Friday July 10, I was in Louisiana with my husband and son for the Manning Passing Academy. My son Nick was attending and my husband and I were making a mini vacation out of the trip. We also were traveling with friends. It was Day 2 of the academy and hot and humid. The boys were learning a lot and I was having fun checking out some historical civil war cemeteries, southern plantations, and of course, the seafood.
The evening seemed uneventful. Randy (my husband) and Nick (my son) were sleeping in the hotel room, but I was having trouble relaxing. Every time I tried to lie down, I felt filled with anxiety. Eventually, I started pacing. Then, I put on some of my waterfall relaxing music. I was still tense and it was after 1 am and starting a new day- Saturday the 11th . Then I started praying. My favorite go to prayer is the Lord’s Prayer, but instead of relaxing, I began to be filled with alarm. I felt pressure in my body, but no pain. A voice whispered in my head, “At what point do I call 911?. I thought I was having a panic attack. I woke up my hubby, and started saying over and over, “Call 911, Call 911, Call 911,” By the time he was dialing, I started saying, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” I felt like I was drowning.
As I was going unconscious, I cried, “Somebody save me.” My last vision was seeing my arm turn purple. I wanted desperately to live, but yet I felt strangely peaceful. Everything went black and then bright white. The next memory I have, I was hot and wrapped in a cocoon. I could hear voices, but couldn’t move a muscle. I tried to open my eyes, but felt like each eyelid weighed a thousand pounds. I kept telling myself, “Open your eyes”, but I couldn’t.
Then I started thinking, “no one knows I am awake”. I felt panic. I thought, “people might think I am dead”. I heard voices around me and I tried to move my legs. I concentrated and tried to swish my legs around, but I didn’t know if they were moving or not. I thought they might be moving, but I didn’t know for sure. (Later, my husband told me my legs were moving and he thought it was restless leg syndrome. I told him, “No, that was my signal that I could hear you”.) Finally, my eyes popped open. A nurse said,”There she is.” My eyes focused on my husband and son. They looked so scared, but so relieved. I didn’t know where I was and I had something in my throat. I couldn’t talk.
I motioned for a pen. I wrote: Where am I? Did I die?.I’m hot. I was in ICU and my lungs were filled with fluid. I was on a ventilator and not breathing on my own, which is why I couldn’t talk. Suddenly, I was euphoric. I was alive. I had more time on this planet. I could see my children grow up, get married, and have kids. I would have more time with my family. I knew I wasn’t done with this life. I wrote on my clipboard. “God is good.” It didn’t even dawn on me that I was sick. Then I wrote, “I want this tube out.” The answer was no, not until the next day. I needed to be more stable. Tears stung my eyes, I wanted to talk.
I also learned that my daughters were on their way. My friends had arranged their flights and they would be in New Orleans in a few hours. The staff from the Manning camp were picking them up from the airport.
A cardiologist came to see me and started asking me strange questions like, Did I fall? Had I been exposed to radiation? Did I smoke? What health conditions did I have? The answers were No and None. I had never been on any medications nor did I have any chronic health conditions. I could tell he was puzzled. He then said, “Your heart is functioning at less than 20%, you are in heart failure which caused your lungs to fill with fluid. You could recover, but most people don’t. At the very least, you’ll leave here with a life vest that will start your heart in case it stops, after 90 days you will probably have an ICD and a pacemaker, and you could even end up on the heart transplant list.” I was stunned. But it didn’t sink in. I was still euphoric that I was alive. I thought, “I’ll think about that later.”
My daughters arrived and I was so comforted to see them. When they first got on their plane, I wasn’t awake yet, so seeing me awake and writing questions and comments was a huge relief to them. My family had to leave ICU when visiting hours were over, but they left my phone in my hands. My arms were tied to the bed so I wouldn’t pull out the breathing tube, but the nurse loosened the ties enough so I could text and email.
