Code Blue: The Trauma of Watching My Husband Die (Part 2)

Note: To read Part 1 of this post, please click HERE.

It was a quick ride from the airport to the hospital. I shook my head to rid the thought that this was my 4th ambulance ride. It’s no wonder sirens always take my breath away. Tom was stable, and that was the only thing that mattered.

We arrived at the hospital and I waited alone in a small room while they settled Tom and ran some tests. About an hour later, they brought me to his new room.

I felt cold all over and couldn’t stop shaking; my anxiety was extreme. Tom was still his happy-go-lucky self and his positive attitude helped prevent more anxiety build. That false sense of hope I had earlier reminded me that anything can happen at any time and just because he seemed okay in that moment didn’t mean a thing.

The nurse informed us that the cardiologist would be doing an angiogram that morning, but we weren’t given a time. I sat beside Tom and we waited in silence listening to the beating of his heart through the monitor.

I couldn’t take my eyes off my husband who looked like a human pin cushion. He was hooked up to 6 IVs and was still having a heart attack. I paid careful attention to his heart monitor and he would often hear an extra beat. Every time his heart beat extra, mine would skip a few and I’d hold my breath. I’d ask him if he was okay and he would reassure me that he was fine. My stomach was in knots and I needed constant reassurance that he was okay.

Suddenly, his heart monitor sang; 2 cardiologists and 2 nurses rushed into his room with a defibrillator. They were very concerned, and I panicked once more. Tom’s heart had skipped a bunch of beats, but he was awake and the monitor settled. They decided to leave the defibrillator “just in case.”

It was his parents 50th Wedding Anniversary and they were out of town celebrating. Tom asked me to wait until after his angiogram, once we knew what was happening, before calling his parents. I agreed to call them once we knew something, and dreaded ruining their big day.

They finally wheeled Tom into surgery at 11:30 am. They told me they would be gone for an hour, but not to panic if they weren’t back in an hour as sometimes it takes longer. I kissed my husband goodbye and told him I’d be with him, and pointed to my heart. “I love you so much!!!”

The wait was agonizing and I watched every minute pass on the clock on the hospital room wall. I was still freezing and couldn’t stop shivering. I texted with my mom to try to distract and pass time. An hour passed and he still hadn’t returned. He finally returned 15 minutes later.

They found a blockage in the part of his heart that is responsible for the rhythm of the heart, which is why his heart was skipping beats and why he felt flutters in his chest before the heart attack. The blockage was between 90-100%; like a flap, it would block (Tom would be in pain) then the blockage would open allowing blood to rush through. We were told this intermittency may have saved his heart a lot of damage. They removed the blockage and put a stent in, but Tom wasn’t out of the woods just yet. He continued to have flutters in his chest.

I stayed by Tom’s side for the rest of the day and felt a strong need to touch him. I lay the opposite side of his bed and held his hand. I got him water and ice and anything else I could do for him. I just wanted to be helpful and make sure he knew how much I love him.

I was fearful of leaving his side. I didn’t even want to go downstairs for food, but eventually I had to force myself.

I left home with the clothes on my back, my wallet, phone and a charger. I needed food, my allergies were bad, and I was still battling severe anxiety. I tried to eat a sandwich but the food went right through me. My friend Claudia came that evening with some food, drinks, deodorant, toothbrush and a magazine. It was so nice to see a familiar face. She offered me a place to sleep but I wasn’t ready to leave Tom’s side.

The night nurse told us that overnight guests aren’t allowed but she brought in a chair that reclines so I would have a place to sleep. I wrapped myself in blankets and shivered all night. My allergies weren’t subsiding and I couldn’t sleep. I listened to Tom’s heart monitor as I lay awake, thoughts swirling in my head. He would snore a bit but would wake startled a few moments later. His heart would occasionally have a few extra beats. I would look over and make sure he was okay every single time.

I was so scared to lose him.

In the morning, he explained to me that he was afraid to close his eyes. He didn’t want to die again. The feeling he had before coding was wanting to fall asleep and he was at peace, but he wasn’t ready to stop living this life. He was afraid that if he closed his eyes, he would never open them again.

