I approached our house in Los
Gatos, California, after dance
lessons, I thought it odd to see my
Uncle Hoy there. It was dinner
time, and he and my dad were standing in the doorway,
and double odd, my dad was crying. Then there was
screaming, and I remember it took a few seconds to
realize the screams were my own. Lisa, my younger sister,
was looking at me with terror. To this day, more than 50
years later, I remember her face.
That was the day my mother died — October 23,
1963. I was 10 years old. Through tears, my father tried
to explain what is unexplainable to a child, he said that
Mom’s heart just stopped. We knew she had been a little
tired recently and was out of breath easily. She worked the
night shift, and her doctor told Dad to hire a housekeeper
to take the strain off her at home.
I’ve learned since that no housekeeper can fix an
idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy. After a little research
through family members, my dad found that my maternal
grandmother had died fairly young, in her mid-50s, of heart
problems. They had no titles of conditions back then, she
just had problems.
It was no fun for two young girls without a mother in the
‘60s, but that is another story.
Fast forward to 1994, I’m the 41-year-old mother of
Ashley and Heather, 8 and 11, living in Morgan Hill,
California, stressed to the max, working full time and in the
midst of a divorce.
I complained to my doctor that I’d been very tired and
out of breath, which I especially noticed running up and
down the sidelines of Heather’s soccer games. I described
my life and symptoms to him, I even mentioned that in the
mid 80s my OB-GYN noticed an irregular heartbeat. He
listened and referred me to a psychologist for therapy.
I went a couple of times, but I was still out of breath on
the sidelines. There were many sleepless nights, so I filled
my days with cup after cup of coffee just to get through.
The days turned into weeks, and weeks into months. All
of 1995 was a fog.
A year after the psychologist, I was sitting at my desk
sipping my fourth cup of coffee when I noticed my heart
beating very irregularly. I mentioned it to a co-worker,
who gave me this ‘Duh’ look and said “Go straight to
I expressed my concerns and symptoms to my doctor
who referred me to a cardiologist. There I got an angiogram
and a diagnosis of “mild cardiomyopathy” and was put on a
mild dose of digoxin, a heart failure drug.
Less than a year later — on November 14, 1996, at 10: 17
a.m., an elderly man on his way to the doughnut shop found
me, collapsed on the sidewalk outside of work, between the
bushes and the cars parked on the street. The dear old man
waved his cane and got someone to call 911. The ambulance
made a U-turn and was there immediately. A fire truck
arrived shortly. Chaos all around and no one knew it was me!
A lightning bolt was sent through my body, not once
but four times. It triggered a faint heartbeat, and I was
a tale ofTwo
By Janice Taylor | Loomis, California