I messaged my parents on facebook. I said I would call them, but couldn’t talk because of the breathing tube. I asked them if they would talk in the phone when I called. I needed to hear their voices. The first three times I called, my mom hung up on me because she thought it was a prank call and they don’t have caller id. Then, I got a message back on facebook that they knew what I was doing and I should call again. I called and when my parents picked up, my dad and mom started speaking loving words to me over the phone and tears slipped down my face. A little part of my world seemed to right itself because I could connect with them even though I couldn’t speak. I filled my hours of being awake during non-visiting hours with texting, email, and facebook. I felt connected to people even though I was scared and sick.
My breathing tube came out the next day. I could talk and was so grateful even though I was still on oxygen. I was scheduled for an angiogram the next day just to make sure I didn’t have any blockages (I didn’t, my arteries were clear and good shape). The mystery of the heart failure continued. Every cardiologist asked me a barrage of questions with no answers leading to conclusions. Until, I remembered that I had a cough for 8 weeks, but had been better for a month and had even been golfing, jet skiing, swimming and fishing just days before I ended up in ICU. One of the doctors said that a virus could attack the heart and cause heart failure but they couldn’t test for every virus.
During this time in ICU, someone from the Manning Camp visited me every day. Nick returned to camp for a few practices and Peyton Manning sought him out to ask how I was doing. His kindness meant a lot to Nick. Archie Manning called my husband to let him know that we were in his prayers, too.
My husband helped piece together the missing 12 hours in my life.
Here is what happened and I still have no memory of any of this. After my husband and son called 911, I turned blue and purple and stopped breathing. The 911 operator told my husband not to do CPR and to wait for the EMT’s. When the EMT’s got to me, they drilled a hole in my leg to get medicine into my body faster and intubated me in our hotel room. Then they took me to the ER with my husband and son following the ambulance with a police escort. My son asked, “Is my mom going to die?” They were doing everything to help me. It must have been terrifying for him. He still doesn’t talk about it much. In the ER, they thought heart attack right away, but it wasn’t. They asked if I had a living will and power of attorney (that still gives me chills). My husband had to go through the process of calling family. People started praying. I learned later that thousands of people were praying. After several hours and mega medicines, my color started to come back and I was moved to ICU.
It is still an odd feeling to have a whole piece of my life missing. I was told that my stats were in the 50’s when the ambulance brought me in and that I responded to some questions and I tried to pull out the tubing. Again, I still have no memory of any of those 12 hours. Some have said it’s a blessing.
By Monday July 13, the severity of the diagnosis sunk in and it seemed like every hour I was being given a new medication with a whole list of side effects including depression. In fact, almost every medicine had a side effect of depression. I thought, “I can’t beat this illness if I am depressed.” I talked to the nurse and she brought in my hospitalist to talk with me. I told him, “If I am going to fight this, I can’t be depressed. I need to find a way to be happy and every medicine has depression as a side effect.” I asked for an antidepressant. He understood my overwhelm and I felt a bit proactive. And this was the beginning of my determination to get well. When I was alone in my room, I repeated to myself, “I want to live”. I called a dear friend who is an energy healer and she told me she saw angel’s around me working on my heart. She told me my heart would be fine. My husband believed I would get better. My parents believed I would get better. My best friends believed I would get better.
Scientifically, I wasn’t given much hope. As I started to read about heart failure, I learned statistics like 50% of people who are diagnosed with it, die in the first year after diagnosis and the average life span is 5 years (some articles said 8 to 12 years), but I was 47. I thought that something like this wasn’t supposed to happen to me for another 40 or 50 years. I decided I would start searching for stories about people who were healed from heart failure and I found a few stories. That’s what I needed to keep the belief going.
As I arrived at my discharge day from the hospital, I left with a dozen prescriptions and wearing a life vest that I could only take off when I was in the shower. I needed to find a cardiologist back home in Colorado within a week. We would stay in a hotel one night and fly home to Colorado the next day. When my husband picked up all the prescriptions from the pharmacy and we dumped the bag onto the bed in the hotel room, tears welled up. I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of medications I would be taking. I took a few deep breaths and started organizing the meds. That night, sleep was elusive because the life vest beeped every time I got comfortable. Eventually, I would learn to sleep in one position and not move at all at night.
