Category Archives: Heart

2020 – THE YEAR OF…..BEING GRATEFUL

It’s all in how you view things: This has been one of, if not THE most difficult year for ALL of us we’ve ever faced. This virus, COVID-19, along with political unrest, unprecedented racism and hate – 2020 has changed practically EVERYONE’S life. I’m so grateful for the many blessings and all the challenges that 2020 brought me. You may say, “how” the heck was 2020 filled with blessings with so much calamity happening? For me, here’s how:
Was blessed in early February 2020 to accept a travel assignment job with a 6-month contract to work in beautiful Phoenix, AZ.
– COVID-19 really hit the world and mom’s nursing home (all nursing homes) stopped visitations for fear of the nursing home residents contracting the virus, but as of December 2020, my 99-year-old Queen mother thankfully has NOT contracted the virus! Many around her did, including my aunt, but God kept the family strong with some sense of peace!
Many lost their jobs and many businesses closed their doors because of this virus and the downward economy, BUT GOD kept MY immediate family employed throughout this year. Even my once homeless oldest son who friends and family gave up on, he actually did better than all of us financially during the pandemic!!
This next part really still has be shouting and giving praise: – After my 6 month assignment ended in August, (I was offered the job on a permanent basis in Phoenix, but because of my mom, being so far from her, I sadly declined the offer) I was blessed to STILL find employment, (even at 61 years of age). Accepting this new assignment meant moving back to Atlanta where I previously lived, not in jackson, MS where I was currently residing. This was not only just “a job” but a job at Emory Healthcare! A place I’ve tried getting a job for YEARS back in the day! Not everyone gets to work here, especially during a pandemic and a hiring freeze!!! While Emory itself had a hiring freeze, a different staffing agency WAS hiring to work at Emory and they trusted ME to work at Emory and I’m forever grateful!
While settling residency and employment back in Georgia, life got pretty stressful; worrying about if I made the right decision, being able to afford everything on my own as this assignment at Emory I accepted was a SIGNIFICANT drop in pay from the previous contract job in Phoenix, and worrying about my mom (though Atlanta WAS closer to Jackson than in Phoenix) and her state of mind, feeling alone in the nursing home, not FULLY understanding why family could not see her (5 months into the pandemic and NO visitors allowed!). With all this on my mind DAILY, no longer eating healthy, and not taking my meds as directed, on October 11th, while at work, I had a heart attack. I literally was walking/working and actively having a heart attack AND a heart aneurysm!!
God’s grace – Had I not been working at a hospital (which Emory has ALWAYS been my favorite medical facility in the world), had it not been my assigned weekend to work, had I not listened to the warning signs and had I not gone to the ER to be seen WHEN I did, I WOULD NOT be alive today. Point blank. Period.

God undoubtedly has more work for me to do. Now I know my purpose for still being here. I want my story to be a shining light to someone who may not see the good in this life. Yes, hundreds of thousands have died from this horrible virus in 2020, people are hurting, financially struggling and people are scarred for life by this pandemic and other problems we faced as a country. Think about it, I TOO am scarred (literally my heart for a second time!) from all the stress and hurt and losses 2020 brought me as well, but we ALL are still here, breathing and living! God chose US and gave US another chance to make life better for someone else!! God I’m forever grateful for your grace and mercy.

Let’s all go into 2021 with a new lease on life. Let’s all continue to mask up, social distance and get back to being GRATEFUL for what we have so that we can rid this awful virus from this earth and get back to caring for one another, hugging and embracing each other again!

Shock vs Denial

I’m not quite sure if it was shock or being in complete denial or what was going on with my thinking, during my most recent illness, but I know one thing – my doctor sure put it in perspective when I noticed the note he added to my chart after my first 30-day follow-up appointment I had with him last Thursday. There was one sentence he added to my notes stating, Pt is still in disbelief that she has had a heart attack”

Timeline: October 11th at 7:30 a.m.: I wake up with a burning sensation in my chest. I’m saying to myself why am I feeling like indigestion pain – but I do nothing about it, just basically brush it off.

