Six months is equal to approximately 180 days, 4,320 hours, or 259,200 minutes. To some, six months seems to be an excruciatingly long amount of time. To others, six months may seem to go by in the blink of an eye. Think of how much or how little one can accomplish in six months. Unfortunately, an unexpected circumstance may interrupt our lives and alter the rest of our future. It is at that time when we finally realize that six months may not be so long after all. In the past, I have been guilty of getting caught up in my daily routine that I did not take time to cherish each moment. Now, I know that I will never take a heart beat for granted again.
There was an unexpected incident that occurred in the year 2007 that changed my life forever. My mother was out showing homes in Henderson, Nevada; a town that is just outside the outskirts of Las Vegas. A town that I am now living in again. It was a typical warm, dry, and windy summer afternoon. My mother, who was 34 years old at the time, was stopped at a red light. This intersection also happens to be only three miles from my current home, 13 years later. A car behind her was traveling at a speed of approximately 35 miles per hour and had rear-ended her. This accident caused damage to my mother’s car, whiplash to my mother, and painful bulging discs to protrude from my mother’s spine. The other and vehicle was completely unharmed. This moment had also marked the beginning of my mother’s current twelve year journey through a serious and rare heart condition.
Prior to this moment, my mother had a healthy heart. She exercised often, did not smoke or drink alcohol, and she was at an ideal weight for her age and height. A normal heart will pace at an average of about 60 to 80 beats per minute, unless the person is exercising. Almost immediately after the accident, my mother’s heart would race over 180 beats per minute by simply standing up out of bed, getting ready in the morning, and walking from the front door to her car. My mother spent months traveling all over the country, from UCLA to Vanderbilt and many places in between, in attempt to find a doctor who could figure out what had caused this. Each doctor replied with almost an identical response as the previous doctor, “I don’t think I have ever seen a case like this. We have no idea what is going on.” After many frustrating doctor visits, there was a doctor who discovered that her symptoms seem to relate closely to a rare heart condition called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. It was somewhat encouraging to have an idea of what was the cause of her symptoms. However, the condition of her heart was worsening and the cardiologists could not determine how they were going to fix her heart. Over the next few years, the walls and ventricles in my mother’s heart were weakening severely as her heart began to go into heart failure. I still clearly remember getting a devastating phone call from my father telling me that the doctors said my mother has less than six months to live. At the age of 16, I was told that I would have only a mere fraction of time longer to spend with my mother; the woman who gave birth to me, who raised me, and who had become my best friend. I was in complete shock and absolutely devastated.
Anyone who has met my mother will tell you that she is one of the most inspiring, encouraging, and joyful people they have met, despite her daily battle. My mother did not drop everything in her life and lay around like the doctors suggested. She also did not give up hope; rather, she used this situation to take advantage of however much time she had left. Although she would to go on with life the best she could, there were still some necessary changes that she needed to make. First, she could no longer exercise because it would cause her heart to race over 200 beats per minute and she would nearly faint. Secondly, my parents used to walk several miles a night together; however, they had to discontinue those as well because it would cause my mother severe chest pain and dizziness. In a one year period from February 2011 until February 2012, my mom had undergone six major heart surgeries. I am unable to count the times she was admitted into the hospital or how many times I have visited her in an Intensive Care Unit. Each hospital stay, my father would willingly stay right by my mother’s side until she was stable enough to go home. Sometimes it would be several days, other times she was at a hospital for several weeks. After having several different types of pacemakers implanted into her chest, my mother’s surgeons decided to perform a complete ablation of her SA and AV nodes of her heart. The surgeons also put in a bi-ventricular three lead cardiac re-synchronization therapy device. This device is usually only implanted in patients with extreme heart failure or very elderly patients, and is treated as a last resort option. Her heart is currently one hundred percent relying on a machine to control her heart rate; However, her mind is one hundred percent trusting in God and his plan for her life.
What do I know that others may not know much about? I know that unexpected events can happen in our life that will change our lives forever. I know what it feels like to be told at the age of 16 that your mother may not live much longer. I learned that attitude means everything and choosing to have a positive outlook no matter what you are going through will help you to push forward in any circumstance life throws your way. I’ve realized that sometimes it takes a difficult or even tragic situation to bring people closer together. I know that even in the midst of my mother’s constant struggle, God is still faithful and has blessed my family tremendously. I know the overwhelming feelings of fear, anxiety, and concern while waiting in a hospital waiting room for up to eight hours at a time to hear whether or not my mother’s heart surgery was successful or not. I know more about the intricate parts of the human heart than the average person. I know that my mother has exceeded her diagnosed remaining life expectancy and has made it at least thirteen years longer than her doctors expected. I know that my mother is strong because of all she is continuing to go through. I know that no one is guaranteed forever, and that not one moment of our lives should go to waste. Most importantly, I know that I will never take a single heartbeat, a mere minute, or any person for granted again. We all only have one life to live, and I want to make the moments count – as if I had only six more months to live.
To read more about my mother’s 13+ year journey with her pacemaker, click here to read her blog, or follow her on Facebook where she regularly posts inspiration and is transparent about the highs and lows of her continuous and current heart health journey. My mother is currently unable to continue working at her dream career as a real estate agent due to her health conditions. A sweet soul set up a GoFundMe, which you can find here if you feel led to bless her and my father with helping them pay for their medical and living expenses while they rely solely on my father’s income.