Category Archives: PC Updates

PTSD and Depression

I didn’t want to write this post nor did I want to share the contents of my heart so publically. For a long time I knew that I needed to write this post, but I deleted it many times before finding the courage to finish and post it. I am not writing this for sympathy, nor do I want sympathy.

It’s been nearly two years since PC’s heart stopped.

Quick review, my husband’s heart stopped one morning about 3AM due to Brugada Syndrome (it causes an irregular heartbeat that stops the heart, previously called sudden death syndrome).  Mercifully, God had different plans and PC’s death wasn’t permanent. I was able to do CPR until the paramedics came and shocked his heart back into rhythm. As a result he has an internal defibrillator.

Two big results of this traumatic experience are that I struggle with PTSD and Depression.

My PTSD caused nightmares at first where I would wake up screaming. I haven’t had any nightmares for a while now.  If I hear any disturbance in PC’s sleep it causes me to wake up and sometimes I have flashbacks; though they are growing less frequent.  Certain smells or images will also cause flashbacks.  It makes it very difficult emotionally for me to leave PC overnight for any reason. I have panic attacks. I can’t think about this difficult time without an emotional response.

Early 2009, I started to sink into a deep depression. I stopped many of the activities I enjoy like writing, reading and taking pictures.  I withdrew emotionally from my friends.  I quit “fighting.”  I no longer felt the need to defend myself or defend issues that were important to me.  I felt so hollow and empty inside.  I prayed and read the Bible but felt disconnected and lonely.  In retrospect, I wish I had the courage to talk to my friends about how I felt.

My co-workers noticed the change in my mood. I didn’t realize how much my mood reflected my soul until now when they comment that they’re glad to have the old Anna back. 

I assume that PC’s heart stopping and the PTSD caused my depression. I was prone to occasional down moods but never had such a long dark period in my life.

It took me a while to realize that something was wrong with my mood.  When I finally realized that I wasn’t doing the things I enjoyed and that I wasn’t happy or excited about things anymore, I knew I needed to do something. I did pray whenever I felt my dark moods coming. I prayed for rescue and deliverance. I forced myself to do the things I used to enjoy, even if I didn’t find enjoyment in them at that moment.  I talked to my husband about my depression.  My mood started to lift and I started to enjoy life again.  I still had dark moods, but they were becoming less frequent.

In December we found out that we are pregnant.

I am aware that after the baby is born that I could relapse or suffer from postpartum depression. I now recognize the warning signs to let me know something is not right. If I find that I’m slipping I know that I need to force myself to do the things I love even when I don’t feel like it, to exercise, and to talk to my friends who can walk beside me and hold me up when I need help. I pray the dark moods stay away, but if they come, I am better equipped to combat them.

I am not a professional and none of the advice is professional advice.  If you are struggling with depression or PTSD, especially if you are having suicidal thoughts, it is important to find help as soon as possible. I do not recommend trying to fight it on your own, like I tried to. Don’t let depression steal your light.

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Nightmares

It always catches me by surprise when I have a dream or nightmare related to PC’s time in the hospital or heart stopping. Tuesday night to Wednesday morning I dreamed PC was in the hospital and we didn’t know what was wrong with him. (Sounds familiar).  It wasn’t a scary dream while I was having it, but I didn’t like it when I woke up.

PC is fine. His three month follow up was good. The ICD recorded some instances where PC’s heart apparently skipped a beat, but it’s too sensitive and will be readjusted so it won’t step in too much. The ICD not only delivers a shock if the heart stops, but functions as a pacemaker (if necessary) pacing when the heart rate drops too low.

PC decided to start running again. He was in track and cross country in high school and stopped running when he graduated. At first, PC was going to run alone because I’d be much too slow since I never ran (I was a classical dancer), but once he decided he was out of shape and out of practice he decided I could run with him. We have yet to run together, though. I think we’ll find where he’s somewhat out of shape, I’m really out of shape since I was never in shape to run in the first place.