October 11th around 1:00 p.m.: Preparing to head to work and while riding the train to work, I get a brief pain in my chest which lasted less than a minute. I immediately take a sublingual nitroglycerin I always carry in my purse (red flag #1)

October 11th 2:30-4:00 p.m..: The burning in the chest sensation happens again (red flag #2) and I ask my coworker for an antacid tablet, take it and feel better for a few more hours.

October 11th 8:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.: I go and make my usual rounds at my designated pickup locations to pick up patient medical records and boy, do I really feel like the inside of my chest is literally on fire (red flag #3). As I’m pushing the basket, I then begin to feel as if my legs are being electrocuted (only way I can describe it)!. THAT symptom finally got my attention but I’m still determined to complete my rounds. By the time I get to the emergency department (last location to pick up records), I then began feeling really weird, some slight chest pain but that’s it! This is when I decided to go ahead and be checked out in the emergency room…These symptoms were very different than the symptoms I had during my heart attack 10 years ago.

October 11-12 early morning hours: I’m now being taken care of quite swiftly by nurses, lab techs, phlebotomists, etc., upon admission to the emergency room. Without me asking, a tech or nurse says to me in a very calm, quiet voice “your troponin level is 11” (red flag 3, 4, 5). A troponin test measures the levels of troponin T or troponin I proteins in the blood. These proteins are released when the heart muscle has been damaged, such as occurs with a heart attack.  Normal levels are measured at 0.01-0.02.

October 12 at some point (lost track of time): So everything is happening so fast, this is where I guess I just draw a blank mentally. I’m making calls to loved ones, coworkers advising them of my whereabouts telling them ‘no it’s not a heart attack’. Finishing up in the cath lab and one of the techs looks down at me as if he’s so incredibly sad and ready to cry telling me “Ms. Johnson, you have multiple, multiple blockages in your arteries. You’re very lucky you came in when you did” (red flag 6,7 8 I’m having a heart attack).

THAT was the reason for the emergency 3-vessel coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) on October 13th because I had a heart attack because I had multiple blockages (of plaque) in my arteries) and finding out a day AFTER the bypass that I also had a heart aneurysm!!

I think I became so fixated upon learning I had an coronary aneurysm and worrying if I’m going to survive this bypass surgery, I guess I somehow did not connect the dots that ALL of these events were because I DID have a heart attack!

Fast forward to 6 weeks post bypass surgery and aneurysm, I’m so incredibly grateful to be alive and recuperating. Even though for a day or so I felt some kind of way after reading the note that the surgeon put in my record about being in disbelief I had a heart attack, I can really appreciate him being more than a surgeon – being a blunt, upfront doctor who really cares about his patients and recognizing the denial we can be in sometimes….. My point for this blog is to make men and women, be aware of any type of symptoms you may be having, especially regarding chest pains – do not brush it off like I did. Please get seen – do not wait hours or even days to get checked out.

I hope my detailed timeline of symptoms, occurrences can help someone, prevent them from suffering major heart damage.

My heart in 2020

Exactly 30 days ago today, October 13th, I underwent triple bypass surgery (or coronary artery bypass graft/CABG) after doctors found multiple coronary artery blockages AND having a heart aneurysm! After surgery, I was told and read many articles that the first 30 days are very critical to survival. (I was supposed to have a quadruple bypass, but my fourth artery was of “poor quality”). Praise be to MY GOD that I did survive these 30 days! I am overwhelmingly grateful to God first and foremost for having discernment and the medical knowledge and sense to take my butt down to the ER while at work, realizing something was NOT right! ALL of the techs and docs during my catheterization and after the bypass surgery said I TRULY would not have survived had I not come when I did!!

Going forward for me, there is nothing more important to me now than taking great care of myself! No job, no other person’s problems, etc will EVER be at the top of my list, only MY HEALTH, my livelihood takes precedence!

My mantra as many of you know has always been me always caring for others, helping any way I can. That was my sole purpose for moving back to Mississippi 3.5 years ago because my elderly mom asked me to help care for her. Without hesitation, I answered the call, again putting someone else’s needs before my own. I had already had a heart attack with the placement of 2 stents 10 yrs ago (2010). When I told my cardiologist 3.5 yrs ago that I was moving to MS to help caregive for my mom, he actually forewarned me, asked that I do NOT take on such a task, but I didn’t listen. In my mind back then, I’m thinking, ‘doctor, how DARE you say don’t go and care for your mom’!! He actually turned out to be rightūü§¶ūüŹĺ‚Äć‚ôÄÔłŹūü§¶ūüŹĺ‚Äć‚ôÄÔłŹ.

