Survivor Burnout

Ok this is weird…

I literally haven’t typed in this space since February. 
I swear there is a reason.
It’s not an excuse, but I’m going through something….weird.
Something I can only describe as survivor burnout.
The end of 2014 was absolutely amazing. My story was featured in Good Housekeeping, I was on the Dr Oz show, and I was emailing with survivors and their caretakers from all over the world. Every time I checked my email there was a new message from someone who had just had a heart attack or gone through a life altering event. I responded to as many as I could, sometimes late into the night. I heard the stories of survivors, mostly women, who needed someone to talk to who understood what they had been through. I couldn’t say no. Meanwhile I was still volunteering, going to the Go Red For Women luncheon, working with my local AHA Passion Committee, and guest blogging for websites. 
It hit me around March that I was sad…too sad. I had taken on the stories of others, worrying about their health and futures and rather than empathizing I had begun sympathizing. I was feeling their pain and reliving my trauma over and over again. I felt guilty when someone’s situation was worse than mine and devastated to learn of someone’s passing. I realized I needed a change. 
I want to help others, but I have to find a different way of going about it. A healthier way. 
So if I haven’t emailed you back, responded to your comment, or sent you a return message on Facebook, please forgive me. I am working through this and I will be back to me in no time.
xoxo, S

Happy Heart Campaign

February is American Heart Month! 
To celebrate and raise awareness, I’ve started a Happy Heart Campaign! For the month of February I will be tweeting/FBing with the hashtag #happyheart to say what I’m doing to keep my heart happy and healthy. Please do the same. Also, I made a shirt for the campaign. I will be donating a portion of the proceeds to the American Heart Association! So please get yours today! My goal is to sell $200 shirts!


The 3rd Annual Amazeball Race

January 25, 2015 marked the 3 year anniversary of Stewart the Stent. 3 years ago I got a chance to start again, so every year (see 2013, see 2014) I celebrate the most amazing day ever by organizing a scavenger hunt around the city. We all meet in a designated area where I give out the clue sheets and instructions for downloading the pictures. Everyone works in color-coded teams and the team that takes the most pics (which are a combination of whatever comes to my mind) wins! Then we head somewhere to imbibe on delicious adult beverages. Since the week before is super emotional for me, I really look forward to this each year. It gives me a chance to celebrate life with my friends and to stay positive. I’m already looking forward to next year! How do you celebrate important dates in your life?

Jo and I in Old Navy

Here are all the teams! Grey wins!

Jan 25, 2012: 3 Years Later

January 25, 2012
Sleep wasn’t easy the night I was admitted into the hospital. Nurses came in and out to take blood and vital signs, doctors and patients roamed the hallways and I desperately missed the fur babies. I wanted to be home in my own bed, not here dealing with whatever this was. I figured I would wake up in the morning to yet another doctor saying, ‘go home’ and ‘it must be something you ate.’ Instead around 5 a.m. I got a massive nosebleed, prompting me to hit the nurse call button and send a frantic young flower of a lady running. Blood was all over me and it took awhile to get the bleeding to stop. I had no sooner laid back down and turned the lights off and monitors were going off around my head, prompting the nurse to fly back into the room. She read numbers, left, came back, left and eventually came in with a team of doctors. They all seemed nervous and jittery as nurses unplugged me from the wall and started to lay cords across me. It was clearly still dark out and yet things seemed to be moving fast. I was being wheeled out the door to my room, handed clipboards to sign things I didn’t understand and into an elevator while a cold liquid was suddenly felt in my arm. When I asked where I was going, someone replied “cath lab.” In my head (and I still tell this story to this day) I truly thought they were referring to a catheter…y’know…for urinary issues. Color me surprised when I ended up in a cold room, on a chilly metal table, medical instruments all around me being unwrapped and doctors in full surgical dress. I was quickly hoisted onto a cold metal table, stripped down and a blanket was laid over my chest. Metal instruments arrived all around me on trays wrapped in plastic. More cold liquid in my arm. The room started feeling fuzzy. Doctors and nurses chatted about the dinner they had last night, a show on TV, their kids’ basketball games. I became more and more out of it. Soon a nurse was sitting near my head, walking me through what was about to happen. I nodded but I was definitely not understanding. There was an intensely sharp pain in my groin and I felt a ton of pressure in my right leg. I tried to cry out but my mouth was cold and dry. The nurse calmly explained they were taking pictures of my heart and to look at the screen. It was then that I noticed the screen next to her, with a picture of what looked like a road map. It was my heart. I could feel the wire being fed from my leg though my chest. The nurse explained they were injecting dye into my arteries. Suddenly, the room went quiet. I could feel the energy settle in the room. The nurse said something about medicine. I heard, “she’s only 31,” “no family history,” “she said she’s a runner.” Another pinch in my groin. Someone stroked my hair. I could feel myself fighting off sleep. Then, someone was holding my hip while the nurse wrapped me in blankets. I was tired and sick to my stomach. Apparently I muttered something about my purse being in my old room and if someone could get it for me. I was wheeled to a new room, a private room with a view of the top of the tower next to me. I leaned my head to the side and slept for what felt like hours. Turns out it was minutes. When I woke up there was a nurse on me, holding the leg where the pain was. He told me he had to put pressure on my leg to close up where the angioplasty went. Another nurse, the nurse I will always remember, came in to talk to me. Her name was Linda and I didn’t know it then, but Linda was going to be a very important part of my week in the hospital. She told me I had a heart attack, maybe even 2. I was confused from the medication and fuzzy from the sleep so all I could do was nod my head and then get really scared. I took the phone from the bed and tried to dial every number that I could remember. Finally I remembered my work phone number and eventually got my friend Amanda who contacted my friend Jo. Satisfied, I feel back asleep as the spiderwebs grew on the walls. When I woke up, the nurse was still laying on my leg, pain radiating down my side. I could hear Jo in the hallway, talking to a nurse. After the bleeding subsided, the nurse who had been laying on my hip finally wrapped the wound and I settled into bed. Nurse Linda came into the room and explained to me that I had a very major heart attack, my mid LAD was 99% blocked and that my type of heart attack is often called The Widowmaker due to its low survival rate. I had a stent put in and would be on meds the rest of my life. But, I survived. Say tuned this week for the rest of the time in the hospital.
**Sorry if this sequence of events isn’t exact. It’s still hard to remember what happened that week in the hospital, partly due to medication, partly due to the emotional stress and partly due to the insane amount of new information that I was trying to process.**

