In the spirit of Heart Month I am sharing stories of fellow Heart Attack Survivors that I have met through The Under 55 Heart Attack Survivors Group on Facebook. Everyone has a story and I hope you will take a read and help us create awareness of the #1 Killer in North America.
Today, please meet Melissa Gillett.
My name is Melissa Gillett and I am 52 years old and have lived in San Diego, CA for the last 8 years, originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
I was 42 years old when I had my first heart attack. I was a banker and was working many hours in a stressful job. I was also a smoker, for 30 years! I was told by my doctor on a visit a few months before my HA “ what do you want? Your life or your job?” What a question from your Dr.! Well, I had just sold my house, so I thought…I’ll quit my job and lay by the pool at my new apt for the summer and then find another job. My children were 15, 19, 22 and I was a single Mom.
I started my summer by quitting my job, going to the library to get many books and laying out every day at the pool reading. It was relaxing or so I thought.
I didn’t feel good about 2 months or more before my HA, my teeth hurt, my jaw felt tired all the time, like I was chewing gum for years. I just didn’t feel good. One day after getting out of the hot tub I couldn’t breathe, I felt tingly all over and weird, it passed. 3 days later it happened again and lasted longer and it was a more painful this time. I mentioned it to my sister, who is a MD and she said if it happens again, call 911…(she’s always over protective of us, I’m not calling 911!)
Well, it happened again right after a massage, I was standing out with my masseur smoking a cig and it happened. She said I looked grey and asked if I was ok, I said yes and drove home in pain the whole wait, it didn’t go away this time…I called my sister and my parents and then 911….I was laying on my bed not knowing what was going on.
A Heart Attack never even crossed my mind, I was sweating, nauseated and wanted to pull my jaw off. Once the EMT got there, of course it went away…I didn’t want to go to the hospital…but I did…my sister was in the ambulance with me and when we got to the ER she told them to work me up for a heart attack…the doc looked at her and said….no…she’s a woman, young, not over weight it can’t be a Heart Attack!! Right then and there on the table I had another one….the look on my Mom’s face was the worst…I was in pain and she couldn’t help me….they rushed me to Cath Lab and stented one side of my ramus that was 99% blocked.
I was in the hospital for 5 days and was getting ready to go home when my jaw started hurting again….they took me back to cath lab and stented the other side of the ramus which was blocked….I came home after another 3 days and was scared to death it was going to happen again.
I learned to live with the fear and decided to go to school to become a X Ray technologist….I had quit smoking but everyone at school smoked, so I started again (stupid) it was stressful going to school and doing clinical but I loved it. Half way through my 2 yr program I had another Heart Attack, I was at home by myself and stressed out because I lost my engagement ring….it hit me hard…I called my son to come home and then 911….the last thing I remember for 15 days, is my son putting his hand under my nose to see if I was still breathing. I died and they used the paddles on me twice in the ambulance and once again in the ER. I was intubated for 13 days and they called my family in not knowing if I was going to make it. I remember waking up trying to pull out the tube so I could breathe….I opened my eyes and remember seeing my nephew and saying hi to him, I didn’t remember much of anything else. I kept asking questions, I had short term memory problems, I still have some memory problems now.
I cry as I write this. The memory is so scary but I’m so thankful to still be here! Cardiac Arrest now in my mind of fears.
Two years after this I was helping my daughter with her 13 month old son while awaiting the birth of her twin girls….they were born on Oct. 5th and Oct. 7th. During that time I had another Heart Attack and was in the same hospital as the twins…Because this hospital was out of town, they really didn’t know my history. I received another stent. More fear….another year passed and another HA and stent.
In total, I’ve had 4 Heart Attacks, cardiac arrest, 4 stents, and 15 angioplasties …..I have prinz metal, CAD. It’s been a rough ride! And you should see the size of my medical records!!!
My life has been profoundly affected. I remember a gal at church telling me that God has big plans for me and I ought to be afraid!!! hahaha!!!
People ask me if I saw the light when I died, I do not remember if I did but I do remember hearing the MOST beautiful music I’ve ever heard, not earthly but heavenly music. I have no fear of dying, I just don’t want to right now ! I don’t know where I’m going but I want to enjoy my life to the fullest, I’ve learned to be grateful for every day I open my eyes and try to live in the moment.
I did do cardiac rehab after my cardiac arrest…..then I moved to San Diego and have not…..I need to get back in the exercise mode!
3 things most important to me now are : My family, friends, and spending time with them!
My new dreams are to build my business so that I can help as many people as I can, see the world, do the things on my bucket list…which is growing daily! Hahah.
I’m not sure I wish to do anything I haven’t tried….I do wish I could still ride roller coasters!
My husband, my whole family has always been my biggest support….I have many friends too.I didn’t lose anyone that was worth keeping around….I was not going to deal with drama or have the life sucked out of me by negative people…so they are gone!’
The things that are said, maybe not funny but ….”its hard to remember that you are sick because you look so good”, “are you sure you’re Melissa Gillett?” as the nurse walks in the room with my chart! “you’re lying, right? no way have you had HA’s”
If I could go back in life…I would NOT smoke…would listen to my Mom, she was right about everything. I would also finish school before marriage!
This is the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced…and I think because it’s always on going, it never goes away but over the years I’ve learned to deal with it better….maybe!
I’m great because I’m made in the imagine of my loving heavenly Father….I’m a daughter of the King!
My advice to others, don’t smoke, learn to do something you love to rid your body of stress, find your passion in life and share it with the world.
Thank you for reading my story,