Part 1…Finally, we’re back!!!…What an ordeal!…A few more photos from the farewell party…

The various types of meat on the braai. You can see the shadow of me trying to take a photo in the dark.

First off, let me begin by thanking multitudes of our readers, reaching out with the most thoughtful and kind wishes and concerns while we didn’t post for several days. Knowing all of you are there for us means the world to us. Thank you!

I don’t know where to begin. I still don’t know what precipitated the event and never will, leaving me unable to prevent it from happening again. It was an experience I will never forget, once again staring my mortality in the face wondering if I’d survive this harrowing cardiac event.

It began on Saturday morning at 3:00 am. I was dreaming that my heart was racing and awoke to find that it was racing. When I looked at my Fitbit and saw it was over 200 beats per minute, I immediately grabbed my blood pressure monitor from the closet in the bedroom and was shocked by what it read. I took it again and again, and it read similar numbers. If you know anything about blood pressure, 200/148 was horrifying, to say the least. I could have a stroke or heart attack imminently.

Immediately taking an extra dose of my blood pressure medication, hoping for some relief, I practiced deep breathing and concentrated on relaxing. Stressing about it would only make it worse, but it was pretty hard not to be somewhat panicky. I didn’t awaken Tom.

The braai was ready to cook everyone’s food.

If we had to drive to the hospital in Nelspruit, it would be dark, and the N4 highway is a dangerous road to drive at night, very dangerous. If we called an ambulance, they’d have to go that same route, and ambulances have also been attacked on this road. I imagined my added terror riding in a speeding ambulance on the dangerous road and going through an area of the drive, the gorge, which always is frightening in itself., even during daylight hours.

The only thing I could do was wait it out until it was a decent hour and I could call Doc Theo and ask him what to do. He gave me his personal WhatsApp number, which he answers 24/7. But, what could he do in the middle of the night other than recommend we drive to the Mediclinic Hospital in the dark? I had to wait it out.

After a few hours, the added dose of the blood pressure drug kicked in, but my pulse was still around 160, and my blood pressure was 180/120—still a dangerous reading. Never sleeping a wink, when Tom awoke, I told him what was going on and that  I would call Theo at 9:00 am; six hours had passed. Of course, Tom was distraught, insisting we go to Nelspruit right away since it was light, but I needed to see Theo.

At 9:00 am, I reached him at his home. He said,  “Get to my office as fast as possible and meet me at my office.” I grabbed a few things, tossing them in my carry-on bag, and we were out the door in minutes. It’s a 22-minute drive from Marloth Park to his office in Komatipoort. We arrived 30 minutes after I’d talked to Theo. He was waiting for us and came outside to escort me into his office.

More partygoers sitting around the braai area.

Seconds later, he hooked me up to the ECG machine, and seconds later, he was on the phone with Dr. Fanie Fourie, explaining, speaking Afrikaans, what was going on with me and that we were on our way to the hospital in minutes. Dr. Fourie was the cardiologist with whom I had the angiogram four years ago to determine I needed triple coronary bypass surgery when three of the four main cardiac arteries were 100% blocked.

Theo gave me a small tablet, walked me out to the car, and, after a big hug, put me in the passenger seat, attached the seatbelt, and lowered the back of the seat, telling Tom to go to emergency at Medicilnic as fast as he could safely do so. He suggested we could order an ambulance but felt it was OK for Tom to drive, which ultimately would be quicker, with me feeling less stressed.

We were off. I barely remember the drive, not paying attention when we drove through the gorge. Once at the emergency department for only a few minutes, I was whisked away to a treatment room while I was hooked up to an ECG machine, had an IV line inserted into my hand, and was told I was going to have cardioversion which I knew was the preferred treatment for a situation like this.

From John Hopkin Medical in the US, cardioversion is described as follows:

“What is electrical cardioversion?

Cardioversion is a procedure used to return an abnormal heartbeat to a normal rhythm. This procedure is used when the heart is beating very fast or irregular. This is called an arrhythmia. Arrhythmias can cause problems such as fainting, stroke, heart attack, and even sudden cardiac death. With electrical cardioversion, a high-energy shock is sent to the heart to reset a normal rhythm. It is different from chemical cardioversion, in which medicines are used to try to restore a normal rhythm.”