We also talk about trying tennis (for exercise) since we have access to the courts in Seven Hills. They’re outdoor.  I took lessons when I was young and in college, but I’m not good. I have this indescribable fear of flying round things. However, I am overcoming this fear one ball at a time.

Life is good.

PC and Me Updates

It seems to be time, again, for a PC update.

PC is back to his pre-hospital self, much more than he was. Some of the adjustment issues we were having either were adjusted to or went away. Praise God.

I don’t hurt so much any more for PC and his device. I care, it’s there, but I don’t feel like crying so much any more.

On another note, hospital scenes in TV shows or movies are difficult to handle. I found myself wanting to cry at Sense and Sensibility during the sick scene when Kate Winslet was in bed with a fever. What? I don’t cry at these sort of scenes in movies. Honey, don’t comment on that. Fine, I do cry, but it’s harder now, than ever, to deal with hospital or death bed scenes. Not that PC was on his deathbed, but you get the idea.

I have nightmares, and I don’t know if they are after effects of PC’s hospitalization or something else. The last dream I had this week was that I was in the hospital and the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, and I was ready to go home. Sounds like PC’s visit, right?

This is enough reflection, I’m tearing up.

PC Update

I had several questions about PC’s health and recovery lately. PC is doing great. He seems to be getting back to his pre-hospitalization strength and self. There are some things that are different now, that probably won’t ever go back to how they were before.

PC is back to work full time, which usually means 50+ hours per week for him. He’s doing most, if not all, of the things he did before with no complications due to his ICD. Remember, he was cautioned about exposure to things like blue tooth, ungrounded wires, and other electromagnetic sources.

It’s been six weeks since PC was discharged from the hospital. Time flies and doesn’t depend on whether you are having fun.

Updates on PC

PC is doing well and he was released to drive again, right before our anniversary. Actually, the 27th, but just in time for love and romance weekend. PC doesn’t have to take any medications as a result of the device. The doctors had him on a beta blocker, but the doctor didn’t see that he needed to continue them. The beta blocker is supposed to stop the abnormal heart rhythm that causes PC’s heart to stop. Except PC was on the beta blocker when the EKG picked up the abnormal wave, so I’m not too sure. Of course, they were electrically stimulating his heart trying to make it stop at the time. Sorry, back to the beta blocker. The doctor said we wouldn’t know if PC needed it unless he went off it and had another episode. We’re praying for no more episodes.

The device is a personal barometer. It’s been bothering him since the humidity went up. Go figure. I don’t have to call my mom-in-law any more to find out if it’s going to rain, my husband can do it now.

(Honey, you’re not reading this, right?)

To be very real for a moment. Adjusting to the ICD is a lot harder than I anticipated. It makes me hurt whenever it’s bothering PC. It doesn’t physically bother me, I just hurt for PC. Does that make sense? You can see the outline where the device sits, and certain shirts allow it to show through. (Think bra lines for women, you know there are some bras that you can’t wear with certain shirts because they show.) It’s taking some adjustment to get used to the change. I don’t find it repulsive or disturbing. In fact, it’s a part of PC now, and I accept it as such. In fact, I don’t even notice it unless PC says something.

Otherwise, everything is good. No episodes, PC drives again, and no medication! God is good.

PC Update

PC’s doing well. He has a follow up appointment tomorrow.

One of the biggest parts of the ICD, well there are a lot of big things, but in this case, a thing that’s really not that significant, unless you’ve spent you’re entire married life letting someone else do it, is that PC’s not allowed to drive. That means that I did all the driving these last two weeks. We’re hoping the doctor will lift that prohibition tomorrow, for both our sakes. I hate to drive, especially here, and PC get’s very frustrated because I don’t take the best route to places. And, heaven forbid, if I’m talking, I get very distracted and do things like miss my turn (or exit).

