Saturday, July 14, 2007

An Affair of the Heart

Love is the greatest gift of all: the binding of love, the fire of love, the freedom of love.

Last Saturday, Maria (that's me, the creator of Manola Blablablanik and author of Sex and the Beach), was hospitalized for acute atrial fibrillation. My heart started going beserk early in the morning, beating irregularly and shooting upwards of 250. (Normal resting heart rate for a woman my age is 70 beats per minute.) My blood pressure also skyrocketed to 150 over 90 (the ideal is 120 over 80).

I'm not going to bore you with the details of my stay at South Miami Hospital, but I will tell you this: I'm finally out of the cardiac ward and my heart received a clean bill of health.

Unfortunately, the good news doesn't rule out atrial fibrillation. According to my doctor, a relatively healthy young heart can still suffer; in fact, I may have had this most of my adult life, the condition masked as anxiety. Since I left the hospital, I've had one episode, far less intense and very short-lived, to be sure, which I've managed to control by yogic breathing. Of concern here is that prolonged acute episodes could lead to stroke; as well, my father has chronic arrhythmia.

In the days to come, I'll be wearing a Holter monitor to test my heart rate under different conditions of rest, stress, exercise and so on. I'm working with physicians, taking medications and most importantly just taking things easy.

"All changed, changed utterly" -- Yeats

Inside the ambulance, a caring and compassionate team of four paramedics tried to slow my heart rate down the only way they could, by injecting adenosine into a blood vessel that goes directly to the heart, via the shoulder. Adenosine stops the heart momentarily in order to convert its haywire circuit back to normal. I was told not to be afraid, that the sinking feeling would only last a couple of seconds. Indeed, the effect was brief, but to be conscious while my racing heart came to a crashing halt marked a turning point in my life.

Not only did I experience the effects of adenosine once, but twice, because my heart failed to convert. The second try felt even more intense than the first, like a crushing blow. All I could think was: "This is what death must feel like."

Angel of death: stay away. I am now more alive than I have ever been. I am more certain now of what I've always known, that I was put on this earth to love and to write. I am here to follow my heart. This is all I need to know to live.

Could this be my heart's way of telling me to listen, to recognize what is within me?

A long-time friend of mine who knows me very well is a paramedic and nurse in Collier County who has administered adenosine Lord knows how many times. When I told her my ultrasound result was normal, she responded: "Maria, your heart isn't normal, it's fucking amazing." Inspiring words! I also want my life to be fucking amazing. I want my love to be fucking amazing. Why the fuck not?

Really, life is too short. And that moment when your heart stops, that's way too long.

What about Manola?

As far as Manola is concerned, don't worry, she'll be back. As a matter of fact, she was born out of despair, during a very difficult time of my life when I hadn't yet even hit rock bottom. Yes, the wacky character you've all come to know and love was my black sun -- a shining light in the darkness. I have no doubt that she will be even more resilient than she has ever been, even funnier and more irreverent, but this time, with a little more of Maria.

I'm also going to be launching a new site in the weeks to come called Miami Good Vibes; it's a project I've had in mind for months. This site will focus on good people doing good things in our community, with information on philanthropic organizations and volunteer opportunities. I'll also highlight artists who are inspired by our culture and environment. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I'm enjoying the blessing of devoted family and friends who bring love into my life, as well as the opportunity to not write, which is incredibly challenging for a writer to do. Well, I'm actually writing as little as possible, save for assignments at Miami Beach 411. I've been a wordsmith in some creative published or professional working capacity for over twenty years and it's time to step away from the thing I love in order to let my heart rest. Ironic, isn't it?

I'm creating as much space in my life as possible to live; to have a life away from the internet; to breathe free, to love and eventually, to write again.

I've had so much fun cracking myself up with Manola, as well as the honor of giving a few folks some laughs; if you're one of those folks, I hope you will indulge us a little leave of absence.

And fellow bloggers, I hope you'll understand why I haven't stopped by for a visit lately, but please do carry on with your wonderful work -- I want to read you again when the time is right for me to return.

46 comments:

Popeye said...

Dear Lord. What a time you've had. . .

Dayngr said...

You were on our minds and you were missed. Funny enough though I was sick in bed I managed to get my updates on you! Glad to hear you are not taking a second of this great life for granted. Live life and love every minute of it! xxoo

Rick said...

I've been wondering....

Hang in there, M.

.

Charlie Bravo said...

Be well, Manola....
What's going on with bloggers?
Last week the team of KillCastro and the Black Sheep of exile was down too. Plus we lost a blogger, Tocororo Frikki, a very funny guy.
I hope you recover soon, that you're feeling better, and that you return with your unique and witty style.
Oh, and I will drink a glass of wine to your health (with my breakfast)

The Sarcasticynic said...

Take care, Ms Blablablanik. Hope to see you in your usual spirits soon.

Tere said...

You know I'm rooting for you! Hugs!

alesh said...

Best wishes, Maria. My mom has a very similar heart condition; she's been in and out of the hospital (emergency and operating rooms) for a few years, and things are looking better now. My grandfather died of the same thing, so probably it's something I have to look forward to. Scary stuff. I hope you're OK.

The Florida Masochist said...

Take a break and get well soon.

Bill

mkh said...

You know we're always here for you.

Balou said...

Honeybun, it's not just your heart that's fucking amazing; it's your entire being! It's all about you now and your health is #1 at the top of the list. We'll always be standing beside you, holding your hand. XOXOXOXOXOXO

Tamara said...

Manola-
I am thinking good thoughts for you. I am a huge fan of you writing, hang in there.
Take care,
Tamara Lush

Srcohiba said...

Always look at the bright side of life...you're doing it

Diesel said...

Wow, what a harrowing experience. I hope you're back at it soon.

