I Could Be Dead

I could be dead but my horse Concho saved me. No, it was not something as dramatic as my horse pulling me back before I fell off a cliff, but it could have been just as tragic.

Whenever I exercised or rode Concho at the forward trot or canter I would sometimes feel a tightness in my chest that I attributed to anxiety. Most importantly to me was the fact that my usually very calm horse was also showing signs of anxiety such as spooking or shying from something that hadn’t been alarming to him before, so I was also anxious about his behavior.

I rationalized that anxious feelings would not be unusual since I’d dealt with some difficulties in my life (some of which has been touched upon in other blog entries) and because it had been an especially stressful summer beginning in June when we lost my stepdaughter to a suicide event, so I just chalked the feelings up to anxiety. My own diagnosis was supported by the fact that the anxiety medication prescribed by my primary care physician eased the symptoms. However, I was also referred to a cardiologist to rule out any heart problems.

When tests indicated that an angiogram was needed to check for any other issues I agreed reluctantly, because an angiogram is an invasive procedure where the cardiologist would place a catheter into an artery in my wrist all the way up to my heart!! My first thoughts were that I was fine and I didn’t need that. I’m very fit and eat well — my cholesterol levels have never been high and I am slim for my height. I’m not one of those people who doesn’t take care of themselves or ever exercise so I couldn’t have heart problems, could I? The only thing that made me suspicious was that my biological father likely died from a heart attack. I only know this because his obituary indicated that “Donations to the American Heart Association would be appreciated.” I didn’t grow up with my biological father and only determined that fact a couple of years ago, but that is a whole other blog entry.

My first memory upon awakening from the angiogram procedure was being shown a sketch of a heart that had an area circled with 90% written next to it. It was explained that they had found that the LAD or Left Anterior Descending artery had been 90% blocked. I was told that it had been opened and a stent placed to keep it open, and that I would have to spend the night in the ICU. It turns out that was the worst part — being flooded with IV fluids to the point where I needed to make a trip to the bathroom every hour throughout the night. I focused on the fact that the danger was past since they found the blockage and opened it.

I believe that the anxiety I felt was at least partly because my body knew something was not right and was trying to ‘tell’ my mind that something was wrong. But when I was exercising at the gym on the elliptical I would just push though the feelings and continue because I was fit and healthy. To me it was urgent that I address what I thought was anxieties that I felt when riding because I was making Concho anxious, so it was because of my horse that I went to the doctor and kept the appointment with the cardiologist. I didn’t think I needed all of that medical intervention, but I wanted to get to the root of all this to be able to continue to ride well. I wanted to rule out anything possible that was affecting my horse — and because of that, I think Concho at least played a part in saving me from dropping over from a heart attack. I was told that a blockage like mine was called the Widow Maker for just that reason, and likely what had happened to my biological dad in 1986 before they could as readily diagnose and treat the condition before tragedy struck.

This is not the first and possibly not the last time a horse has saved me. The connections I’ve had with them are so profound that people who aren’t familiar with horses would find it hard to believe. I think that I literally rode my horse Uppie out of the darkness I’d been plunged into following the sudden death of my first husband, and we developed a very close connection. I remember the last time I saw Uppie when he was coming out of anesthesia following a pre-operative procedure. I was told that I could see him only if I promised not to go into the padded recovery stall since he would be very unsteady on his feet when he woke up. When I assured the vet that I would stand in the doorway and go no further, he opened the door. My sweet horse was trembling as he’d just gotten to his feet in the safety of the padded stall. When he saw me, he tried to walk to me, but wasn’t able to. I saw the concern in his eyes and told him that it was OK and that he was a good boy. He breathed a big sigh and stopped trembling. The vet was impressed but I was not surprised and I was glad to be able to see and reassure him, especially since that was the last time I saw him because he died on the operating table the following day.

I believe that our pets and horses who have passed on are waiting for us in heaven because it would not be heaven without them. I especially look forward to seeing Uppie again.

However, I hope that I don’t see him for a long while yet since I’m just not ready to leave here. I have way too much to do before then.