Loyal British reader Lorraine Gradwell responded to a recent post here (Heart Disease Within “The Comfort of Denial“) by revealing that its post-heart attack emotional roller coaster message had resonated with her. Like many other women, this 58-year old Manchester mother of two felt frightened and confused after surviving what doctors call a “widow maker” heart attack last fall. And like many other women, her cardiac symptoms (crushing fatigue, light-headedness along with chest, neck, arm and shoulder symptoms) had been initially misdiagnosed as panic attacks.
“I had my heart attacks early last October; I didn’t know what was happening and this left me frightened that I could have more. I began a creative writing course the same week and wrote this poem.”
Unlike most of us, Lorraine is no stranger to life-altering health issues. She was diagnosed with polio as a little 3-year old, and has spent the past 30 years using a wheelchair. She’s also the Chief Executive at a not-for-profit agency advocating for disabled employees – a role for which she was awarded the prestigious Member of the British Empire medal two years ago. When I contacted Lorraine asking for permission to reprint her poem here, she got back to me immediately, adding:
“I was four days in the hospital and came home pretty scared that I’d have another heart attack. Your website was a lifeline for me in the early weeks (well, and still is!) giving me answers, sign-posting, and most importantly reassurance.”
Thank you, Lorraine – and here’s her heart attack-inspired poem:
What was that?
Listen to your heart. What does it say
When it jumps and flutters and thumps?
What does it mean? Is it bad? Or okay?
Which is it?
Familiar sounds, some fast, some slow,
Each clunk and whoosh and beat.
But now: I think I didn’t know.
Or did I?
Silent damage, death by stealth
An unfelt pain revealed
No hint, no clue about poor health,
Or was there?
My heart attack, my brush with fate –
I’ll know it again they say.
Stripped of disguise, no doubt – but Wait!
Was that another? Was it?
© 2011 Lorraine Gradwell