The Day I Lived: Ann’s Story

Posted on February 23, 2016 by Ann Wilkinson

One year ago, Wednesday, February 18, 2015 was the end of my “before” and the beginning of my “after”, the day I lived.

Ann at Fountain House

I had not been feeling well all winter. I was extremely tired all the time. There were days that I was expected at work and just could not get out of bed. After a few days with absolutely no relief, I decided to try a visit to Roosevelt Hospital’s emergency room. The emergency room was pretty quiet, with just a few people waiting. I took a form, filled it out, and returned it to the registrar.

As I turned around to sit down, the most intense pain spread over my upper left side.  The last thing I remember is telling someone that I thought I was having a heart attack. I never lost consciousness, however, and was alert and answering questions. I was awake and speaking throughout the cardiac catheterization, but can’t remember any of it.  My arteries were so blocked that the doctor had to insert a balloon pump to keep my heart beating until I could undergo open-heart surgery. The next morning I was transferred to St Lukes Hospital, where I was given a quadruple bypass. The surgery lasted for 8 hours. They removed veins from my leg to replace the arteries in my heart. I was heavily sedated and unconscious for the next five days.

Ann and Raj at the hospital 

The first thing I became aware of was people yelling at me to cough and breathe, and searing pain as the breathing tube was pulled out of my throat. I was so confused! When the hospital employees stopped poking and fussing around me, I saw my sister. I couldn’t speak, but she very calmly explained what had happened to me. I couldn’t believe that I had no memory of what had happened. The surgeon explained that because my heart attack was so severe, I would have died had I not already been in the emergency room when it happened. There would not have been enough time for anyone to come to my assistance. Wow! Some greater power was watching over me and decided it wasn’t my time!

So now comes the “after.” Recovery was slow and painful, and there were times I really felt sorry for myself. Many of the incisions became infected and thus the healing process took longer. My voice sounded terrible, like something out of The Exorcist! I also found out that I had Diabetes, so I had to learn both cardiac and diabetic diets. Between the hospital and rehab, I was inside for eight weeks. I did, however, get to miss all of the horrible snow and ice storms!

I now take 18 pills a day and I’m still learning how to consistently follow a healthy diet. If it’s warm outside, I walk two miles per day, and if not, I use a recumbent bike to exercise. I’ve finally gotten back to being more involved at Fountain House, taking part in groups like the Women’s Group. I’ve especially enjoyed writing for the newspaper. Finally, I am proud to say I’m back at work!

Ann at work at Fountain House 

It is still a learning process for me and there are still some bad days. But, above all, I’m grateful that I’m alive, and plan on living for many more years to come. My one piece of advice to everyone is not to second-guess any pain you might be feeling. Make sure you get any type of discomfort checked out immediately!

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