Perspective and Purpose
My heart stopped on Nov. 24, 2019. It was an ordinary Sunday. My family and I went to church that morning. My daughters went to a friend’s for a playdate after church while my husband and I enjoyed a nice restaurant lunch and ran an errand. We came home before going to grab some groceries. At 4:15, I texted a friend. Fifteen minutes later, I suffered sudden cardiac arrest at age 34. We never made it to the grocery store.
I try and think about what it must have been like for my husband during those frantic few minutes when he was trying to wake me up after realizing I no longer had a pulse. It absolutely terrifies me. Always calm and quick-thinking, he called 911 and started CPR. The EMTs arrived and brought me back to life. I was shocked a few times on the way to the hospital. In the ICU, I was put in therapeutic hypothermia to bring my core temperature down and reduce damage to my brain and body. Two days later, I began pulling at my tubes and wires, prompting my doctors to bring me out of sedation. I am told my first words were, “This sucks.”
Naturally I was confused. I had no memory of the cardiac arrest. I thought I had just had a baby and was asking for her. My amazing family, right by my side the entire time, repeated what had happened and why I was in the hospital. By Thursday, I was less confused, but my memory continued to suffer as it would for a few more days. On Friday, there was an unsuccessful attempt to implant an ICD. Doctors would try again Monday.
After countless tests, the day of my surgery came. My cardiac team performed an ablation and implanted an ICD on my left side. I was able to go home the next day, nine days after I had arrived and the day before my 35th birthday.
I continue to work with my cardiologist to figure out why I had an electrical abnormality in my heart. More tests are scheduled. I take an ace inhibitor and a beta blocker daily. I have a heart monitor that asks for data from my ICD every week. This is my new life as a heart patient.
I’ve often wondered what my purpose in life would be. Is it to be a good wife? Mom? Teacher? I think about the odds that were stacked against me. Only about 12% of people who suffer cardiac arrest outside of a hospital survive. Why did I survive? The EMTs who saved my life recently sent me a letter describing my strong will to fight my way out of my dire situation. I never thought of myself as strong or unique or special in any way. I have certainly proven myself wrong. This event has brought me closer to God, my family, my friends and my community. Without them, I would not be here today.
I am now recovering and doing really well. My scars are raw, both inside and out. But I have a new perspective and purpose. I may be a heart patient but I’m also a mom, wife, daughter, sister and friend. My second chance at life will be used to be the best I can be in each of these roles.
The beat goes on.
Jamie Ensor | Survivor Hebron, Maryland