loaded into the ambulance. A fifth bolt was needed to
revive me one more time.
Those who love me spent the next several hours pacing,
waiting for me to “wake up.” Panicked, my father spent
that time reliving my mother’s tragic end. My beautiful
girls, who were 10 and 13, were picked up from school by
relatives and told their mother was in the hospital.
The history of the early deaths of my mother and
grandmother helped lead to the decision to surgically
implant an internal cardiac defibrillator (ICD). This small
box with wires running to my heart would detect when my
heart beat erratically. When the rate reached 140 beats, the
tiny machine would try to pace it back down to a normal
level. If my heart continued to race and reached 180 beats
per minute, the ICD would send a jolt of electricity into my
heart, coercing it into a normal rhythm.
Over the next 15 years the ICD fired many, many
times and saved my life each time. I had to have two more
surgeries to replace batteries over the years. Unlike my
mother and grandmother, I was blessed with technology that
kept me with my family. Life without a mother is difficult,
and I did not want that for my daughters.
Over the years, it was also difficult for my daughters to
watch their mother get sicker and sicker. Too bad I didn’t
have a frequent flyer card at the emergency room! My kids
and family lived in terror many times, wondering if I would
make it. A phone call from me or an unknown number
brought fear to them. Although the technology helped, my
heart was still failing, just at a slower rate.
In November 2010, I visited Shirley, my stepsister, in San
Diego for Thanksgiving. I love her dearly and time spent
with her and our family is like being home. I arrived safely,
but sick, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and went straight
to bed. Although excited to start cooking, I only made it for
an hour the next morning before I went back to bed with
intense, flu-like symptoms. I stayed in bed until Friday,
when my family took me to Urgent Care.
My blood pressure was 70/40, and the doctor ordered an
ambulance to take me to the hospital. Over the next several
days of not being able to keep even a sip of water down, and
after many doctors and many tests, it was discovered that I
had an E-coli infection. I have no clue where I contracted it.
So to treat my failing kidneys, the hospital flooded
my system with fluids, which further stressed my failing
heart. Ashley flew down to see me and took one look at
me and contacted my team of doctors, who arranged a
private jet home!
Dozens of tests determined my heart was on its last legs.
One doctor commented that he was amazed that I hadn’t had
a massive heart attack already.
After a couple of weeks of recovering, I was transferred
to another hospital where again technology came to the
rescue: I received a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD).
What a lifesaver, but at the same time, it was such a
gigantic change in my life. Some Thanksgiving!
The LVAD essentially takes over your heart function so
your heart doesn’t have to work. A small pump is placed
next to your heart with a tube running through your belly
Survivor Janice Taylor (at right, in white top) and her extended family