We worked together for many years. I suppose the strongest bond I shared with this friend was that we were both living with heart disease. Oftentimes we’d share “war stories,” take turns wearing Holter monitors or King of Hearts to work, reporting in if we got any “hits” during the time we were required to wear them. She also co-hosted my bridal shower at the office. We got many pictures, and it touched me to see how involved she got. She told me so many times how happy she was I’d finally found the love of my life. Seeing her with her husband, you saw two people deeply and madly in love, sharing such a respect for one another.
Sometimes on Mondays we’d share how our weekends had gone, as we waited our turn at the copier. Then there was the news her son was being shipped to the Middle East to fight in the war. At the time, I had a prayer wall in my living room with pictures and names of servicemen. Every day and every night I’d lay my hand on each picture and pray for that face, that life. When each one returned home, the picture proudly came down from the wall. She gave me a wallet-sized photo of her youngest son. It was the biggest one she had to spare. I carried it in my wallet until just recently. He became very special, taking up a place in my heart. I’d often ask her, “How’s our boy?” During a time another of our coworkers was undergoing a liver transplant, we’d join much of the staff several days a week at lunch and pray together for his healing. We all rejoiced the first day we saw him return to the office.
We were both blondes. We both loved to laugh. Her smile was infectious. The economy hit a few months ago, and due to a layoff, my friend and coworker of many years left. She was a woman of dignity, never saying anything negative about having to leave. I just remember the day she came into my office to tell me “goodbye.” We embraced for what seemed an eternity, crying from deep within our gut, reassuring each other how much love we shared. But she came back often. Matter of fact, only two weeks ago she dropped in on a Friday afternoon just to visit with me and my supervisor. I suppose the last thing I will remember is her sitting in the wingback chair across from my desk, her face aglow as she shared how happy she was at her new job. She got every Friday afternoon off, and was using it to come spend time with us!
On Thursday I was informed she went in for “a simple procedure,” merely a heart catheterization. She coded. It took 40 minutes to revive her. She was placed on life support. They put her in a hyperbaric chamber to try to reduce swelling of the brain. Later that afternoon we were told she had slipped into a coma. Friday morning I got the news that the family had decided to disconnect life support. Shortly before lunch there was the office-wide e-mail that she had passed away. She was barely 50 years old. The memories of how I lost my dear mother to heart disease came flooding back. I remembered hearing doctors and nurses tell us, “We have to control the swelling in the brain…we don’t know how much brain damage has been suffered…if she will just wake up…” It’s all recounted in my book. Hearing the news of my friend’s passing, apprehension rushed over me, aware that I will be undergoing a cardiac treadmill stress test soon. You see, it was on that treadmill on Friday the 13th, in September 1996 that I suffered a heart attack at the age of 44. There was 96% blockage in the left anterior descending artery, a/k/a “the widow maker.” Later I’d be told it was a miracle I made it.
Why is it that our human nature drives us to slack off in speaking up or moving to action for the causes we so passionately believe in until we experience another traumatic event that reminds us of how important it is to get the message out? So, for Debbie, I say this – HEART DISEASE KILLS. Symptoms in women are not usually the same as in men. My second blockage with another stent implant came as a result of having “muscle spasms” between my shoulder blades. That was the only symptom. That was an 84% blockage.
Heart disease – I’m back – with a vengeance!! The fight is back on!
Visit Carolyn’s website: http://www.orangeblossomwishes.com
In honor and memory of Debbie K, friend, coworker and sister in Christ.