They moved Tom to another room and I wasn’t able to stay the night. Claudia picked me up and I really struggled to leave Tom’s side. The separation anxiety was strong and I felt as though I was leaving a piece of myself behind. I held tears back and focused on my breath as we drove away from the hospital, away from my husband.

While we drove, I called home to check on my kids. When we got to Claudia’s apartment, I struggled to say a word. I felt like I was drowning in sorrow. I was finally in a place where I could feel these negative emotions as I didn’t have to hide them from Tom. I couldn’t hold it back anymore and sobbed.

“I almost lost my husband. We got married 3 weeks ago and my husband almost died. He DID die and he came back! I am so scared!!!!”

My friend tried to comfort me. “I don’t know what to say.” I told her: “Don’t say anything, just be here!”

I slept beside her on the couch that night, terrified to be alone. My anxiety as so strong that was shaking; I literally shook the couch.

The next morning, Claudia found some clothes for me to wear and drove me to the hospital.

Tom was able to leave the hospital floor so we sat outside to get some fresh air. The hospital was blocking the solar eclipse that was occurring on the other side. The warm air nourished our battered souls.

We were hopeful to be heading home but due to the flutters and how severe the heart attack was, the cardiologist wanted to keep him again for observation. Claudia picked me up and I stayed with her again. She washed my clothes for me so I’d have something clean to go home in. I slept in her bed alone that night.

Tom was discharged the next day. The cardiologist came to see us and explained that Tom’s heart was stunned and would be functioning at a 3 or 4, but expected his heart to be at an 8, 9 or 10 at his follow-up appointment in 6 weeks. He explained that this type of heart attack typically doesn’t have symptoms and happens in your sleep. Known as a “widow-maker,” it’s the kind of heart attack that you go to sleep and don’t wake up from. The blockage was located at the top of the heart, which cut off blood to the rest of the heart and typically causes irreversible damage. Tom was not showing signs of heart failure and he was hopeful that damage would be minimal. We wouldn’t know for sure until his follow-up in 6 weeks.

Tom read as much as he could about his condition, the type of heart attack he had, and cardiac arrest. I struggled to read or talk about it as it would upset my stomach. I was suffering from severe anxiety and remained off work for weeks as I adjusted to a new normal, once more. I would wake up frequently in a panic and would have to make sure Tom was breathing. The effects of stress were obvious; I was sleep deprived and was shedding pounds quickly.

Six weeks later, we attended his follow-up appointment. We were informed that there was no permanent damage to Tom’s heart. It was a miracle!

We struggled together and separately through the aftermath of what happened. We were both experiencing the after-affects of trauma, but from different perspectives. It was challenging for him to understand how deeply I was affected by his near-death, but I needed to process what happened and allow myself to experience the feelings that came along with it. I worked through this independently to protect my husband from unnecessary guilt. His health may have been the cause of suffering for us both, but we stood together in the aftermath and held each other up as we both healed.

Although it took us months to recover from this, I am thankful that we were able to come together in our experience and fears and are now stronger as a result. Love truly has the power to conquer all. I will never take this man for granted and am grateful for every day we have together.

#LoveHeals

A Trip To Finding My SELF!

It’s my last morning in Florida and I’m awake before the sun sets. I’m sitting outside taking in as much of the salty air as possible. I love everything about this place: the sights, the sunsets, the white sand, the smell of the breeze. Most importantly, I am a different person here, completely calm and focused on my soul work. I am the true me.

I registered for the Grief Recovery Specialist training in Tampa, as my soul work is to help people cope with grief. I cancelled my trip after a family emergency, but later found out I wasn’t able to cancel my flight. My husband encouraged me to come to Clearwater for a few days as he felt there was a purpose for this trip; I needed to come.

I became focused on searching for a purpose for this trip because I felt guilty for being away from my family. When things don’t work out, it’s for a reason, and I’m so grateful for the time I’ve had alone.

What I found in Clearwater was magical. I was focused and productive. I accomplished more than I expected possible and worked very hard on writing my book proposal. I found clarity and purpose. And most importantly, I found my true self!