Today’s our fourth wedding anniversary. It’s only been four years? Just kidding, of course. But it seems like I’ve been married forever, and then it also seems like just yesterday I was walking down the aisle toward the man who would become my husband in a few short minutes. A lot of life has happened since then, like my husband dying (the doctor said it, not me).

I’m not taking it lightly, even though I pretend to on the outside. Inside, I still want to cry, and feel that familiar lump form when I think about what didn’t happen. There aren’t any what ifs for me. There’s just the thank GOD that he allowed PC to live.

On that note, I’m headed off to celebrate four blissful years(with some not so blissful moments).

I hate hospitals…

I’ve had a lot of ideas for titles for this post. But none seem right, not even this one.

This is a short recounting of my latest adventure that I would not repeat or choose.

It was before 3:00 A.M. and I was sleeping. PC’s alarm would be going off at 5:45AM. He growls, which wakes me. He’s making sounds, like he’s having a nightmare. I try to wake him up but he won’t wake up. I turn on the light and call 911. I felt that cold knot of fear which made me quivery, but I wasn’t going to let it get the better of me.  A million thoughts flashed through my head, what if he dies, being one of them.  I would love to say I wasn’t panicking, and I don’t think I was, however, I was crying and I remember saying, “You’re not doing this.”

PC was groaning, which the 911 operator called agonal breathing.  His breathing slows, then stops. When he stops breathing, it dawns on me to check for a pulse. No pulse. I ask the operator if she thinks CPR is in line. She verifies that it is. With my superhuman powers, that I left at the hospital, I lift PC off the bed and do CPR until the paramedics arrive and take over.

The paramedics carried PC out into the living room, intubated him, and used the defibrillator to shock his heart back into a normal rhythm.  While they were taking care of PC, I changed into clothes, and called my dad, who didn’t answer the phone.  I didn’t want to call my in-laws, but finally knew I had to.  Because I couldn’t reach my dad, I called a close friend to come to help me.  Eventually, I reached my father by calling my sister.  I called his cell, the house, my youngest sister, and then my middle sister before reaching anyone.

I was going to ride with the paramedics in the ambulance, but they took off without me. Luckily, I asked where they were going.

At the hospital, though I did not know it until much later, PC’s heart stopped again and they had to use the defibrillator again.

Ignorance is bliss, and I wasn’t scared, so much, at this point. I think mainly I was in shock or maybe even thought I would wake up and find it all a dream.

When the hospital finally admited PC I am allowed to go back and see him. He’s unconscious. At this point, all he had was the paralytic the paramedics gave him when they itubated at the house. PC’s mother is a nurse.  She was very worried that he was not conscious, even though he was not sedated.  PC started twitching which seemed to indicate that the paralytic was wearing off and the hospital started him on a sedative because he was intubated and on a ventilator. They explained PC would panic if he woke up in this condition.

We moved to a room in the ICU once all the normal emegency room tests were completed. Up to this point all the tests, x-rays, etc. didn’t indicate why his heart stopped.

In the ICU, the nurse kindly tried to warn me that brain damage due to lack of oxygen was probable. This is when my composure finally slipped, for a moment.  PC and I talked about life support and pulling the plug just a few days before this.  PC indicated that he did not wish to remain on life support, including a ventilator, if he was dead.  I did not know what to do, so I argued with the nurse that I called 911 immediately, and PC was still breathing when I called. And even as I was doing CPR, he’d try to take a breath after I gave him two breaths. My mind was reeling. No, he couldn’t be brain damaged. It couldn’t be. PC’s mom, who is a nurse, already recognized the warning signs, and she confirmed the diagonosis. Taking a quick step back, if my nurse mother in law is crying over the condition of her son, it is probably pretty serious. “Serious as a heart attack” now means something to me.