Even though I did make the move, I can admit and say that all of my downward spiral eating habits and not caring for MARSHA IS all my fault! My life became so consumed with getting settled in a new town, working a new job (after working from home almost 20 years), and all the things that come with caregiving for your parents. All of that I obviously was not mentally prepared for and many different roadblocks and family dynamics that came with it. Over these last 3.5 years, I eventually fell for the temptations of the good ole down-home Mississippi eating, devouring any and everything I could! Forgetting about my previous heart attack and seeing people triple my size and still living with no health issues, I thought well shoot! If they’re not sick, I might as well eat any and everything, they are still here! Dumb thought process, right? Yes it was, but that’s the mindset I “settled” into.

Fast forward to 2020 and its coronavirus, everything changed. Mom is still here at 99 yrs of age (will probably outlast her children) ūü§£ūü§£. Covid-19 halted visitations at nursing homes, caused many of the elderly to become depressed VERY quickly as their usual, sometimes daily visits came to a screeching halt as this unseen, rampant virus was rapidly invading all places. It caused thousands of people to lose jobs, gain jobs, so by this time, all I could think of was me making money, surviving financially, while silently destroying my body by eating anything. Was blessed to take on a great paying traveling assignment in February 2020 in Phoenix, AZ for 6 months! Whoo hooo – what a great opportunity to save money since Covid-19 will no longer allow visitors to see their loved ones in the nursing home.  What a great opportunity, but all good things must come to an end. So with the coronavirus still at its peak across the country causing businesses to fail, my contract job in Phoenix also needed to come to an end. I was contracted for only 6 months, although the staff wanted me to stay on a while longer, the coronavirus had a huge affect on hospitals and other businesses and the hospital could not afford to continue to pay the staffing agency. So again, my quest to find a job goes on in late July. Applied for several jobs back in Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia – anywhere that would hire this 61-year-old woman during a pandemic! Thankfully, everything worked out exactly how it was supposed to by becoming employed (although through another staffing agency) at Emory Healthcare back in Georgia.

During these 3.5 years of horrible eating habits (with an already ‘damaged’ heart), my coronary arteries collected so much plaque around my heart, my heart just could not take it anymore. Eating things like potato chips, lots of peanut butter crackers, fast foods, sweets, and drinking sodas here and there (things with TONS of salt and carbohydrates which elevates your blood pressure). It’s like a balloon when you blow it up. It can only expand so far before it bursts or starts seeping out air (which is what the aneurysm was for me – it was a causing a ‘slow leak’ of blood out of my heart)!!

As I am in my fourth week of recovery, I am uncertain as to what the future holds for me as far as working or not working – my 30-day appointment will be next week and I will have a better understanding and knowledge of what my ‘heart recovery’ dictates (keeping in mind the status of my fourth coronary artery that was of “poor quality”) what the future DOES hold for me!

Thank you Emory, thank you my close-knit friends, DEFINITELY a special thanks to my son, Calvin Johnson for acting so hastily and responding so quickly by coming to Atlanta from Jackson, MS regarding my well being. Thank you, my baby boi, Jeremiah Johnson, for acting so quickly in bringing my bed downstairs at such short notice.

Nothing but positivity and continued healing going forward these next few weeks and months.

World Heart Day

world-heart-dayLittle did I know when writing about my medical terms today that September 29th is World Heart Day……and I have a scheduled appointment today to see my cardiologist. ¬†Interesting.

According to the World Heart Foundation, World Heart Day was founded in 2000 to inform people around the world that heart disease and stroke are the two leading causes of death. ¬†There are different events across the world that take place on this day to bring awareness of staying heart healthy. This year’s theme is creating heart-healthy environments.

