When Your Superhero is Gone
By: Tiffany R. Frank
I was barely conscious enough to be aware of what was going on around me. I heard the door slide open and a mysterious lady with a white lab coat sat down next to me. She said, “Miss Frank, do you know where you are?” I stared at her hoping something would click. This wasn’t right, but I wasn’t dreaming either. I kept hearing a slow beep, beep, beep in the background. “Miss Frank, this is the Intensive Care Unit. We found a pulmonary embolism in your lung and you have endocarditis. There’s an infection in your heart valve that’s circulating to your whole body. If the infection can’t be controlled you will need open heart surgery. You’ll need a new mitral valve.”
Maybe I am dreaming? This can’t happen to me.In my 23 years, I could count how many times I’ve been sick on one hand. I’ve always been very active, conscious of my diet, and full of energy!What about my daughter, Audrina? I’m all she has. I can’t be sick. How did this happen? Heart surgery? I’m only 23!
The Doctor kept explaining the situation. I nodded my head in acknowledgement, but I didn’t hear a single word. Endocarditis.I’ve only heard that word once. It translates to “inflammation of the heart.”Before she passed away, the last 4 years of my mother life was in and out of hospitals. Her first hospitalization was due to endocarditis. From then on, her heart was failing her rather than working with her. She had Coronary Heart Disease(CHD) which lead to Congestive Heart Failure(CHF).She explained her condition to me in a way I could understand. She said it was like her heart was constantly running a marathon. You can only run for so long before you start to shut down.
I remember ever detail of the day her heart stopped. She had finally come home from the hospital after 3 months. She had surgery and was finally feeling better. She was cooking, cleaning, and we were making plans to take a vacation. On her fourth day home she had started to get sick again. She lost momentum. I remember laying my head on her chest and listening to her heartbeat. It was so fast. One day went by and she was getting worse. She couldn’t eat or drink. I begged her to go to the hospital, but she refused. It was just past 6PM and I was helping her out of bed. She was mumbling words. Suddenly her knees gave out. I caught her in my arms and laid her on the hall floor. Her eyes had a blank stare. I knew it was over. I frantically called 911 and my grandparents. My grandpa was there in minutes. He gave her CPR as I was crying and begging her to wake up. “MOM! WAKE UP! PLEASE WAKE UP! PLEASE. PLEASE. What about Audrina, Mom?” The paramedics arrived within minutes. One was asking for background information and the other hooked her up to the monitor to find a heartbeat. While he was looking for a heartbeat he got his paddles out and ready to go. Nothing happened. There was only a straight line running across the screen. I kept begging her to just wake up. “I promise I’ll take care of you. I don’t mind. Please just wake up mom. I’ll be good. I promise. MOM! WAKE UP RIGHT NOW!” My mom is strong, tough, and can fix everything. Such an amazing person can’t be gone just like that. This isn’t right. She’s my superhero. If she’s gone, who is going to make everything okay?
Now I’m in ICU hearing the same thing the Doctors told my mom 4 years ago. All I can think about is my daughter. This will be the first year my mom won’t be able to wish me a ‘Happy Birthday’ and put up Christmas ornaments with her only grandaughter. I can’t imagine Audrina having to go through all this with me.
Unlike my mom, I knew I had to face my heart problems right now. It wasn’t something that could be put off or ignored. By the time she was ready to accept and face her heart problems, it was too little too late. Her choice affected more than just herself. When she died the world lost a nurse, a friend, a lover, a sister, a daughter, a mother, and a “Mimi.” What would the world lose if I didn’t take control of my heart health? More importantly what would Audrina lose?
I successfully completed 6 weeks of IV antibiotics. The first three weeks I had to get IV antibiotics six times a day. Then it went down to three times a day. That was followed by 4 weeks of oral antibiotics. I have to take 6 months of blood thinners for my pulmonary embolism. The physical and emotional toll is steep, but the years I get to hold onto are priceless.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in America regardless of gender. According to the Center for Disease Control, there are 600,000 from heart disease every year("Heart Disease Facts"). Being young doesn’t make you invincible. It doesn’t ask you if it’s convenient. It doesn’t take your loved ones into consideration. It doesn’t schedule an appointment in your calendar. It can take anyone at any time, even your own superhero.
1. United States. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.Heart Disease Facts. Atlanta: Center for Disease Control, 2011. Web. .