Heart Attack: “Troubles Come in Battalions”

My husband lay in the bed in his single room #426 in Rhode Island Hospital, white sheets pulled snug, electrodes attached to his chest–monitors whose bleeping assured staff he wasn’t in the throes of a 2nd heart attack. As I rounded the door and stepped over the threshold, he rasped “See, Colleen, I told you we can’t keep fighting like this.” The monitor bleeped louder, showing his accelerated mood.

I choked back my outrage and remained silent, not wanting to agitate him, for doctors had privately told me he could have a 2ndheart attack imminently. He didn’t know his precarious condition, but I did.

The hospital had contacted me (it was before cell phones) and I’d hurried from my mother’s house where I’d gone that very afternoon, to tell her that, after 6 years of marriage, I would seek a divorce from my husband (I’d not told him). Our terrible marriage had sucked the life out of me; I was finished with walking on eggshells so as not to enrage him and his episodes of fury had escalated with terrible frequency and intensity.

But now, the heart attack changed everything, for how does one leave a spouse who’d just experienced this? I vowed inwardly to help him recover. I could do this. It would only extend out my timeline.

But fate had other plans.

The weeks slogged by. I’d gone back to teaching that year, after a 2-year hiatus (maternity leave). Now, I was juggling a full time career, one child at friend’s while I worked; the other at junior high, and a sick husband whose moods could vacillate at whim. I was exhausted.

After 8 weeks, he had his post heart attack check-up in Providence with his internist. That’s when we learned an ugly new reality: the dark shadow in his lungs was not spillage from the heart, after all. They now suspected something more ominous.

As for my own plan for divorce? That would have to wait. He never knew and I vowed, inwardly, to stay the course in whatever lay ahead.

Mass General accepted him right away. His friend was to drive us to Boston, so I wouldn’t need navigate the teeming roadways leading into and out of the city.

The night before, we went out for a “last meal,” at famed restaurant, Al Forno, in Providence. When we got home, I threw a final load into the washing machine, to ready for the week ahead. My parents were coming the next day to stay with our kids.

During the night, I got up to the faint sound of running water and wondered if one of the kids had left a faucet open. But, as I descended the stairs, I realized the sound came from the basement. Steeling myself, I opened the door and was met with a sight I’ll never forget– a parade of boxes, containing Christmas ornaments, extra clothes, old records and documents floating in 2 feet of water.

After wading through the water and turning off the water to the washing machine, I called the Fire Department and asked if they could pump out the basement. They said they only do that if the water level reaches 4’. I seriously considered turning the water back on and letting the split hose on the washing machine (the one that never allowed the machine to think the water level was reached) continue trying to fill the cellar to the 4’ mark.

When I woke my husband to tell him of the flood, he said: “Well, maybe this is a good sign. I can’t imagine getting bad news in Boston, after this.”

My parents arrived and we three began bailing out the water.

In the meantime, the friend called to tell us he was sick and wouldn’t be able to drive. This meant I’d now need to drive to Boston, get my husband settled, and then drive back, alone.

So, the dark area of his lungs on the x-ray…his immediate admission to Mass General…the flood…the friend backing out due to sickness….

All harbingers of what we’d face in the days ahead.

We just didn’t know it.

#cancer #domesticabuse #AlForno #RIHospital #heartattack #RICADV

****Why do I write these posts? Many of you are going through tough times. I write of my experiences to give you hope that no matter how things seem to rain down, unabatedly, you can get through it…get through it and go higher.

 How do I know? I’m living proof.



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