Jan 22-24, 2012: 3 Years Later

January 22-24, 2012: 
Finally the sun crept up on a cool Sunday morning after another long night of fear and anxiety. I watched another umpteen hours of TV like a zombie to pass the time and keep my mind off the pain. Another sleepless night and I was at work Monday morning, trying to act like everything was fine. Students gave me questioning looks, fellow teachers looked concerned but I just kept on, massaging the middle of my chest with my closed fist, which I found out later was my instinctual response to keep my heart pumping blood. Another sleepless night set in, but by Tuesday morning I was feeling better. The pain turned into a numbing ache and my vision was less blurry. But, as I was driving home from work, the pain came back with a vengeance. I almost went off the road at the sudden nature of its anguish, making my 5 minute drive home feel like an eternity. As I parked and reached for my cell phone I called a friend, crying and sobbing words I no longer remember. I forced myself to walk the dog, grabbed my glasses, iPad and charger and drove myself to the ER, rubbing my chest in between wiping my tears. That night I was admitted into the hospital, without a diagnosis. 
January 25th is the day I receive word about the heart attack…

Jan 21, 2012: 3 Years Later

3 years ago today I had my heart attack. 

The backstory: I had been tired for weeks, barely able to dress myself and go to work each day. The back of my head hurt, I felt sick to my stomach and I knew something was terribly wrong. The morning of January 21st I got up to run 10 miles with my running buddies. I made it about 1/10 of a mile before I burst into tears. I just couldn’t muster up the strength to continue. I slumped back to my car crying by myself, wondering what was wrong. My nearest walk-in clinic didn’t open for another hour so I put my head down and took a short nap before driving over. By then my chest was tight like I had a cough. Their diagnosis? Mono. But the blood test said negative. So I drove home, gripping the steering wheel in one hand and a referral form for a neurologist in the other.  I laid on the couch in my running clothes watching TV. I have no idea what I watched that day, but I laid in the same position for 10 hours, getting up only once to take the pup out. I didn’t eat, I didn’t drink, I didn’t sleep. I just stared at the TV in silence. Around 6 or 7 o’clock, the chest pain started. It felt like someone sitting on me, wringing my chest out like a wet mop. It came on slowly, building to a terrifying crescendo, the sound of the pain ringing in my ears. I tried to breathe, wondering what this pain could be. Heart burn? Panic attack? Can’t be. The next few hours I tried to soothe the pain with antacid, hot tea, but nothing worked. I texted a few friends, played a few games and finally realized that this was not good. I stumbled out of the house, still dressed in the running clothes from the morning and made it to my car, frantically searching on my phone for a different walk-in clinic. The only one open at this time was the location at the airport. I drove to the airport, clutching my chest and crying. Somehow I was able to stumble through the gates and into the clinic, only to collapse on a chair. I was brought in, given an EKG and a blood test for mono (negative again…shocker). The words, “there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong” came out of someone’s mouth and “I feel like this is what a heart attack would feel like” came out of my own. But I was sent home. I barely slept that night, tossing and turning from the pain and from the horrifying fear that I would die here in my apartment at age 31. 
Come back tomorrow for January 22nd, 2012. ♥

