Step 1: Just Breathe!
by Hendrik Baird
Having a heart attack is no joke. Ask me. I've just had one.
The type of heart attack where you start saying goodbye to the people around you, because you realise that you are about to die. The kind where you can't breathe, where your chest is about to explode, where your reality suddenly spins out of control.
We all have to die at some point. We both accept and ignore this inevitable fact. We all know that everybody will die; we just conveniently forget to remember that this will happen to me, too.
So what do you do when you suddenly find yourself in a "this is it" situation? How do you react?
I felt both determined to stay alive and at the same time resigned to the fact that I was, in fact, in the process of dying. I had the clarity of mind to have my son, who was with me at the time, call a friend of mine for help. I wanted to stay alive!
Yet as the minutes ticked by and I could no longer breathe, during those long agonising moments when there was no more breath, I had to make peace with my own mortality, and quickly too! Even though we were speeding through traffic to get to the hospital, I resigned myself to the fact that I would not make it. This was the end.
At the same time remembering something I read on Facebook once, about coughing when you are having a heart attack, as it stimulates the heart muscle to contract and helps with breathing. (Easier said on Facebook than actually done in the throes of a full-scale cardiac episode! Yet I think this saved my life, because after doing it a few times the tension eased up a little as we approached the hospital and I could breathe again.)
It literally was a delicate balancing act between life and death. For that one crisis-filled hour I tottered from one to the other. In the end it was time that saved me. I will forever be thankful to my dear friend who rushed through afternoon traffic to the hospital. If it had taken any longer to reach help, the damage might have been much more severe and indeed could have led to my early expiry due to lack of oxygen.
So here is the first lesson in surviving a heart attack: Just breathe! (Even if it means coughing to keep the breath going!)
I have been asked if I view my own mortality differently now because of what happened. Strangely I don't think the severity of what has happened has fully made itself known yet, it being revealed slowly, incrementally, through small daily realisations.
I have been told it will take at least a year for it to fully sink in.
So how does one survive such an event and its consequences? Are there ways to ease some aspects of surgery and manage the pain? Can you speed up the healing process? How do you survive the tedium of waiting at a state hospital? And how do you survive the food?
As a way to deal with what has happened, and at the same time as an insight to someone else who might have had a similar experience, or perhaps even for someone who sometime in the future might need this information: There is to follow a few weekly articles about various aspects of surviving a heart attack.
I will share the techniques I used from time to time to deal with various issues, for instance in dealing with daily injections or to manage post-operative pain and infection. I will share my own thoughts and feelings and the insights of those who supported me and carried me through these past few months.
At various times during the weeks that I spent in hospital, several of my friends commented that they knew somebody who had gone through the same thing as I and that they were doing so well after successful surgery similar to mine. This reassured me. I have a similar intention in writing this. To reassure you that everything will be all right. I have been there. I have survived, for now. Use what you can from my experience.
A heart attack changes your life. As a survivor you have to face the consequences. You have to make changes. I am facing the consequences head-on, taking it one day at a time. For the moment, I am here, in this moment.
Soon we will all die. Me too. But for the moment I will just breathe. While I breathe, I am still alive.
So just breathe!
© www.hypnosis-works.co.za 25/05/2014