I’ve met a few amazing women during my visit here, and when I’m with my soul tribe, by true self comes through. I am understanding how I am not this same person when I’m at home. I’m so busy with work and everyday life that my true self gets tucked away. When I speak about Bella and my experiences communicating with her, the connection I have to her in Spirit, a beautiful part of me emerges and allowing this light to shine brings me peace.

I’m not sure why I keep this side of me hidden. Part of me feels it’s simply preoccupation with “life” and ignoring it, but another part feels there is a deeper reason I keep this tucked away. What I know for sure is by allowing this part of me to be seen, be truly being ME, I let go of all my doubt and insecurities and am able to SIMPLY BE!

Code Blue: The Trauma of Watching My Husband Die (Part 1)

Our wedding day was magical, like a scene from a fairy tale. How could I possibly know that 3 short weeks later, I would stand on the sidelines as I watched my husband die right before my eyes.

After our wedding, we went away for 3 days, just the two of us. It was a great trip, but something didn’t feel right to me. I began to experience anxiety about my husband’s health. There was nothing to trigger it; he was perfectly fine. We both thought I was just paranoid.

It all began a week after we got home. I was at work when I received a text from him saying: “Don’t panic, but I’m on my way to the hospital.” Anxiety had been building inside me for a week and as I read those words, I felt it erupt. I could no longer see clearly and wasn’t able to read the rest of the message. I stood in the middle of the street unable to find my car keys when my boss offered to have someone drive me to the hospital.

There he was, laying in the same room my daughter laid when the medical staff tried so hard to bring her back to life. I pushed the flashback aside and saw that Tom looked absolutely fine, but something was going on with his heart and we wouldn’t know what was wrong until he could get an appointment with his cardiologist. We waiting on pins and needles as I treated him delicately, as though he were made glass. His symptoms would come and go. I couldn’t eat and couldn’t sleep because I was absolutely terrified that something would happen to him.

And then it did.

A week later, it was just before midnight and we were settling into bed when he got up to use the washroom. I couldn’t shake the heavy feeling that came over me. Then he rushed back in and said: “We need to go to the the hospital. NOW!!!” I jumped up and threw clothes on as quickly as I could while my legs struggled to support my weight. I grabbed my purse, my phone, and a phone charger thinking it may come in handy. My mother was 6 hours away so I told my father he needed to come NOW and stay with our kids because we needed to leave. “I think Tom is having a heart attack!”

Tom was brought in by ambulance and I followed behind. We were back in that same hospital room. He was in a lot of pain and nothing was helping. His blood pressure dropped and they needed to stabilize him. He seemed calm for a moment and we were alone when he suddenly sat up and said he could feel a wave of pain coming. “Go get someone!!!” His heart monitor began to go wild and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

When you have experienced a trauma and sudden loss, you understand that bad things can happen at any time and know that people die. “I can’t lose him too… It can’t end like this… The Universe can’t be this cruel. I CAN’T LOSE HIM TOO!!!!”

I backed myself into the corner and was petrified. My heart and brain were fighting; my heart told me to be at his side so he knew he wasn’t alone, but my head screamed at me to stay out of the way! I knew the scene I was witnessing was traumatizing me and I tried to stare at the floor. There was a flashing blue light behind me and the words “code blue” were relating over and over on the speaker. I felt as though I were outside of my body as I watched helplessly as my husband died.

My legs were too weak and I couldn’t stand up. I was on my hands and knees and couldn’t breathe. So many nurses piled into the room, all standing around my husband as they pumped air into his lungs and tried to get his heart beating again.

A nurse brought me to another room, the same room I sat in when I was told Bella was gone. Tears streaming down my face, I pleaded with the nurse: “I can’t lose him too…” I was in shock and my fingers were frozen stiff. The nurse called my niece to come so I wasn’t alone.

Tom’s heart stopped for 2 minutes, but it felt like an eternity passed by. I lived in a world without my husband for 2 whole minutes. Even though he came back to his body, Tom was in serious condition and time was not on our side.

He needed to get to another hospital where they could perform an angiogram to locate the blockage in his heart. Thankfully the medical team were able to stabilize him so he could make the trip. I was relieved that I was able to fly with him and our first plane ride together was by air ambulance. I was a 3.5 hour drive from home with nothing but the clothes on my back, my purse, cell phone and charger, and most importantly, my husband! I was not going to leave his side.

