Thursday, April 12, 2012

How to save a life (a two-for-one blog)

Earlier this year, I began to wonder how much longer I'd blog. I suppose I'd started to wonder at what point writing about life and babies and heart attacks would get "boring".  And I started to get paranoid that with the busy-ness of life, I'd run out of meaningful things to say and the time to say them well. I brought my worries up with Brian because he always presents the most logical thoughts for my consideration. 

Brian: Well, do you not want to blog anymore?
Rachel: No, I like it.
Brian: And you like writing too, right?
Rachel: Well, yes, I really do.
Brian: So then, what are you worrying about? If you still enjoy it, keep doing it.  And when it's time to stop, you will.

I realize - you can't stop writing if you don't know how the story (or the chapter) ends. And then, the most timely of things happened - twice.

Two acquaintances reached out to me.  The first suffers from heart disease and needed some advice about treatment.  I'll be the first to say that I'm not a doctor but I know more about the heart than most people my age (or in this country) do.  With my encouragement, she sought treatment.  Most women ignore the signs and symptoms of heart disease until it's much too late.  I'd like to think that sharing my experience made her decision easier to make.

The second acquaintance sent me this email:

Hey Rachel!
I hope you and little man (and your hubby) are good :) So, I just had to tell you something. I was doing my rotation in the cardiac critical care unit last month, and we had a young lady with kind of atypical chest pain. She had some chest trauma but to me there was something that just didn't sit right about her. For some reason, I thought of you and your spontaneous coronary artery dissection. So, I asked my attending about the possibility of SCAD in this patient.
Long story short (and Hippa details spared) she was in fact suffering a dissection. Im happy to report that she's doing well!
But I just had to tell you the story-- 


Whenever I speak about my experience, I always add this caveat that because I survived, I feel this duty to advocate for those who didn't.  To fight for understanding and the right treatment and to make the experience of heart disease REAL for the women in my life (and anyone who'll listen to me). Maybe the attending physician in this situation would have figured it out on their own....but most likely, they wouldn't have. And that woman, like the overwhelming majority of women with SCAD, would have died.  But.  There was someone who read my blog, knew what happened to me and asked the right questions at a critical time. And that woman, wherever she is, survived. 

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of my heart attack, what I have come to refer to as Heartiversary.  The night before, I was sitting in my bed with mom, sobbing because I couldn't get Cameron to latch.  Patiently, she spent time with us, placing him just right on a mound of pillows and helping me cram myself into his little mouth.  It felt like torture.  And finally, after about an hour and forty-five minutes, he did it. He latched and nursed for 8 minutes. I thought that was my miracle.  I had no idea. Tonight, Brian came home from a trip and we sat on the couch watching hockey while Cameron cruised around the coffee table, laughing and playing with (harassing) Mowgli.

When I think of this last year and how much my life has changed, there is always this nagging feeling of what would have happened (or wouldn't have happened) had I not survived. It's morbid, I know, but the feeling has yet to dissipate.  What would Cameron's life be like? Or Brian's? Where would they be today? Would Brian have listened to the request I made to my mom when I was in the ER (Tell Brian to quit his job and move to Colorado!) Would the people who read this blog have been the people to write sad RIP posts on my facebook wall? Tooooo creepy.  And happily, that is not the way my story has played out.

All of this being said, tomorrow feels like the end of a chapter. And the beginning of another.  I think this story includes more of my son, more of me and mommyhood and life and heart health.  I think this story includes the yet-to-be baby girl Siebert, wherever or whenever she may be. So heartiversary doesn't bring an end to this story, just the beginning of the next phase.

When I was in college, a mentor shared a written reflection with me that she often used as a "climate check" for where she was in her life.  She called it "Gretchen in a nutshell".  Here's my most recent "Rachel in a nutshell":

I love spending summer Sundays with good weather, good food and good friends.
I love my son in a way I never knew I was capable.
I love endless possibility.

I feel satisfied when I can cross off every item on a list.
I feel satisfied if I'm sweating when I work out.
I feel satisfied after watering the plants.

I get worried about having another heart attack or stroke while I'm alone with Cameron.
I get worried that I don't listen enough.
I get worried that I'm not doing enough.

When I was little, I accidently swallowed an inch worm.
When I was little, I loved visiting my aunts in Texas and cried for days when I had to come home.
When I was little, I never learned to tie my shoe laces the right way.

I collect pressed pennies.
I collect scraps from magazines to make collages when I can't find the right words to write.
I collect pictures of my feet whenever I'm on vacation.

I can picture myself at age 7 with no front teeth.
I can picture myself at age 17 with short, spikey pixie hair.
I can picture myself at age 25 on the night I met Brian.

I will never forget the way I felt on my wedding day.
I will never forget how cute Cameron's milk-drunk faces were.
I will never forget how lucky I am.

It frustrates me when I see pregnant women.
It frustrates me that I can't always balance my reality as a working mom.
It frustrates me that you can only do so much.

I feel helpless because sometimes, there are no answers.
I feel helpless when I watch the news.
I feel helpless when I forget my umbrella.

I wish upon falling stars, pennies in fountains, eyelashes and 11:11 as much as I can.
I wish that science could move faster.
I wish my son all the happiness he can possibly stand.

I am proud of the dad my husband has become.
I am proud that I fundraise for a school that is changing St. Louis.
I am proud to share my heart story.

I hope we're making the right choices.
I hope to complete my family in the next few years.
I hope to be around for a long, long time.

I crave the old "normal" sometimes.
I crave good cheese, red meat, fried chicken and brownies like you wouldn't believe..
I crave naps.

I admire the honesty and strength of my friend Colleen.
I admire my mom's capacity for unconditional love.
I admire Katherine Leon and Laura Haywood-Cory who put SCAD "on the map".

I have been told I'm a "sleeper" hit.
I have been told to slow down.
I have been told that I am brave.

I do not have alot of motivation to organize my closet (it's intimidating!).
I do not have alot of downtime.
I do not have alot patience with my own mistakes and shortcomings.

I enjoy date nights with my husband.
I enjoy folding laundry.
I enjoy snuggling with my boys on Saturday mornings..

I think an ingenious invention is the moby wrap.
I think an ingenious invention is the Road ID bracelet.
I think an ingenious invention is the french press.

I find an outlet to life in blogging!
I find an outlet to life with good friends over a bottle of wine.
I find an outlet to life by taking vacations.

I am outraged when I see obese children.
I am outraged that women still make less than men in comparable jobs.
I am outraged by insurance companies and their insanely poor customer service .

I would not be who I am if I wasn't stubborn like my dad.
I would not be who I am without Anytown, Nerinx Hall, & Gannon Scholars.
I would not be who I am without the support of my friends and family.

I have debated writing a book.
I have debated being a foster parent.
I have debated if I'm in the right place.

I do not go long without checking email.
I do not starve myself. EVER.
I do not know what will happen next.

I look forward to knowing more than I do now.
I look forward to continuously falling in love with my husband.
I look forward…. Yes. I look forward.

"I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see." - John Burroughs


  1. Beautifully written from a wise, beautiful soul!

  2. Wonderful, I look forward to many more blogs from you. Happy Heartiversary!