The single most frequently asked question is how I got started working in this business. It's been asked of me so many times. At least once per shoot for the last 13 years. I know what people really want to know when they ask. They want to analyze my story for the probability of it happening to them. Like if it turns out I'm just a normal girl with a relatively normal level of talent or natural aptitude for my profession maybe they, too can one day have this career. I assure them I never went to school for what I do, I have just made my way through by luck, God, reading books, and learning a lot while on the job. I inform them my mother was a makeup artist but that my boyfriend gave me my first real jobs. See, nothing special. They like that answer.
I used to not want to be what I am, I wanted somehow to work for the FBI. I read a lot of books over a three year period, a lot of books. And for about three months I was in the UVU Criminal Justice program. But I quit. People ask sometimes why I quit and went into film instead. I warn you you may want to skip to the next paragraph. I quit after I read a case study where Prosecutors secured a conviction based on a toddler's footprint found inside of a pedophile's closet. On the ceiling. How does a child's footprint get on the ceiling? The accused had restrained a child and placed him on the top shelf of his closet. The kid had done what all small children do, he had struggled in a compact space. It may have even been out of boredom that he put his foot there. What I do know is that I couldn't stop thinking about it. He had no idea that it was so important that he place his foot there. Who had the brilliant wherewithal to look for a print on the ceiling in the closet? It became really painful where it once was clinical. I had an 18 month old. I knew I could never work a case involving a child.
One time on set I was talking with a guy about a book by John Douglas he was reading. I told him about how much I also had liked it and gave him some other book suggestions. He asked me if I ever noticed anything that all serial killers had in common. I blurted something out and later really thought about what I said. I said that they all feel sorry for themselves. And it's true. You know who is the victim in their minds? They are. They are victims of fate, of their parents, of circumstances the other person has put them in or just of...life. They want to regain control, they want to make people pay, they want to not be pathetic. I think feeling sorry for one's self is an evil sin. But it's also my greatest struggle.
Here is the biggest question I've gotten lately. The 64,000 dollar question. What happened? No one can believe that someone like me who appears perfectly healthy goes to work one day and then ends up in the hospital in the cardiac ICU for five days, right? I had to have known something was wrong, right? This time they ask because they DON'T want this to be able to happen to them.
What happened is that I laid down to go to bed on Wednesday, June 27th and felt my heart pounding. I could feel the rhythm and it seemed off sometimes, which is not odd for me in it's self. I have had mild arrhythmia throughout my life, no biggie. The pounding was also not odd because I was weaning off caffeine. I had only had about 4-6oz a day for a week but on that day I had a 24oz Coke Zero so I figured more caffeine than usual = pounding in chest. No biggie. I went to work and felt some mild chest pain. Some light headedness. Some nausea. But the swamp cooler was broken in the studio so I blamed the heat. I took some Excedrin. I don't know what made me but I called my Doctor. The Nurse there has my same Auto-Immune disease and we have bonded over it in the past so I reminded her who I was, the girl with Hashi's, and told her my current symptoms. She said to go immediately to the ER. I was kind of surprised. I was expecting something like, come in on Monday and we'll get you an appointment. She said something that struck me really hard, she said that what I was feeling was either everything or nothing. I asked her if I should drive myself to the ER and she said yes. I went to my friend, Jed, who is producer of the series I'm on and I told him what was going on. I had also called my husband before I called the doc and told him I felt off. Anyway Jed had enough professional experience with crew safety to know to tell me not to ride it out but that the most important thing was to be OK. He told me to get out of the studio and go immediately to the ER. For some reason I knew I had to. No logical explanation for it at all.
