Cristina's Heart Scar, Chapter 5: Cardiac Arrest, Part 1

It’s interesting, after that weekend in the hospital I don’t remember feeling any flutters or pain in my chest for months. I think it’s because I thought the problem had been fixed, so I didn’t pay much attention to the occasional flurry or strain. At the time I was seeing a cardiologist once a month, so I felt completely taken care of.

It was the second week in April, the season was starting to change, white blossoms were peeking out, and a spring cold was going around my office. Everybody was sick. I thought I had avoided catching it, but on Monday of that week I woke up with a terrible cough and sore throat. I felt awful.

I probably should have stayed home from work, but instead I went to the office and pushed aside my cold. I don’t remember this, but my mom says I called her crying that week because I felt so sick (I’m not a crier, so I must have been feeling pretty bad). My friends and I were going to Washington, D.C. that weekend, and I thought that if I didn’t go to work I wouldn’t be able to go on the trip. It was a mixture of work guilt and being able to finish my project on time. So I worked through the cold, so I could go to D.C. Luckily, by Friday I was actually starting to feel better.

I was so excited for our trip! A group of us from New York were heading down to visit some of our best friends from college. That Friday afternoon Lizzie and I packed up our weekend bags and headed to Penn Station to meet up with the rest of the girls. Five hours later, we arrived at our friend’s apartment. It was the happiest reunion! Our group of friends hadn’t all been together in months, so we couldn’t wait to get the weekend started. That night we got all dressed up for dinner. Afterwards we went out for drinks and dancing, we had so much fun!

The following morning we woke up to a huge storm and tornado warnings, but it didn’t slow us down. We went out to brunch, visited the sights and walked around Georgetown, we went shopping and touring and ate frozen yogurt. All while it torrentially poured around us. Surprisingly, that whole Saturday, I felt fine. After a week of battling a terrible cold, a night out dancing, a day of walking around the soaking city, it was the best I had felt all week. I remember when we got back to the apartment some of my friends took a nap. I chose to shower and curl my hair instead. I wasn’t even tired enough to snooze.

That evening we went to dinner at a Mediterranean restaurant. We sat in a cozy booth by the window, drank red wine, ate hummus and talked about how much we missed each other. It was so fun all being together again, it felt like college. We didn’t want the weekend to end. I remember going to sleep that night thinking how lucky I was to have such good friends, and what a smart choice it was to have powered through the week for the sake of this trip.

This picture was taken Saturday night at dinner, the night before I went into cardiac arrest.

When I woke up on Sunday morning I wasn’t feeling well. I was really tired and lethargic, my chest and throat were hurting too. Nothing close to when I had the heart attack/pericarditis five months earlier, but it definitely hurt. I had felt this chest pain before, it was the kind of chest pain that I’d take Tums for in the past. I told my friends, texted my mom and took some Advil, since that’s what had helped when I had the so-called pericarditis.

“Don’t worry,” I assured everybody. “I’m just getting over a terrible cold, and we had such a busy day yesterday, that’s why my throat is hurting. And my chest really isn’t that bad, I don’t think it’s pericarditis again.”

My friends took my word for it, and we all got ready to go to brunch. We sat outside at a cute little cafe, and I ordered breakfast: coffee, orange juice, poached eggs, sausage & toast. For some reason I have a really clear memory of that meal. Maybe because it was the last meal I ate before my life changed forever.

After brunch we walked around the neighborhood a bit. All the girls decided to get a cupcake from a famous bakery. I passed, which was very unlike me. “Maybe some hot chocolate will make you feel better?” Sarah suggested. She knew how much I love hot chocolate. I took her suggestion and ordered a small cup. One sip, and I knew it wasn’t going to make me feel better, I could barely get that sip down. I ended up tossing the whole hot chocolate as soon as I found a garbage can.

We went back to the apartment, and the NY girls quickly packed up our bags to go back to the city. I threw on a cozy shirt and a smile to thank our friends for hosting such a great weekend. I remember when I slung my weekend bag over my shoulder, an involuntary grunt came out, had it gotten heavier? I felt like it took all my energy to pick up that bag.

Before we got in the taxi taking us to the train station, we gave the D.C. girls the tightest hugs goodbye, wondering when we’d all be together again. Little did we know it’d be a few days later, in New York, in the intensive care unit of the hospital. My friends would all be there for me, hoping I’d wake up from a cardiac arrest induced coma. 

xo Cristina