Most of you who know me know my heart history, which is also detailed in my previous blogs. ¬†I am SO incredibly thankful to be here, to have survived a significant heart attack 5 years ago. ¬†Let’s participate in some way to World Heart Day, whether on a local level or national level, we are all able to empower each other to a healthier heart!

Fifth Year Anniversary – Here’s to my heart

I just realized what today is for me. ¬†This is year number 5 on this exact date that I sufferedcelebrationphoto a ‘significant’ heart attack. ¬†Wow! ¬†I am really blessed and very grateful to still be alive and kicking! ¬†Anyone who has ever suffered a heart attack knows that your life will never be the same as before. ¬†Not to say that you cannot still be very functional and active – it’s just that there are a few subtle signs and symptoms that your body will ‘remind’ you that you did have a heart attack.

I do know the key things for a long-lasting recovery ARE:

  • to definitely diminish the stress in your life. ¬†In this world we live in now, it’s almost impossible to avoid stress, but there are various ways of lowering your stress level. ¬†Forget what people think of you! ¬†As long as God is satisfied with you, then that’s all that matters.
  • better, healthier eating habits. ¬†It may be more expensive to eat healthier, but it is so well worth it. ¬†Though I still tend to stray from eating healthy every single day, I do pick myself up and get back on track and I don’t beat myself up about it. ¬†A little determination goes a long way!
  • exercise frequently. ¬†Walking – which is my preference for exercising – can be so refreshing, relaxing and both mentally and physically healthy for you. ¬†One of the many things I enjoy about living in the South is the 8+ months of warm weather where I can get out and participate in either very early morning or late afternoon walks, walking almost anywhere I live. I have the option of taking in a little exercise in our gym facility here in the complex or any gym facility down the street, taking a casual walk in the community, at the local park or whether it’s taking a walk in Stone Mountain Park (which I hope to accomplish again – hadn’t done that in over 15 years!).
  • continue medications as prescribed. ¬†None of us like the fact that we have to take medications, but when your body suffers a traumatic event and your doctor tells you to take your meds, then do so! ¬†Thinking you know everything and wanting to wean, or completely stop taking your medications on your own is foolish. ¬†If you have concerns about certain meds you’re taking, then by all means talk with your doctor first BEFORE stopping the medication yourself.

Though I just recently received what’s called a cardiac event monitor as I’ve had some recent palpitations ¬†(or heart flutters), I am still active (more active than many of my neighbors who are older than me) – with the intention of becoming more active as the weather is coming into spring. ¬†Most of all, I’m ever the more hopeful on my future outlook on my life – and lowering any more chances of any further heart attacks!

American Heart Month

According to National Health Observances, February is designated as American Heart Month. ¬†Not because it’s Valentine’s Day on February 14th, but because as a country, there are different health observances that we try to recognize by encouraging and educating heart-35348_1280ourselves and by empowering people to better health!

Heart disease is the leading cause of death here in the United States. ¬†1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease yearly and unfortunately, I myself fall into the statistics of heart disease. ¬†BUT……the good thing about it, I’ve survived it, I’m managing it and am doing great! ¬†Take some time and read an earlier blog I posted a year or so ago called “Matters of the Heart” relating to my story of heart disease.

How we can help? ¬†It’s easy.

  • Go to your local Red Cross and take CPR classes and donate – whether it’s donating blood, your time or financially.
  • If you’re a smoker, quit smoking! ¬†It can be done, believe me. ¬†Your heart will love you for it.
  • Heart healthy eating habits. ¬†Tons and tons of reliable FREE information to read ¬†online, and many books and articles regarding eating heart healthy meals.
  • Educate yourself about high cholesterol, high or low blood pressures, strokes and heart diseases and its many signs and symptoms, which are just some of the leading causes of heart disease.

As I often mention in my blogs, there is so much out here at our disposal to educate our own selves about our health. ¬†We can begin by utilizing the Internet by reading and educating ourselves for free!! ¬†It’s that simple. ¬†Prevent becoming a statistic. ¬†Help others by donating whatever you feel you can donate – your blood, your time, your knowledge, your resources – that others may not be privy to.

Straight from My Heart

rose-210072_640Happy Valentines Day to all. ¬†Though there is no ‘special someone’ in my life right now, I do want to say thank you and I love ALL of my readers for supporting me and reading my blogs!

