I was thrilled to participate in the University of Rochester‘s Human Library program last week, under the title of “Connected Wonder Woman”(Here’s a bit from the City newspaper). It was an excellent opportunity for “readers” to come and dig into the stories of 18 people with very different plotlines. And a great way to start to see some of the stories present in the community. The time flew and I wish there had been more of it. I was booked solid (even double-booked) for most of the afternoon and really enjoyed sharing my story, answering questions, and sharing a bit of my passion.
I also wanted to share that story with you:
5 years ago January, we were packing it in from a good, lazy Saturday. We dropped a visitor at the bus station early, napped, played at The Strong, and had homemade pizza while watching Cops. I was in bed, about to tuck in to go to sleep. I leaned forward to pet a cat at the foot of the bed, then as I went to lay back …
a “whoosh” in my ears …
The next thing I knew, my husband was frantically shaking me, calling my name, yelling for me to wake up. “Alright, alright, I’m up already,” my brain responded but the words didn’t come out of my mouth. In my head I must have fallen asleep for a moment. I didn’t understand the terror in his eyes. I didn’t understand why my muscles weren’t responding the way I wanted them to. He had come into the room to find me unresponsive, eyes unfocused.
I was rushed to the nearby hospital. It took three days to confirm a diagnosis hinted at by an ER doc when we arrived. I had been monitored and through several tests. Seizure was ruled out. Turns out, I have what is called Long QT Syndrome. [What follows is my very un-medical-person understanding and I highly recommend using other sources for real details.] In the electric pattern of a heartbeat, there are two spots known as the Q and T waves – T follows Q. For me, the pause between those waves is a bit longer than normal. When the pause stretches a bit further, parts of the heart get sick of waiting and can start to do their own, freakout, kind-of thing. This is bad, blood stops flowing, and the system shuts down. This is what they believed happened with my “episode”.
I was deemed quite high risk. Adrenaline spikes often spur these episodes – think of the cases of players passing out and dying from heart conditions on the soccer field – but I was in bed. They implanted a defibrillator to shock me back to normal should anything go off and prescribed beta-blockers as a backup to regulate my heart-rate.
My husband, family, and I were deeply affected by the scare, by that terrifying “what might have been”. It brought home to us how important we are to each other. And I like to think that this is when I started to re-open my eyes to Wonder. To the beautiful and amazing bits of everyday life. To the possibility of even more amazing things lurking beyond our eyesight.
It was a couple years later that I sat down to mind-map my career path and discovered that my passions centered on understanding the perspectives of others – and that storytelling was the perfect way to do it. Although there have been no signs since of problems, besides maintaining the precautions and the changes that those bring, the “episode” still has an impact and thoughts of it can creep into quiet moments. I like to think that Storychick, and the effort to connect people and return wonder to their lives through story, has at least partial roots there.