I called my husband and told him I was leaving and going to the ER. He told me to go to Timpanogos in Orem because we know we are covered there. I got in the car and began to drive from the studio in Sandy on 90th S. This is when it got dicey. I began blacking out while operating a vehicle. Not 100% losing consciousness but something like it. And I was at the point of the mountain. My first thought was, I can't hit someone. I can't take some family out. I called Brett and said that I was losing consciousness in the car and that he had to drive me. The miracle is that I was not half a mile from his new office building. I pulled into the lot, saw my husband, pulled into a spot access from his car and hopped into the passenger seat in under two minutes. The ride down to Orem however was the longest half an hour that has ever existed in time. Time is a construct, I know that now. I kept having the near blackouts. I was hysterical. I kept thinking that I was having a panic attack and making this all happen. If I could just calm down I would be perfectly fine. I knew that they would tell me to eat a banana and drink some sports drinks to replenish my electrolytes and they'd send me home. I knew this whole thing was going to be embarrassing.
I get to the ER and I'm still blacking out. They hook me up to stuff and get an EKG. They take blood and urine samples. Dr Dahl, the cardiologist, who btw looks like a kindly farmer, tells me I have elevated heart enzymes. Not to full heart attack levels but it's concerning. They order an Angiogram. This here is where we pause again. I'm on the table in the Cath Lab, with a bunch of like, drop cloths on me and one is sort of over my face. I just grasp that some serious stuff is actually going down and I start to cry. I'm not exactly scared, I'm not exactly anything. I'm thinking about my kids and I'm grateful and I'm weirded out and I'm confused and I'm afraid it will hurt. I wake up and they say it's good, no blockages, I did NOT have a heart attack (which they already pretty much suspected) and they will watch me overnight then I'll have an Echocardiogram then go home the following day. I don't eat a thing and I barely sleep two hours. My lower back sort of hurts. My husband comes the next day a few hours before they are set to release me. My best friend is on her way over, too. I begin to black out again. This time I am wired up like Peter Boyle in Young Frankenstein. They can sort of see what is happening and what is happening is that my heart is stopping. A bunch of people appear in my room and Jules shows up. I tell Brett she will freak if she sees this and he should go out and talk to her. They have a guy with another EKG machine come in and hook me up to more stuff but there isn't room enough on my torso to place more stuff. So those sticky rounds are now laying on top of other sticky rounds and I'm a big mess. They can see what is happening and this is where things for me reach a hazy place. I am sure you can imagine why. I mean, I'm dying. I remember the nurse saying to me things like, "Stay with us..." Which by the way really works. That's why they say it.
I remember Julia came in. I remember they introduce me to an asian Doctor they are all very excited about having and I remember being drilled. Not literally he just asks me a lot of questions in a very "direct" manner that makes me feel like maybe I'm being water boarded. His name is Wang, pronounced "Wong". I am told another Wang named David is coming to see me and my EKG results. I now have an Electrophysiologist coming to see me and I should be excited because he's amazing. I am no longer going home.
I get a temporary pacemaker because my heart is not beating. I hate the temporary pacemaker, it is a whole lot of wires hooked into a long plastic thingy that is shoved into the artery in my neck with a wire in my heart. My heart is not in rhythm. It hurts like a lit charcoal briquette is in there. I am now being told more details about what is happening and the funny part is that every nurse and doctor that happens through has the desire to tell me what is going on. I like to hear them each describe things in their different ways because from time to time someone will say something extra or put something in a new way and it helps me learn. But it's also kind of confusing. Basically there is an electrical issue. The thing telling your heart to go Lub, Dub isn't doing it's job. It's going ..............Dub? Twice a day they have to test me to see if my heart will begin beating. They turn down the voltage on the temp pacemaker and my heart stops beating. I lose-ish consciousness. It's as if normal sensory input is a 10 and I go to a 2.5. Not total 0 but not good. And it lasts for mere seconds but...it happens. I hate that so much I cry when they tell me they have to test me. They kindly begin to make the tests quicker. One nurse even tells me she's going to lie and just not do it at all because it's cruel. I continue to not eat or sleep until Sunday and my back is now killing me. I figure out it's my kidneys over producing because of an enzyme that is a side effect from all of this. I am drinking multiple 2 liters of water per day. My husband says that he has been trying to not talk to me about any insurance stuff but that he has to now because I have to move to UVRMC.
