress fault. I can milestone my life by it more reliably than the lifeline that runs along my palm.

Intellectually, I know that Rob is okay though overtaxed. He’s been on the treadmill religiously this past half a week with no ill effects, but he is rundown and still fighting the latest viral buggy thingy the child brought home.

My common sense, however, bows a bit to my paranoia where husbands and illness are concerned. Can’t seem to yoga master it even after all these years of practice. So, I will keep myself busy this morning and ignore Spidey, who is not as right as he thinks he is, but he does hate to be marginalized by sense. Which is why my shoulder hurts.

UDPATE: Rob’s stress test was stellar. ECG even had improved though his lack of due diligence with his exercise means that it could have been even better if he’d gotten on the treadmill more, but that is a side-effect of the lengthy winter and the lack of space the reno has created in terms of exercise space. The house is small and getting to a gym facility won’t fit in the reality of his day. Spring – being mostly here (we are threatened with cold and snow again at the end of the week despite sitting pretty at 13C today) means we can get back to Sunday hikes and evening walking soon. Dee will be so not pleased.

*Originally, we offered to fly Rob’s mom out for Christmas and put her up. New Gramps wasn’t yet in the picture in October and when they got engaged in late November, we had to extend the offer to him too. They bought his plane ticket, but we still shouldered the hotel expense. It was probably half the holiday expense and not something for which we’d budgeted as I had planned ahead for gifts for the kids and used my November yoga pay – which was considerable as I covered for everyone that month – to make sure it wasn’t a budget buster. I am an anal xmas gifty shopper in any case and rarely overspend.

**Speaking of the newlyweds, they are house hunting in Tucson and fully expect to find a home soon.

12 Lead ECG EKG showing ST Elevation (STEMI), ...

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I’ve been going to Cardio Rehab with Rob on and off. Recovery from a heart attack is a family affair we are told though so far, I am it as far as the “family” part goes.

Unless we are counting all the forced walks we dragged Dee on over the summer.

I have seen only spouses in attendance at the various classes they offer, so I wonder why they simply don’t say “spouse” instead of “family”. In my mind, they are not interchangeable terms.

Today’s class went over the basics. Heart Attack 101. Anatomy. What can go wrong. What it feels like when it does. How to gauge pain and dose yourself with nitro. When to dial 911.

Mostly it reiterated what we’ve heard in several other classes:

You are now chronically ill with a disease that will technically never get better. Stabilize perhaps. But your days of claiming 100% health are behind you.

Heart attacks are qualifiers.

“I’m in great shape … for someone with a heart stent and known blockage.”

There will forever be the “but”. Though not necessarily the other shoe.

“Are you worried,” Rob asked me.

Not really. My husband is a keener after all – one of the reasons why he is doing so well and the absolute reason why the company doctor and the P.T. at Cardio Rehab won’t clear him for work until he finishes the program.

It wasn’t his bad habits that caused the heart attack. He doesn’t have many in terms of diet although he could have exercised more. No, it was the stress. He can’t do anything half-assed. Even if it’s something he could care less about, he treats all responsibilities and tasks under his jurisdiction more seriously than a heart attack.

I am not worried for some reason, and it’s not naively assuming we’ve dodged a bullet that can’t ricochet back at us. I am not that complacent or foolish. I just don’t see the point in dwelling on the what-if factor or the when/again possibility.

We’ve taken additional health steps. Reordered life a bit. Safe-guarded what we can. And that’s all anyone can do.

Stress at a plane with an arbitrary orientatio...

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Our entire summer could easily qualify as pushing the emotional boundaries, but aside from a few ER trips and a two nighter at the hospital, it hasn’t pushed me physically over the edge.

During the years I took care of my late husband, solo-parented and held a full-time job as a middle school teacher, I regularly broke physical stress limits.

I averaged 5 hours of sleep a night, worked out sporadically and ate just as haphazardly. When the body protested – and it manifested its displeasure vehemently – I ignored it.

“Suck it up, Buttercup.” Was my response. And for the most part it did and gave me what I wanted.

Today the old bag of bones is not so willing.

Less than 7 hours of sleep?

I don’t think so, says the body. We will now be sick.

Seriously, my body goes on strike if it is asked to do anything even remotely reminding it of days of yore.

So, this summer’s events have really only pushed my emotional buttons and redirected my thoughts to dark places I remember but have no real interest in revisiting.

This morning the phone rang. And rang. And rang.

Not quite 9:30 and I was still in bed.

Vaguely I recalled Rob getting up earlier and wondered why he wasn’t picking up, so I scrambled across to his side and grabbed the receiver from the nightstand.

“Hello,” I wheezed.

“May I speak with Robert?”

Robert is official. Someone who has business with him calls him “Robert” whereas telemarketers ask for him with a “Mr” followed by a rather East Indian pronunciation of our last name.

“Hang on,” I tell the woman as I scramble into my robe and head down the stairs to hunt up my husband.

He is nowhere but Dee is in the kitchen getting her breakfast.

“Where are the waffles?” she asks.

“Where’s Dad?” I reply.

“Oh, I haven’t seen him,” she tells me.

I have sent her out to the garage to look for him before I remember he had a doctor appointment in town.

“May I take a message,” I ask.

“This is a reminder about his stress test tomorrow with Dr. La at the crack of dawn,” and she begins to ramble off instructions for preparation.

“What?” I interrupt. “He has an appointment tomorrow? I thought it was this afternoon. No one told us about tomorrow.”

“Yes, ” clearly she is annoyed. She is a robo-receptionist and I am asking questions that prevent her from merely vomiting information and moving on to the next patient call on her list. “well, today is the rehab intake and tomorrow is the stress test.”

Which tells me all of nothing and it par for the Canadian medical experience course. In fact, I think the motto of Alberta Health is “information is for the professionals; just listen and obey”.

“He should take all his medication as usual, eat a light breakfast, dress appropriately as he will be on the treadmill and refrain from smoking prior to the test.”


When Rob got home, I told him about the appointment.

“Oh, it’s probably about my back to work release,” he said. “What time do I have to be there?”

“Dawn, more or less.”


We live outside of the city, an early morning appointment – factoring the rush hour means everybody up and ready with the sun – or there ’bouts.

“That’s pretty early for you and Dee,” he remarked. “Assuming you are coming along.”

“I was planning to. Don’t you want me there?”

“Well, yeah, just in case I drop dead it would probably be a good idea.”

“I wish, ” I replied, ” I could say that it hadn’t occurred to me that you might die, but it totally did.”

Why? I mean people take stress tests every day and mainly survive. My near 80 year-old mother just had one in the spring and emerged just tired.

Rob’s late brother-in-law, however, dropped dead after his.

I suppose that’s what they mean by “context”.

I reminded again by all this that I haven’t cried. Teared up once at the hospital the day of the angioplasty when they “lost” Rob for about an hour, but haven’t cried.

It’s like I am waiting for something to cry about because, as it’s been pointed out to me, nothing awful has happened to me.

And the point has been taken. So I suck it up like the Buttercup I am.