After I had open heart surgery in 2019, I experienced a similar situation while in ICU. I wasn’t afraid, just anxious to get it over with, hoping one time would work. The two doctors treating me explained if it didn’t work the first time, they’d do it again. I had to be anesthetized for this procedure.

Pao bread was placed on the braai to heat. This is a favorite bread among South Africans.

They gave me an injection of morphine. I wasn’t sure why since I wasn’t in pain, but I assumed it may have been a part of the procedure to relax the patient beforehand. Wow! What a high that was! But I experienced that for only a few minutes until they injected the anesthetic into the IV, and I was out like a light in seconds. I believe they used a similar drug to that which is used for colonoscopies and other procedures, which is short-acting.

In what seemed like seconds, I was awake and could tell the procedure had worked. My blood pressure and heart rate were almost back to normal. A second “jolt” wasn’t necessary at that point.

Much to my dismay, I was admitted to the hospital ICU/High Care, where the ratio of nurses/sisters to patients is one-to-one. By then, it was Saturday afternoon, and that day was somewhat of a blur for me, during which I didn’t remember much. By Sunday, I was more alert and could determine what was happening.

Yesterday, we returned to Marloth Park after I was released from the hospital. In tomorrow’s post, I will cover this experience’s details. Now, we have to get to the business of packing since the doctor cleared me to travel on Saturday.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, April 26, 2013:

We had just gone through the scariest few days and nights on a cruise ship when we went through a storm with 50-foot waves. There were no photos posted on this date ten years ago. For this story, please click here.

Comments and responses Part 1…Finally, we’re back!!!…What an ordeal!…A few more photos from the farewell party…

  1. Lisa Reply

    We are SO happy you are out of the hospital & cleared to travel. Thanks for sharing deets, too, as you never know if someone could use that info themselves one day.

    Safe travels & back to exploring!
    Love, Lisa (& Sam)

    • worldwide-admin Post authorReply

      Lisa, as I wrote the posts I was hoping they might be informative for one person if not more.

      Thanks for thinking of me during this challenging time.

      Much love

  2. Mitzi Lynch Reply

    What a scare for both of you! So glad you are doing better. Safe travel. 🤗❤️🥰

  3. Susan Anderson Reply

    OMG what a frightening experience. You remained remarkably calm and it seems like a miracle you did not pass out with such high bp and heart rate at home.
    So thankful the doctors were able to treat you and get you into a normal heart beat. Keeping you both in our thoughts and prayers for continued good health and safe travels.

    • worldwide-admin Post authorReply

      Susan, thank you for thinking of me. It was quite a challenge. I don’t know how calm I was but I tried to keep it together through the entire process.

      Hope you both are well and enjoying life.

      Much love

  4. Phyllis Fuld Reply

    Sending my love, be careful on the trip. My prayers are going with you,
    please let me know you are settled in FL.
    Love you. My love to Tom

    • worldwide-admin Post authorReply

      Phyllis, I will let you know when we get to Florida. It’s a long journey but we should be fine.

      Much love

  5. Lynda Reply

    OMG! I’m so glad you survived! You’re in my thoughts and prayers!

    • worldwide-admin Post authorReply

      Lynda, thanks for thinking of me. It was quite an ordeal! Hope you both are doing well.

      Much love

  6. Tony Antoniou Reply

    Hello Jess, glad you and Tom are well again to travel after your ordeal. High blood pressure is worrying especially when you are travelling. Glad you are well again. You may remember me Jess, I’m Tony you met on a couple o Celebrity cruises who had a kidney transplant. Kind regards to you both.

    • worldwide-admin Post authorReply

      Tony, I do remember you. We hope you are doing well and enjoying life. Sometimes, as you know, we are presented with challenges. But we do our best to work our way through them, hoping to come out on the other side with grace and positivity.

      Thanks for writing!
      Warmest regards,

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