We dropped off Brody and Annie at school, just like any other day. Leah was sitting in her car waiting for me because I was five minutes late, as usual. She rolled down her window and offered to drive us to our work out place (i.e., one of our houses). I declined and said I would drive instead, which turned out to be a really good thing.
Leah walked over to my car, got in, and said very calmly, “I don’t mean to alarm you, but I think I am having a heart attack.”
I was about to scold her for making a horrible joke when I noticed her coloring was off. She looked gray. Then I saw that she was having trouble taking a deep breath. I said, “Well – do you want to go to your doctor?” Leah said, “No – what if it’s nothing? I’ll be embarrassed.” We started driving and Leah realized she was feeling worse (dizzy and her head was killing her) so she said, “Maybe we should go to the Urgent Care Clinic that is close by.”
I did an immediate u-turn and headed for the clinic. Once we were there, we were glad it wasn’t crowded and we signed in and took out seats in the waiting room. Leah leaned her head back on the wall and said, “I really don’t feel good.” Then, pointing to her chest, she asked me, “Can you see this?” I thought to myself, “Ah – ya… I can see that.” Her shirt was vibrating because her heart was pounding so hard. I was freaked out, but was trying to remain calm for Leah’s sake. I sprung out of my chair to talk with the receptionist. I said, “I don’t mean to cut in front of anyone, but my friend is having a heart attack. Can you please look at her… now?”
Two glazed over eyes stared back at me. The lady said, “We don’t handle heart attacks here. You’re going to have to drive her to the ER.” I saw the doctor sitting behind her doing some paperwork so I said, “Hey – you’re the doctor, right?” He said yes. So I asked him to come out and at least listen to her heart. Without even getting out of his chair, he gave me the same nonchalant answer that they cannot handle heart attacks at their facility. They didn’t even offer to call an ambulance.
I yelled to Leah, “Come on – let’s go.” And then I said to the two rude people, “Can you at least tell me the closest hospital?” We piled back in the car for the longest 20 minute ride of our lives. By this time, Leah was super hot and needed air. I cranked up my ac fan as high as it would go, but it wasn’t enough air for Leah. She put down the windows. She couldn’t talk to me anymore. I was terrified that she would stop breathing in my car and I don’t know CPR. I was envisioning how I would make the call to Tom (her husband) to explain how his wife died in my car.
Once we finally got to the hospital, they hooked Leah up to an EKG. Leah asked them if they were moving the gurney and they said no. It turns out, her heart was pounding so hard that it was shaking the gurney! Her heart rate was 170 (normal heart rate is between 60 -100). They escorted us back to a room in the ER. That’s where the fun began.
After several tests, they let Leah know that she has SVT (Super Ventricular Tachycardia) and she would need to be admitted for a few days for additional testing. Leah’s first reaction was, “Oooh – I get a mini vacation. No cooking, no cleaning, no supplements, no being woken up at night…” Then, she even said to me, “Hey – I bet I’ll even lose weight!”
But reality hit – FAST. During Leah’s two-day stay at the spa (AKA the hospital), they tried to force morphine on her even though she wasn’t in pain. She made me remind the nurse to change her IV bag because it had run out and was sucking air (Leah didn’t want death by air bubble on her tombstone). Leah’s sleep was interrupted 100 times a night so that they could check her vitals. She was given the worst food known to man. This was not very spa like after all!
Leah was asked continually about her medical history. However, it was never considered when they tried to prescribe her medication to regulate her heart. If Leah had not asked to read about the potential side effects for herself, she could have died from the medication they wanted to give her. The medication insert clearly stated it is contraindicated for people with low blood pressure and liver issues, which Leah told them over and over again she has! Needless to say, Leah refused the medication. Death averted.
Because Leah would not take the medication, the hospital staff immediately started pushing surgery. In the end, all Leah agreed to a was a Magnesium IV drip. She is still reading about the pros and cons of the ablation surgery the doctors would like her to do.
What struck us was… Leah’s biggest stress while she was in the hospital was not whether she was going to live or die. It was who would pick up Brody at 1:00pm, who would cook Brody’s rice properly, how would Tom ever remember to give Brody’s supplements at the right time and in the right dosage? Her mind could not rest. She is a Class A Control Freak. She was worried her daily plan would or could not be followed and that Brody would regress. Then, all her hard work would be “out the window.” Leah was utterly unprepared for someone else to step into her shoes.
Leah was told by the doctors in the hospital that she has to do a better job of controlling her stress. But the reality is…the worries of autism equal stress. Unless Leah can cut autism out of her life, her stress is not going away.