It’s funny how life-threatening situations bring out the essence of our personalities.
I politely asked for the ambulance to be called, pausing the clutching of my chest momentarily as I peaked into the living room door. The Bearded Man obviously had no idea what was going on, how could he, and he gently said that maybe I just needed to breath deeply and relax. Nodding, by this point speaking was painful, I closed the door and sat myself down on the floor in the kitchen.
It’s the 27th of December, in 16 hours we’re to take a flight to Bangkok, and I’m clutching my chest like an old fat dude at a fancy restaurant grabbing the table cloth while crashing to the floor, red wine pooling around the body perfectly painting the drama of having a heart attack. Thanks, every american drama ever made, as I’m now sure I’m having a heart attack.
I try and dial 112. The dialer on my phone isn’t working, and hasn’t been for a few days… so I give Skype a go, knowing there might be some credit. Yet, that doesn’t work either. I hate my phone to the point where I’m literally about to throw it out the window, but decide not to as that would void the guarantee. The experience was proving to be a funky mixture of surreal and mundane.
A few more pangs of pain and I finally decide it’s time that the ambulance is called.
Soppiness ensues, as I quite literally don’t believe I’m going to be the same person, or maybe not a person at all, when on the other side of whatever is happening.
I have to laugh at myself, as I’m constantly self-checking how delirious I am. I go through the multiplication table, I start going through how much I remember from the day, and then backwards. Everything seems intact, except the agonising pain in my head and heart and the shaking. I just can’t stop shaking. And it’s not tremors, it’s full-blown seizure shaking.
When just starting my bachelors I was fascinated by stroke patients, and so I wrote a report on my findings on whether left or right stroke sufferers were more likely to solve mathematical problems with obvious patterns (there’s a point to this, bare with me).
And so I was hyperaware of all the symptoms and sensations that happen during a stroke, and spoke aloud to myself “there’s pain in my arm, but it’s not radiating from my chest”…”you can control your face” (weird grimacing)…”you are confused, but a different confused”. Why I thought I might be having a stroke, I don’t know, but I ruled it out.
To me sticking to the facts was comforting. I kept talking out loud to myself and when speaking to the paramedics on the phone I was exceptionally helpful. I ruled out any type of misinterpretation by being overly verbose. Still, even thought I was conscious and being articulate I caught on that the woman I was speaking to was doing her absolute best to get someone to me even faster.
The Bearded Man suddenly stood and looked out the window, I saw the blue lights reflected on the ceiling and finally relaxed. Not for long though as a tall paramedic was suddenly towering over me and shone me in the face with a torch, “don’t pass out” he ordered. Then they got to work.
Moments later we’re racing down our main street in 150 km/h with the sirens going. I hear as my paramedic informs the team waiting that we’ll be in 1-2 minutes. He prepares the defibrillators and as he sees me glancing at them, trying not to give in to just falling asleep, he pats the machine and tells me not to pass out.
I don’t pass out, I drift in and out of being aware, but I stay conscious. I don’t remember a lot from the intensive care unit. I do remember glancing at the five doctors staring at a screen and the bizarreness of them between themselves not being able to work out why the printer wasn’t working. “You have to go through the network settings”…”I thought it was via the printer settings?”…“Does ctrl p not work in this program?”… and then Bearded Man chirping “Um, I work with that stuff, do you need help?”, they just stared blankly at him. In the end one of the doctors runs out to find the ECT printout that’s apparently been printed in another room.
I’m 23, how on earth can something like this happen?
Life threatening arrhythmia. I’d say it came out of nowhere, but that wouldn’t be true. I’ve had heart issues before, but this was on a whole other level. It seemed impossible that I caused it myself, but… I did. I quite literally nearly killed myself. I keep saying it’s surreal, but it REALLY IS.
A mixture of not recovering from pneumonia, then not recovering from a common cold, and continuously loosing sleep… coupled with constantly feeling stressed and downing about 2 pots (pots not cups) of coffee each morning made my heart say hey, enough is enough.
Sure, I decided to take time out last semester and finish my degree a bit later… but I lost sleep over it, and I lost sleep over my dream company not wanting me this summer (even though they want me at a later date). And then there was the fact that I worked every waking moment in Korea, I completed three of their heaviest courses and two others in one semester, and KTH decided to convert the courses so that I didn’t have enough points to complete my bachelor. I lived in Korea for 6 months and I visited Seoul for 6 hours in total. All I did was work, and yet that wasn’t enough.[one_fifth_last][/one_fifth_last]
I joke that the only luck I have is bad luck. That’s ridiculous, I’m born into wealth in all its forms; I have an education, I have a family, I have a roof over my head, I was provided the medical care to survive for 40 euros. 40 euros is nothing to me, and yet I know villages that would dance for days for that kind of money. I have so many friends in bad places, people that would see their families starve to death if they paused for a moment…
What happens to me if I pause? God knows, I still haven’t stopped. Putting myself on the sidelines wouldn’t have “major” consequences, which I know. But I can’t stop.
I have no wisdom for you. In fact I’m looking for wisdom. I put myself in a situation I never want to experience again, yet days after I was in my old patterns. Except now I’m clutching my side while faffing. Actually, I might even be worse. I sent a desperate email yesterday to a conference I need to go to at the end of this month. Should I really be rubbing shoulders with major companies at the moment? What do I know. In my mind I’ve pinpointed the escape route. I want to finish my masters, but not now. If I can land a job in the valley for a year, I’ll be OK for a while. Heck, I’ll even be happy. All this is to get there… all I want is to be amidst the startups, the tech and the geniuses. If I can just get there… That’s what I keep telling myself. If I don’t, I’ll continue studying. Boom, I’ve set the path for merely two choices.
I was going to name this post “Patient AND Student, is it possible?”, but the above poured out. I have nothing to give except what happened and what I’m experiencing.
Love to you all, take care,
Greta · January 15, 2016 at 9:51 pm
Shit, vilken hemsk upplevelse evita :( jag har inte gått igenom samma sak som du men jag är oerhört tacksam att jag var tvungen att sjukskriva mig och försöka hitta tillbaka till mitt liv av att vara frisk och nöjd. Jag hoppas du kommer till insikt om vad som är bäst för dig. Kram
Ned · January 17, 2016 at 2:28 pm
You need to calm down, so young and so naive! I started checking in on you after Eindhoven, you made such a impression on everybody you met. I think everybody from students to the staff and even the director recognized you after the first day. Funny, creative, very very intelligent. You are lucky that you both have technical skill and social skill, pls don’t worry, the best jobs are waiting for you.
Tina Britton · January 19, 2016 at 9:16 pm
That is music to my ears. How wonderful to hear that you recognize the same traits in my superstar daughter. (I knew it wasn’t just me!) All we have to do now is to convince her of same and hope she can slow down a bit. Those top companies will indeed be lucky to have her. Thanks for your very astute and heart warming comments.