People often say “everything happens for a reason”and up until this summer I thought that was just some cliche catch phrase that people used to make themselves feel better…and then I got sick. When I look back on last Spring I recall when I started to feel “different”. I began to have strange moments during the day when I just didn’t feel right. I felt tired and dizzy and I didn’t know why. These moments wouldn’t last very long at first, and then they got longer and longer and more frequent. I drove myself crazy on WebMD and blog sites. I self diagnosed cancer, diabetes, MS, Lyme, the list went on and on…and then it happened. I was driving home from my graduate class and all of a sudden I felt like I was having a heart attack. My vision was blurry and things started to go dark. I was sweating and shaking and didn’t know where I was. My heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest. Luckily, I made the spit second decision to pull over in Holden and turn off my car. I couldn’t catch my breath and I was terrified. I located my phone and made a panicked call to 911. I don’t remember what I said, or what they said to me. They stayed on the phone with me until the ambulance and police arrived. They loaded me in the ambulance and we set off to Eastern Maine Medical Center. They took my blood, strapped a heart monitor on, gave me oxygen and asked me questions. It became very clear to me that they thought I was having a panic attack. They asked me over and over if I was stressed, if I was worried, if I was sad. I told them NO. NO. NO. NO! Something was wrong with me, and they didn’t believe it. I was placed in a room in the emergency department and the same types of tests were run. EEG’s, X-Rays, lab work etc. All my tests came back normal. The doctor came in and told me that I need to “relax” “take deep breaths” “calm your heart rate down”and learn some coping strategies. UGH. He didn’t believe me. He thought I was panicking. I felt so alone, and so confused. I knew deep down this was more than that, but I was getting no where. I was sent home that night to fend for myself and to explore ways to handle my “anxiety”.
The next day I was set to fly out to Kansas City to chaperone a field trip with a group of high school students and some of my co-workers. As it turns out I was the chaperone from hell, but more on that later. I was completely exhausted. I was shaky and confused and I really just wanted to stay home. But, I pushed through. The flight was uneventful as was the first day there. I felt absolutely lousy, but I plastered on a smile and tried my best. And then, my world caved in. I had another attack, but this time, it was magnified 1,000 times. I was alone in the hotel room and could not get myself upright. Everything was dark, I was spinning, my heart was beating over 200 beats per minute. I was too scared to cry, all I could do is lay on the floor. I tried to breathe, I tried to calm down, I tried to “control my anxiety”but all that was happening was I was getting worse. I located my cell phone and called a co-worker for help. It took about 15 minutes, but it felt like a decade had gone by. Ben showed up and rushed me to the hospital. The front desk at our hotel recommended we go to the University of Kansas Hospital, “they’re the heart hospital of the midwest”we were told, and they were right! This place was unbelievable. They were quick, efficient and helpful. They ran all of the same tests that I had in Bangor, but one thing was different: THEY BELIEVED ME! When all the tests came back normal they didn’t tell me to go home. They admitted me until they found the answer. I spent 3 days in the hospital and I was poked, prodded, scanned and examined more times than any human should be. I saw 3 cardiac specialists and they worked on my case all together. I was given a tilt table test (I will say that this was hell on Earth and I hope none of you EVER have to go through that) and bingo, they found their answer. “We think you have something called autonomic dysfunction. Your autonomic nervous system isn’t working the way that it should. We believe you have POTS Syndrome.” This is the day that my life changed forever. While this wasn’t particularly good news, at least it was NEWS! I had an answer. I knew what it was! I knew it wasn’t in my head. I knew what I was up against, and I was okay with that.
POTS syndrome is something that is very hard to diagnose. Many potsie’s report that they were told exactly what I was….for years! If I hadn’t gone to Kansas City, I may still not know what was wrong with me. This is why I have to believe that everything happens for a reason. I was meant to be there. I truly believe that those doctors and nurses saved my life, and my sanity. Who would ever think a girl from rural Maine would wind up in Kansas City, MO to have her life saved? I thought I was going out to help supervise high schoolers (ha! didn’t help out with that very much…) but it ended up that I went there to be saved.
The bottom line…I LOVE KANSAS CITY and The University of Kansas Hospital.