It’s now been Seven years since my out-of-hospital, pre-ICD, sudden cardiac arrest — and I have had 7 further arrests and ICD shocks — but I found this old blog post I wrote one year after the event, that for me is an interesting look back at how I felt during those initial months. Perhaps it might help someone here if they are feeling the same way.
No movie, song, book or blog can prepare you for life after death. No matter how many stories you hear, or people you see, it doesn’t make dealing with the long-term complications any easier to bear.
It has become evident to me recently that living after dying has a much more devastating effect than the sudden deterioration of your physical self – they give you pills for that.
What they don’t tell you can happen, such as in my case, is that death can take a fearless (perhaps cocky) young man and shatter his dreams, ambitions and confidence into a million tiny pieces, before taking a torch and melting the remaining shards to nothing.
It’s not like I have made it easier on myself this last year. I climbed a mountain, without sleep and without medication; I’ve maintained my unhealthy diet of soda cans and junk food; and I have participated in minimal, if any, exercise.
But it isn’t as though I want it to be this way.
How many nights has it been in this past year, that I have cried myself to sleep wondering what will be. Questions repeat themselves constantly, tormenting and torturing my dreams. I died so easily the first time, when will the final strike be? My defibrillator hasn’t gone off yet, surely the time is coming? Was that a beep? Is my heart beeping? Oh no I am about to be shocked by a metal rod that travels through the top of my heart and rests on the bottom. Will it hurt? I better bite a pillow just in case.
How funny it is to read after a sleepless night that defibrillators don’t beep – I must have been hearing things.
Even when not sleeping, these thoughts infest your brain. The simplest activities become a game of Russian roulette. Dare I run up those stairs? Should I go for a walk? Play some Basketball? Not likely. And over all, the single most haunting question always lingers: How long until I get zapped? It’s like walking around with a bomb implanted in your chest.
My life will never be the same.
If it were just these personal issues I could probably get help for them. But the hand holding the torch over the shattered pieces of your life is not your own, but those of others:
– It’s your friends, who tiptoe around you as if in any moment you may drop dead at their feet.
– It’s your family, who wrap you so tight in bubble wrap you need a pair of safety scissors just to use the restroom.
– It’s employers, who fear that they might just be the ones unlucky enough to have you die again on their premises.
It was nice to be fired while in a coma, that was class.
Finally, what hurts the most is the realization that you are not as strong as you thought you were. I used to think I could think my way out of this depression. Sometimes I think I still can. But it’s been a year now, and the longer it goes on the less people are willing to allow you to use it as an excuse. The ol’ sudden cardiac death card doesn’t work anymore, and maybe I played it a little loose – but I still need it in my deck, because this house is broken – and it’s about to fold.
What sucks is that no one knows what it’s like. “Just get a job” my mum barks. Right, even though it took me seven days to write a cover letter for one application, I’ll go and get a job tomorrow. How can you sell yourself when you know you’re a faulty product? Yes, I want a job – but I am defective, what if I do happen to die on the job.
I haven’t worked in over eight months, do I even know how to do the job? How do I explain my absence if I get an interview? I died so I took 8 months off to sulk? Doesn’t sound too impressive.
And back to friends, especially friends in positions to get you jobs. “Yeah, I could get you a job but its carrying boxes and stuff and I wouldn’t want you to have another heart attack.”
That totally makes sense, because it was definitely all that heavy lifting in my office job that caused me to have the sudden cardiac arrest in the first place.
As I said earlier, no single moment in my life has been able to kill so many dreams in one hit as the SCA did.
I wanted to be a police officer… swish, throw that one in the bin.
My backup if I didn’t enjoy advertising was to reapply for the Air Force… swish, that one is out of the equation too.
All I have now is my degree, a degree in something I am still not certain I enjoy; a degree which I have now had for 6 months but yet been employed for.
The only thing I can take from the experience is, “Well, it could be worse”.
And yes, it could be – and please don’t think I am not putting things in perspective. I know I am lucky to have a defibrillator and medication and even be alive because of a paramedic system that is world class. I know I still have a quality of life some will never enjoy and I have the ability to change most of everything I complained about here. I understand that – but it doesn’t make me feel any better.