(To be continued…)

To read Part 2, please click HERE.

We Made History This Week!!!

I was recently approached by the editor of the Canadian Medical Journal of Sonography who asked to include my story, The Ultrasound Miracle in the journal. This is the first time in the history of the journal that they included a story from a patient. So here it is, my miracle, on the cover of the journal! And here is my story, officially in print in a medical journal which will be read by sonographers all over the country! It was a pretty incredible feeling to see my sonogram photo (or as I see it, a photo of my two daughters) on the cover of a medical journal. It’s pretty amazing that my story will reach the medical community in this way. I hope my story touches many more people and opens them up to a new reality where love never dies.

Journal cover and article © 2018 Canadian Journal of Medical Sonography

Wisdom From The Past

The purpose of life is to experience. It is not our experiences that shape who we are but the choices we make from these experiences; what we choose to perceive, how we choose to react, and what we choose to take away from it all. We all go through good times and bad and the bad times allow us to appreciate the good. I’ve been through a lot recently and I may have scars, but I wear them with pride as I have learned a lot from them and I am a better person because of them. I choose strength and self-love, and choose to share this love with the world in hopes to inspire others and change lives. It is what you make of it so #StayStrong ❤️ – Angie Carter (June 21, 2014 – One week before Bella passed away)

Sometimes when we look back, we surprise ourselves. I often feel amazed when I look back at my written words. Did I write that? I don’t remember. Where did it come from? I’m in awe of how my own words helped me through the darkest days of my life. How could I have known what I would need to hear just one short week later? I had no way of knowing what was coming, but I have strong sense that something (a force?) was preparing me for what was to come. It was inevitable. When I look back at the last 6 months of Bella’s life, I was undergoing an enormous shift. I was waking up, accepting life as it was. I was finally adjusting to life as a single mom and made a point to celebrate life with my kids every single day. I was happy and felt fulfilled.

A few days after this inspiration hit me, I had the words “Stay Strong” tattooed on my arm. When I woke up in the Emergency Room the day after I lost my daughter, the doctor and nurses were in disbelief at the fresh tattoo on my arm. It’s as though I had the words I would need most permanently etched in the place where my eyes couldn’t miss seeing them. Reading these words helped remind me to live when I would forget to breathe.

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June 25, 2014 – 3 days before saying goodbye.

In 7 days, it will be 3 years since I’ve held my baby girl. Today, I stand by these words that escaped my fingertips and am grateful they crossed my screen today. I am reminded of my life purpose. The next week will be an emotional ride, and once again I will visit the past. I will look at photos and remember the final days I had with Bella, relive the last memories we made together. Remembering her brings me so much joy, but memories bring deep pain as the two are intertwined. Grief is the price of love and memories are the prize. No one can ever take these priceless moments away from me.

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June 21, 2014 – Blowing bubbles with her brother Hudson. She loved her puppy backpack.

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June 22, 2014 – The day the power went out and we spent the whole day outside. It was the best day we ever had!

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June 22, 2014 – Sleeping peacefully in the same outfit she’s still wearing today…

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June 25, 2014 – The day I got my tattoo and Zia Lori picked Bella up from daycare, but forgot her diaper bag. HA!

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June 26 – Bella’s new favourite snack. I still have this bag of edamame in our freezer.

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June 27, 2014 – The last photo I have of Bella… also the last day I would ever know what “normal” feels like.

My hears hurts tonight, but once again I must choose how I react to this pain. She’s still here with me, holding me, guiding me. What matters is what I choose to do with this pain and instead of letting it eat away inside me, I am choosing to share it with the world. Letting it out can be painful, but every tear that falls helps my soul heal a little bit more. Instead of keeping these beautiful memories inside, I am sharing them with the world because this is now the only way to keep Bella alive. It is what you make of it so #StayStrong ❤️

 

 

 