Jump forward a few hours. PC slept away the day, thanks to the sedative. In the evening, he woke up (but wasn’t really aware of what was going on) and wouldn’t respond to the sedatives that he was given. He looked at me and focused on me. (Good sign)

He started panicking because of the ventilator, and started trying to pull it out. At that point, the nurse called the doctor, and the decision was made that they could extubate him. He was determined to pull out the tube despite the restrains and number of nurses attempting to hold him down, between 7 and 10 depending on who is telling the story. Afterward, they also stopped the sedatives, and he slept the rest of the afternoon. PC had no difficulty breathing on his own, in fact, his breathing was better off the machine than on it.

Sunday Night/Monday Morning was restless for PC. He woke up every hour or so, and I came to his side. Gradually, he was able to speak and would ask me where he was and why he was there. His short term memory wasn’t working. He asked me the same questions every time he woke up. He wouldn’t believe me that his heart stopped every time he asked.

Monday, though he had no short term memory, he was aware that he was in the hospital. The restraints came off, and he slept most of the day away. He had some visitors, all of whom he recognized. No long term memory issues, which is a good sign, and indicates that perhaps he doesn’t have any brain damage. Short term memory loss was probably due to the sedatives.

Tuesday, was even better, and he was down graded to IMC (intermediate care).

All the tests to this point were still normal, healthy, and strong. No indication of what made PC’s heart stop.

On Wednesday PC’s short term memory started working again. The doctor ordered a special heart MRI, that’s only done at one hospital in town, and an EP study that is done at the same hospital, but due to insurance, PC has to transfer to another hospital for it.

We left the hospital at 10AM. Arrived at at the next one at 10:30. Waited until 12:45 for the MRI. PC was in the MRI for an hour, before they pulled him out for an emergency MRI on a trauma patient. He waited outside for 1-2 hours. Not sure how long he was out before I was able to go back to him. I waited with him for an hour. He went back in, and wasn’t out until 5:20. There was some drama about the length of the test because the AMR driver and nurse were about to go off duty and if they did, PC would have to stay at the hospital that is not covered by insurance for the evening. It all worked out and we were on our way to the covered hospital.

I rode in the ambulance for my very first, and hopefully only, time. I helped PC to eat his lunch since he had nothing since breakfast.

Thursday, PC was not allowed to eat before his test in the afternoon. They decided on a heart cath as well as an EP study. They took him at 2PM. An hour later, he was back in the room and wasn’t supposed to move AT ALL for 6 hours. That means sitting up, lifting his head, moving his legs, etc. I fed him dinner. Do you know how hard it is to hold still for 6 hours?

Friday, PC again couldn’t eat before his test. They finally came at 3PM. It lasted 3 hours! This was the EP study, where they were electrically stimulating his heart to see if they could get it to stop again. I was nervous about the study and refused to leave the lobby with everyone else to go eat.  After the study, the doctor came out to say that he knew what was wrong and that they had to implant an ICD (internal defibrillator). Neither PC nor I wanted this, but there really was no other choice, and it wasn’t mine to make, ultimately.

PC came out of surgery at 9PM. He had to do the laying still thing again, but that wasn’t as hard this time because he was really tired from the procedures. I stayed with him until 1AM at his request.

Saturday, about 5PM, PC was discharged from the hospital.

So, what happened?

PC has a genetic disorder called Brugada Syndrome. It causes an abnormal rhythm that causes heart failure. He didn’t have a heart attack, which means the heart muscle is damaged, instead his heart is healthy. Of all the EKGs that were done, none showed the abnormal rhythm except the one during his EP study. We got two irregular waves before it went back to normal. Luckily, it manifested itself. Even if they (doctors) couldn’t determine what caused PC’s heart to stop, I think he would have the ICD.

PC is alive and doesn’t have any brain damage. That’s what is important. Thinking about the events. Thank God that he made a sound that woke me so I could call 911. Thank God I’d just learned CPR. Thank God he wasn’t brain damaged. And Thank God they discovered what made his heart stop so I’ll never have to call 911 and do CPR like this again. God really was looking out for us.