Verticus S. Erectus said...

So sorry to hear this, Maria. I wondered what was going on. Thought maybe you were having more "writers block." This is much worse. Take care and read all those books you were planning on reading. And then come back stronger than ever. BTW, I live on the beach too. If you ever need anything, let me know. I'll be glad to help you out.

Peter Santiago said...

Goddam I'm going to miss you....

Peter.

www.Santaigolabs.com

Alex said...

Hope you get better soon, Maria. The blogosphere -and Miami- is not the same without you around.

latinbombshell said...

Thanks everyone ... your thoughts are very much appreciated. Be well. I'll be back soon enough.

Yvette said...

Darling, love. And also hugs. The world loves Manola, and we will be here, whenever she wants to make an appearance. You, on the other hand, we love whether you want to make an appearance, or not.

Lorelai said...

Well lets hope all is well with you. Best of luck and I'll say some prayers.

R. said...

good to know Maria is doing well.

take care. ;-)

Dave said...

The heart is one tough muscle so don't despair! Rest, relax and get well soon!

paula said...

Hope you're doing well, neighbor. And looking forward to your return.

Mami Hen said...

I only recently found your site and was instantly smitten. You are a funny, funny woman. If you look at your stat counter, you will find I checked your site compulsively last week, hoping to read more, or at least get another Spanglish lesson. Glad you are well and listening to your heart. ps: I have a little one named Maria.

NicFitKid said...

Adenosine sounds scary as hell, where can I get some? Seriously, though, be well and take care of yourself, Maria. Your courage, wit, and charm help us all get through the day. Continue to be fucking amazing.

Sofi said...

Manola - I've been out of town, so I didn't know that you wre MIA. I'm glad you're okay. Please take care of yourself

xoxo
A

Freckle Face Girl said...

I was shocked my this post. I hope that you recover quickly and can take it easy for a while. Take care!!!

Michelle said...

That was a crazy experience; thank you for sharing it. I can see how feeling your heart stop can give you a new outlook on life. I wish you nothing but peace, love, and happiness and hope we can help to be a big part of your healing process!!!

latinbombshell said...

Thanks again, everyone. I'm moved by your words.

Steve ("Klotz" As In "Blood") said...

Whoa! Just back in town tonight and THIS is the news? Knock it off Manola: we need you AND your heart to function in tit-top condition 24/7. That's the law. We're here to enforce.

Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal said...

Hope all is Well Manola...

Andy said...

The blogosphere will miss you, but we understand. Hope you're well.

Mighty Dyckerson said...

Too bad about the heart attack. Can I have the orange phallus after you're dead?

GoingWiddershins said...

Just leaving my best wishes too. Stay healthy and content. ~GW

Nocturnal said...

Of course, this was posted on Friday the 13th. :) I'm glad everything turned out OK, that is some scary business.

Take care.

Jonathan said...

Sorry to hear about your travails. OTOH, you now have a much better idea about what's going on, healthwise, and that's very valuable. I'm sure you will be fine.

All the best!

Diesel said...

Just checking in. Best wishes.

Oceanguy said...

Two years ago I suffered a very similar occurrence. It landed me in the ICU for almost 24 hours... just before they shocked me back into a normal sinus rhythm I converted spontaneously... anyway to make a long story short...

One morning with the electro-physiologist and a magic catheter cured my condition which was congenital... again episodes through childhood masked as "over-excited or anxious attacks"

No problems since... Hope your luck is as good.

Cyclone said...

great blog btw ...& don't stress

;) the heart of the matter or getting better is to enjoy life... c'est la vie

Gawpo said...

Wow. I go away for a mere two months and look. I blame myself. This is all my fault.

Okay, who am I kidding? This is God's fault, pure and simple. But then, I like to say that even love is God's fault---you know, like where earthquakes happen. Looks like you've been shaken. This is both frightening and enlightening. And you of all people, get that.

Best to you, Maria. I look forward to Manola.

Oh---and don't be lettin' no cats named Oscar come and curl up with you; don't you be number 26.

Best to you and warmest regards.

G

SuperBee said...

You get yourself well soon. :) Strangers are pulling for you!

wtanders said...

Yes, get well, figure it out and be well. Thanks for the blog, and I look forward to the new one about the "good people".

Life is indeed short, so why do we always seem to forget that.

-wtanders

Michael said...

Here via metalmom's blogroll.

Scary stuff, glad to hear you'll be okay. Those Adenosine shots sound frightening, couldn't begin to imagine how they feel.

Ann Nonymous said...

Best wishes on your break, M. incredible story! Glad you shared it!

Trina said...

Wow, what an intense story. Rest up, and heal yourself. I wish you well.

Erica said...

Thanks for shooting me a link to this post. Well written - I like your style. Funny, sassy, *and* literate? You pass, I'll keep reading!

john said...

Dear Maria, I read your account of your experience with tachycardia and the injection of adenosine to force a "convert" of your heart rhythm. I hope you havn't had any more episodes of tachycardia since then. I take a dose of meds every day to prevent mine, currently I take Metoprolol.

I had the horrible experience of being dosed with adenosine ONCE and I won't allow it again. The experience was THAT bad, as you discovered for yourself. I want you to know that you CAN insist on an alternative, which is a dose of verapamil. It has always worked fine for me, and was previously the common way of treating tachycardia in the ER. The reason why adenosine is currently used is because it dissipates in the bloodstream extremely fast, so that if something else is needed, it won't be there to conflict with a subsequent dose of anything. As for me, I don't care... I want nothing do do with it.I just wanted you to know that there is an alternative which you can demand, if, like me, you don't want another nightmarish experience with adenosine. With Verapamil, I never felt any negative sensations at all. BEST WISHES to you. :)