So my husband started a new job. Hence, the new office building previously referred to. He hadn't been at this job two weeks even. Our old insurance covered us until the 30th and it ended at midnight on the 1st. Our new insurance kicked in and we were no longer covered at Timpanogos so we had to leave, stat. So I got strapped with my temp pacemaker and my ports and my catheter and bag to a gurney and taken by ambulance to UVRMC. I was put into bed and already I was more comfortable. The beds do this inflatey thing that was much more comfortable. No you don't understand, right now, in this moment in time that means the entire world. Imagine a bed being as important to you as your annual income. IT's that big of a deal. There are no meals, there is room service. I call in an order when I am hungry for whatever I want. I am scared at first I will not be doing it right but I am assured two things, one: I get to eat whatever the hell I want because I didn't have a heart attack and two: I'm not being charged for how much I eat. So now I can look over the menu for a half an hour just like when I'm pregnant, and think about how everything will taste in my mouth and whether or not this will make me want to throw up. I eat weird stuff. I only want to eat weird stuff. Cheesecake and shakes mostly. I gain weight in the hospital. They tell me that's normal. Turns out because of the insurance issue we have to actually pay the remaining deductible on the old insurance plus our 20%. They also claim we were not covered on the 30th at all so they claim the 30th and first part of the 1st is not covered and we have to pay for these days out of pocket. We also have the new insurance's deductible plus our 20% as well. I'm guessing the total will be in the ballpark of "Holy, Holy Crap".
They waste no time and schedule me for my pacemaker surgery for Monday, July 2nd because my heart never picked up beating on it's own. (In the words of my friend Daryn Tufts, "So the rhythm did in fact, get you..") I get the thing implanted and everything looks fine. Sort of. I heard a few things described to me in different ways. I heard that my heart was enlarged, too big, twice the normal size and that it looked like "there was something in your heart muscle". So I am scheduled three more appointments and an MRI. The Pacemaker I am given, the Medtronic 3000B, is compatible with MRI machinery. Kidding. About the name. It's just made by Medtronic but it sounds comic bookey and fun the other way. I am released the same hour the Alpine fire hits and so as I leave the hospital we can see this huge cloud that looks like a nuclear bomb went off in front of Timp. I get to my house and have never been more excited to see my dogs and kids. My house is super dirty though because of the damn fire ash being dragged around by the dogs and kids and I find out my girl's ears grew closed because she and dad couldn't get her earrings back in when they tried to change them for the children's parade. This upsets me. This? But I took her for her 8th birthday. She was getting baptized and it was a milestone. My mother pierced my ears with a needle, twice, because she was too lazy to take me to the mall and get it done professionally. My ear holes are ripped because of it. I did it the right way because "I'm a better mom". But I wasn't here to put in her earrings, so now all her pain and careful cleaning for two months and her new earrings we just bought her the day before I went in to the hospital, all for nothing. Poor kid has to do it all over again.
I'm grateful for my husband and my friends who really showed me they loved me by coming and being there for me, texting, calling, leaving me Facebook messages, bringing me treats and magazines and Sonic shakes and so many flowers. I am beyond blessed and lucky. My patriarchal blessing says that I am blessed with the association of those who love me, and I am. Even my father stepped up and came every day to the hospital, checked in on my kids and post ponned a trip to Iowa by a couple of days to be sure I was all right. My mother was super sick her own self so she just came one day, on Sunday but we had a great prayer together and it was really awesome. That lady can say a prayer, let me tell you. I am grateful, I am. To the core. I am also confused and worried and freaked out. I almost died. My cardiologist is the kind of guy who just blurts things like that out. "You know, you almost died in your car." That's what happened.
So now, today, I'm watching Bones on Instant Netflix and trying not to feel sorry for myself.