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I am a survivor. Diane's story.

Heart Block - Pacemaker

DIANE SULLIVAN

I am a survivor. I know this term is usually used for cancer patients, but any of you out there that have had anything to do with heart problems you can consider yourself to be a survivor.

I have always felt that my life was totally blessed with my four children, 13 grand children, our first great granddaughter arrived in 2019 and of course, an amazing husband with 60 years of marriage behind us.

My life has been full of activity. We were skiers, tennis players, golfers, scuba divers, and when we physically could not accomplish all of those, we became “professional volunteers”... When I say we, I refer to my husband and myself because we’ve always been partners in everything. We started Spokane inter-players Spokane’s Regional Professional Theater, our family Is considered the first family of Hoopfest since we were part of the group that started this amazing event for Spokane. I had been a volunteer for Juvenile Court as a Guardian ad Litem for 10 years. When my husband retired from his law practice, we started traveling the world with Hope4Kids International, a faith based nondenominational mission organization. We have traveled to many foreign countries… even got deported from Cuba, for practicing religion without a license. Our favorite has been our project in Uganda, East Africa. We’ve made 18 trips to Africa and then we realized that it was pretty darn far away for people in their 80s.

My life changed dramatically two years ago. It started when we had attended one of our grandchildren‘s graduation ceremonies. Everyone was going out to dinner but I was feeling a little bit tired so I told them would meet them at home. You can do that when you’re 80.

I started to walk back to the car and about halfway I stopped to catch my breath thinking “Boy am I out of shape”. I continued back to the car and I still felt like I was out of breath and I knew that that’s not usually how I should feel. I sent a message to my doctor, telling her that I just didn’t feel right. She had me in the next day. My pulse rate was at 40. She ordered many tests through the Spokane Heart Institute, EKGs, Nuclear Stress Testes, Bloodwork. All of this took about eight days. The day that I was to meet my assigned cardiologist with Providence Spokane Cardiology, he walked through the door. And by the way, he looked movie star gorgeous. He explained that the top part of my heart had stopped functioning, my pulse was at 36. two hours later I was in surgery. Dr Muilhiem installed a pacemaker. When I woke up that morning, I was a normal person. By the time I went to sleep that night… I was a Cardiac Patient.

My life changed in so many ways. I have a little machine that sits beside my bed that reads my pacemaker and sends a report to the Heart Institute. I go in for a pacemaker check every four months. I see my heart surgeon every six months. I can no longer go through those overhead security gates or wear a magnetic name tag on the left side of my body.

I didn’t realize that I was becoming anxious and depressed about my new condition. I started thinking that this may be the beginning of the ‘end of life’ for me.

I was referred to Mended Hearts of Spokane. This is a wonderful organization that mentors patients and family members who have received a cardiac diagnosis at any age. My daughter, Kathleen took me to a Mended Hearts Support Meeting at St Luke's where I met 20 other Cardiac Patients. The speaker that night was a psychologist who gave us all a wonderful talk about how natural it is to have depression after heart surgery. Everyone there was able to share their experiences and when I left that night, I felt my thoughts were normal and that with time, the thoughts would become less important in my mind. I think that was the beginning my real ‘healing’.

Last year, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It turned out that the tumor was so close to my pacemaker that I was not a candidate for a mastectomy, radiation or chem therapy…. They removed the tumor and a good friend gave me a shirt that says, “MY PACEMAKER SAVED THE GIRLS”. I continue to fight not only the cancer but the emotional roller coaster that all of this has created in my life in the last couple years.

I am a survivor…. Life is good!

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