“2016”

2016. As I sit here, preparing myself to embark on the journey of sharing one of the most challenging years of my life, my hands shake, a pit has formed in my stomach and a feeling of uneasiness has come over me. I have not written in two months because thinking of sharing this part of my story is scary, but more terrifying is the idea of processing it myself. In the beginning of this adventure, I promised that I would be transparent and honest, with both my successes and struggles, in hopes of helping others, so I will do just that. No matter how difficult.

Life was comfortable, or so I thought. I was moving into my fifth year working as a Pediatric Operating Room (OR) Registered Nurse (RN), specialized in cardiothoracic surgery. I loved my patients, their families and my team. My kids, 19-months and 3-years-old, were my everything. I was enjoying my part-time schedule, allowing me to spend an extra day, every week, with them. Parks, museums, zoos, walks, wagon rides, we did it all. My husband, Chris, and I were planning the details to celebrate our seventh anniversary in Chattanooga, TN, hiking, stand-up paddle boarding and whitewater rafting. Life was good. Stable.

May 11, 2016, a day like any other. Woke up, brushed my teeth, hair in a messy bun, chowed some breakfast, grabbed my keys, purse, lunch, and out the door I went. Pulled into the parking garage, wheels screeching, metaphorically speaking, quick jog into the hospital and punched the clock with only seconds to spare. Threw on my scrubs and arrived to morning report in the nick of time. Checked the board for my assignment… OR #1. YES! Cardiothoracic surgery for the day! My home away from home!

After preparing the OR, I made my way over to the Cardiac ICU to transport my patient. While passing through the hall, I came to an abrupt halt. Dizziness, lightheadedness, chest pain, numbness and tingling in my left arm. Was I having a heart attack? I looked around and there was no one to be found. All I had to do was make it back to the front desk of the OR. It was a measly 30 feet away, but it looked like miles. As I walked through the door, I grabbed the first seat I could find. The front desk was empty, a rarity in the OR. My plan… sit there till it passed. In less than a minute, the Health Unit Coordinator (HUC) entered the office and stopped dead in her tracks. She took one look at me and said, “You don’t look good. You are really pale.”. I expressed that I didn’t feel well, my chest hurt and I was short of breath. The HUC quickly alerted the OR Supervisor.

The OR Supervisor did a quick assessment and stated she needed to call a hospital-wide Code Blue, due to my chest pain and shortness of breath. I begged her not to, claiming I would be fine… “Code Blue – Operating Room Front Desk. Code Blue – Operating Room Front Desk”. My colleagues, anesthesiologists, surgeons, nurses and surgical techs, responded to the code and quickly filled the front desk and entryway. I recall, vividly, a cardiac anesthesiologist, that I worked closely with, sitting down beside me and holding my hand. I began to feel faint and started to panic. “I’m going to pass out.” “I’m going to pass out.” I looked directly at the anesthesiologist and pleaded, “Am I going to die?” “What about my kids?” She squeezed my hand and said, “Brooke you’re going to be ok, I promise. I think you might be having a panic attack.” A panic what? The other staff, assisting with the code, hooked me up to a monitor. A rapid beep-beep-beep-beep-beep rang out as my pulse and blood pressure were sky high. They prepared to transfer me to the adjacent, adult-hospital, emergency room (ER) for further care. The anesthesiologist stayed with me the entire time, until I was stable and comfortable with her leaving. I am forever grateful. Her compassion, confidence and ability to remain calm comforted me in one the scariest moments of my life.

Shortly after my admission to the ER, my husband arrived, as my colleagues had informed him of the situation. My heart rate and blood pressure had stabilized and I felt like I had been hit by a bus. Chris asked, “What happened?” and I responded by expressing that I had no idea and assumed it had to be cardiac related. Following my history and physical, vital signs/monitoring and labs, the ER doctor explained that they thought it may be supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) and I needed to follow up with cardiology.

Yes, SVT, that makes sense. Nothing a few days of rest and a cardiologist couldn’t fix. But wait… could it have been a panic attack? Hmmmm, no way, not me.

~Brooke~

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