We had a long travel day and when our flight arrived in Colorado, best friends Deanna and Craig picked our family up at the airport. I was so happy to be home after spending an extra week in Louisiana. As we walked in our house, my friends had filled the kitchen with food and a new dishwasher. Right before we left on vacation, our dishwasher quit working. It was quite a surprise to see a new one.
The first few nights that I was home, I woke up several times during the night terrified that I was going to die. It was a gut wrenching feeling. I so desperately wanted to live. I was on an emotional roller coaster alternating between peace and feeling scared to death. I would wake up in the morning feeling good, then take all my medication and sleep for several hours. One constant in my life was that I called my parents every morning at 7 am and we would lift each other up and pray. I would open my eyes to my alarm and immediately look forward to my call with my parents.
After a few days, I stopped having the nightmares about dying. I began focusing on healing. I would sit with my hand over my heart. My cat would lay on my heart and purr. I journaled about healing. I prayed for healing. I visualized myself healed. I wrote healing words. I thanked God for each new day.
My husband dropped and broke a plate. He asked, “Aren’t you mad?” I said, “No, I am happy I am alive, I don’t care about a plate.” I watched hilarious sitcoms on Netflix and stayed away from anything sad and away from all medical shows. I became thankful for things like laundry and dishes because I felt that when I did these simple things, that I was regaining strength.I was able to walk up the stairs to my bedroom without being out of breath. When I talked to people and they asked how I felt, I would say, “If I didn’t know about my diagnosis, I would just say that I feel a little tired.”
I had my moments of reverting to being scared. I remember telling my husband that if I died, he could never love anyone like he loved me. When I got scared, I would go back to the mantra, “I want to live.”
I read a little bit more about heart failure and all of the meds I was taking. I found an article about how the heart makes its own healing protein to heal itself and that there was a group in the UK who was trying to figure out how to help the heart make more of this protein. That got me excited. I started visualizing my heart making an abundance of healing protein.
I returned to working with my coaching clients and holding conference calls, sometimes from bed.
I made an appointment with my regular doctor and found a cardiologist. At my first regular doctor appointment on July 28, my medication was adjusted and cut in half. I was cleared to go to a rock concert if I walked slow and paced myself.
I had my first post ICU echo cardiogram on July 31, three weeks after I became ill. I would learn the results on August 7.
I was cautioned to not expect much at the first echo-cardiogram, most of the experts felt that I would see improvement over 90 days if I would see improvement at all.
The night before my August 7 appointment, I felt a little anxious. I wanted to see some improvement, but I also didn’t want to be disappointed. My husband drove me downtown Denver for my appointment. I wanted to go in to the appointment myself. It felt private to me.
As I met the cardiologist, she asked me what happened. I relayed the whole story of how I ended up in the ER and ICU and I also had a list of adjustments that I wanted made on my medications and a list of questions. She burst into tears and said, “Come here, I want to show you something.” She showed me my echo, and told me that my heart had returned to normal functioning. She showed me the echo from the ICU which she said showed a sick heart and then the echo from July 31 which showed normal functioning. I burst into tears and felt giddy. It was a miracle. My medication was reduced down to four meds and the dosage was cut down. I could stop wearing the life vest and send it back to the manufacturer. I could start exercising again. I could have wine occasionally. I was given my life back. I only needed a follow up in three months and after that, a yearly cardiology appointment.
I ran out to hug my husband and relay the news. I thought he was going to pass out. We called the kids, family members, and friends. It was surreal. I had prepared myself to do whatever it would take to get better and I had the surprise of my life with this miraculous healing. When I told my friend, Crystal, the energy healer, she said, “I told you so.”
God is so good.I thank God every day for the kindness of the Manning family, my friends, my family, and my community. We felt completely supported during this ordeal.
Life is so precious. I appreciate each moment and I don’t want to waste any moments on bitterness or anger. I feel like I have been given a gift of more time (we never know how long) and I also have no fear of my own death anymore. I have more chances to say, “I love you” and more chances to be love. I feel that if I can have a miraculous healing, anyone can have anything or any result that they truly desire. The power of God, the power of belief, and the power of mindset are infinite.
Dr. Sheri Kaye Hoff, PhD.
Business Coach and Author