2015 Goals

I’m not calling them resolutions, dang it! Every time I do that, I end up letting myself down. So, here are GOALS. Just GOALS, y’all. I have some serious writing to do, both in my educational career and my writing. I really need to save some moola…we have a wedding to plan! Also, I need some more time away from my pile of apple products. That might be the hardest goal on the list.
What are your goals/resolutions for 2015? 

Toodles 2014!

Well, it’s official…2014 was the bomb. Maybe even one of the best years of my life. Here are my 6 highlights from the year… (pictures from left-right, top to bottom)
1. L turns 30! We celebrated in Miami!
2. Trip to Chicago
3. Good Housekeeping article
4. Being on Dr. Oz
5. We got another dog, Bingo
6. Getting engaged! 
Bring it on, 2015!

The Dr. Oz Experience

Finally, the calm AFTER the storm. This last month has been insane. First was the filming of Dr. Oz, then the end of the year madness, the airing of the show, holidays, New Years and now it’s back to work tomorrow. So, as I sit down to contemplate everything that has happened, I realized I never actually talked about the show. It’s time.

At the end of November I was asked to be on the Dr. Oz show after a number of phone calls with his amazing producers and staff (no seriously, everyone there is insanely nice and supportive). On Tuesday, November 18th I had a camera crew and producer in my living room. They filmed around 4 hours of material, everything from me running, to sitting and looking off into the horizon, to blogging. Then they even set up the interview portion in my living room to re-tell my story. Those 4 hours were edited down into the 2 minute clip that was on the show.

Had to visit Strawberry Fields to get myself centered

By Thursday night I was on a plane, off to NYC. I grew up in NYS and I was pumped to be in the city right before the holidays. Frankly, I love the cold and I was looking forward to wearing a scarf and boots. I arrived at LGA around 11 pm and a driver picked me up (driver, did she say driver?!) and drove me into the city. Of course, being me, I have to hear his entire life story as we travel. He has a teacher for a wife, a new baby and loves his job. Enough said, this guy was the bomb.

The risers are up for the Thanksgiving parade on Central Park West!

The next morning, I walked around Central Park, went to H&M (I swear it’s better in NY) and picked up my baby sis at the train station. She and her fiancé came took a train into the city for the taping which was awesome because I hadn’t seen her since February. By the time they grabbed some food and I got ready back at the hotel, the car was there to pick us up and bring us to the studio. Imagine rolling up to a gated studio in an SUV with a driver who looks like Brad Garrett. Life is good, folks, quite good.

We were led into a dressing room (yes, a dressing room! A car, and now this! #spoiled) where things start becoming a whirlwind of events. Hair and makeup, steaming of clothes, producers visiting, meeting tons of people, taking ridiculous pictures with Steph and Cody? Done. Before I knew it, we were being led to the waiting room behind the stage and I could hear the studio audience. Whoa. This was really about to happen.

Let me just pause and say that everyone who works for this show is insanely nice. I don’t think I can state this enough. They asked how I was doing, were very encouraging and super reassuring. Frankly, they didn’t need to since I’m barely a fly on the flytrap of this show. But they all seemed genuinely caring and nice.

I can’t! I just can’t!

All in all, the experience was mind-blowingly amazing. I got to meet someone I really admire, spread the message about women and heart disease, and maybe help someone in need. I’ve gotten some emails and Facebook messages since the show aired that really helped me solidify my reasoning for doing the show. There are a lot of women out there with family histories, mothers and friends lost to heart attacks, high blood pressure or trying to recover from a heart attack. Shows like this one can help to feel less alone. I know they help me heal.

Now for some pictures. I hope you all enjoy the clips. Thank you for all of your support!

Yeah, I still can’t get over this picture. #Awesome.

Rhonda and I. Rhonda survived cancer! GO GIRL!
Ali, one of the producers! She’s fantastic!

This hardcore makeup covered my tats.

Oh you know, just chillin’ with Oz

I got to wear my scarf! YESS!

Goodbye NYC <3