Some days are strictly about survival. I’ve been having a lot of those days lately. A couple of weeks ago I allowed some of the pain to escape and I’ve been having a hard time keeping it in ever since. This is why I refuse to talk about certain things. I will openly talk about any other aspect of what I am experiencing, but please don’t ask about my pain.
No one wants to feel pain. We fear it and do everything possible to avoid it. When it’s present, all we can do is deal with it. One day at a time, one hour at a time, one minute at a time. One breath at a time…
I was hoping that writing about it would help me feel better, but by allowing some more of the pain to escape, I just made the hole a little bit bigger. I do, however, need to feel this pain. I need to let it out in order to heal. 
I’m in survival mode. I do as little as I have to in a day. Hudson is well cared for but I feel a lot of guilt that I haven’t been able to do more fun things with him. I have been trying, but I feel that it’s still not enough. 
I remember a time, not so long ago, when my kids were my whole life. Everything I did was for them. We spent all our time together and made a point of doing something fun every single day, even if that was simply dancing in our living room. Now doing these things with Hudson is so hard. It’s a constant reminder that someone is missing. Now it seems that my life revolves around this gaping wound in my chest and trying to cover it up. As with all deep wounds, the blood seeps out faster than I can keep up with so I keep putting on new band aids.
I remember a TV commercial that used say “depression hurts – all over.” This couldn’t be more accurate. Everything hurts. These last couple of weeks have been pretty painful and difficult. I’m already missing out on so much with my angel. 
Bella’s friends started dance class. She should be dancing with them. Hudson started dance class too. We were there tonight and the most precious baby girl was asleep in her car seat. I couldn’t take my eyes off her, yet I felt physical pain by just looking at her. Her mom mentioned that she doesn’t sleep well at night. I so badly wanted to tell her that my baby girl was never a good sleeper either, but I dread the reaction I get when people find out my baby girl is now an angel. 
At first I was pretty open about talking to people about it but I quickly discovered that people treat you differently after you lose a child so sometimes I choose not to mention it. Many people feel awkward because they don’t know what to say, some people avoid conversation altogether. I’m not sure if not mentioning my angel actually helps because so far it seems to amplify the pain. It’s a losing battle.
After 15 consecutive bad days, I chose to smile and enjoy the rest of the day. And so I did, as much as I could. But now it’s quiet and all I can think about tonight is how much I miss her. It’s getting harder to #StayStrong💔

Dark days. We all have them. It’s how we get through them that matters. These are things we aren’t taught growing up. We do the best we can with what we have, with what we know. The last few weeks have been about survival.
The pain is constant. I feel it cut through my chest like a knife. There are moments where the pain is so intense that I can’t breathe. I welcome the pain even though I fear it because I need to feel it. During the moments I succumb to the pain, I allow it to take me over. I cry, but then I feel like I can’t catch my breath and search for the light. I fear the moment that the screams start. Once I start, I don’t think I’ll be able to stop. 
My dark days are spent at home. I’ve been isolating myself and only go out when I have to. I’m sitting on the couch a lot. I read and I started playing a few games on my iPad regularly as an escape. I look forward to night time. That’s when Bella comes to me. She has been giving me little bits of information every night. 
I’m starting to see what really happened to my daughter. She tells me that the cause of death isn’t important, that it was meant to be this way and there was nothing anyone could do to change the result. She’s also telling me that her death happened the way it did to help teach others about certain things. The world is in the process of a significant shift. People are waking up to what’s really going on around them. Her and my purpose are to help with this shift.
It makes me angry is that I’m the one who is getting these messages. I shouldn’t have to wait until night time to hear from my baby girl. I should be seeing her every morning, wrapping my arms around her and kissing her. I should be playing with her, dancing with her, loving her. I should be living in the chaos of being a single mother with 2 kids, working full time and having no time to even think. Now all I have is time, and all I do is think. 
The healing hasn’t started yet and I wonder if it ever will. I am fulfilling my destiny by this experience of loss and I choose to make the most of it. I choose to help others in hopes that I can prevent this from happening to another mother, to another innocent child. In the mean time, I will continue to hope for better days. I will continue to fake being happy for the sake of my son. I will continue to survive. 
“It’s easy to feel hopeful on a beautiful day, but there will be dark days ahead of us too. There will be days where you feel alone and that’s when hope is needed most. No matter how buried it gets or how lost you feel, you must promise me that you will hold on to hope.” – The Amazing Spider-Man 2 
#StayStrong❤️ #DarkDays #Survival