Fitting that this is Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d wait for this day to share with you that February is also known as American ¬†Heart Month! I’m sure you’ve seen ads this month related to heart disease, heart problems and many other articles and organizations such as ¬†“Go Red”, (an American Heart Association organization dedicated to bringing awareness to women) regarding sustaining a healthy heart.

With a previous blog I’ve written, “Matters of the Heart”,¬†I touched a little bit about my experiences with the heart after suffering a heart attack in 2010. ¬† ¬†There is so much more to the heart ¬†outside of a heart attack – so many variations of heart disease and many other heart problems. ¬†I will not delve into much more of that today as there are hundreds of articles written regarding the heart – especially this month, but I just wanted all to be aware, take charge in having a healthier heart – whether it’s taking very small steps in maintaining a healthy heart through better diet, exercise, etc. or whether it’s taking charge in very tiny increments after suffering some type of heart-related trauma, such as a heart attack, heart failure, heart surgery in regaining your strength, monitoring your blood pressure, etc. ¬†Take charge of your health in living a longer, healthier life!!!

Matters of the heart

Yes, it’s been a LONG time since I’ve been here……but I am BACK!!

We hear so much these days about being “heart healthy”, being careful in what we eat to keep a healthy heart. ¬†Well……it’s all true! ¬†The heart is a very interesting organ. ¬†It plays many, many roles in our health. ¬† The role of the heart is to pump blood throughout the cardiogram-heart-pulse-trace-concept-cardiovascular-medical-exam-32285203body. ¬† It’s located between the two lungs and lies left of the middle of the chest.

Though there was no early-age family history of heart problems/heart disease in my family – mother’s and father’s side – I just brushed off those ‘signs’ as family members being OLD and developing heart problems. ¬†My dad was generally healthy – was still driving at 92 years of age! ¬†But it was then I started realizing that yes – there IS a family history of heart problems. ¬†Dad developed heart problems in his early 80s (actually probably before that, but with his ‘pride’ in the way and his generation of people with the thought process of “i’m okay – nothing’s wrong”) probably developed it earlier than the age of 80.

My own personal experience with the heart came in 2010 when I had a myocardial infarction (heart attack). ¬†I was doing my usual…..working at home transcribing, early morning around 6:00-6:30 a.m. ¬†I was actually feeling quite great, until I had a sudden pain in the center of my chest right at the breast bone. ¬†Okay…… I brushed that off and kept working. ¬†Five minutes later, I had a second pain which was even sharper than the first, in the same spot. ¬†It was so sharp, it moved me out of my chair. ¬†I began to feel queasy, so I sat on the bed for a moment. ¬†Still not thinking ANYTHING about having a heart attack, I still brushed it off as maybe having indigestion. ¬†It certainly was not indigestion as I later came to find out, to sum it all up.

All in all, it took me approximately 2.5 hours from the time of initial chest pain to getting to the hospital and being diagnosed as having a heart attack. One of the tests that determines when one is having a heart attack is called a troponin level, which is part of the cardiac enzyme levels. ¬†Normal levels are around 0.00-0.02. ¬†My troponin level in determining my heart attack was 34!!! Needless to say, I have damage to my heart and I’ve had to have 2 stents placed. ¬†Cardiac stents ¬†are placed to keep the arteries open, free of plaque buildup and used for better reducing chest pain in the event of another heart attack.

With a 6-day hospital stay during that time and now 3 years later, I must say that I am doing fine, ¬†changed my eating habits (I DO tend to fall off the wagon from eating right, but I get back on track) and taking Crestor (a statin drug) to help reduce the amount of plaque in me. ¬†I was VERY reluctant at first to take any type of statin drug (and had been on 2 other different statin drugs prior to the Crestor to see what works best for me) because of its side effects. ¬†Yes – pretty much ALL medications have some sort of side effects that are listed, but if you have a concerned, caring physician and in tune with the things going on with your health, different alternatives can be reached between you and your physician. ¬†I had ‘heard’ so many negative things about statin drugs, but I’ve had to take it upon myself to educate myself regarding statins.