Thursday, August 29, 2013

Life Interrupted

I have always been one of those people who plans things. I try to make at least a mental list of the menu for the week. I am usually planning my next unit for school well before it is needed. Before my family goes on vacation I like to know which spots we will be visiting and I usually have a daily itinerary. It just makes sense to me. My life has been one long plan...... with one major exception.

Beginning in my late teens I experienced a heart arrhythmia. At first it was only a few quick beats that lasted for only a few seconds. When I felt it the first few times I didn't think much of it; I blamed it on too much caffeine or stress from college. However, over the years the increased heart beat would continue. I couldn't know when it would happen or where I would be. During a physical I mentioned it to the doctor and he said that it was a common thing in young women and that it should disappear by the time I turned thirty. (At the time, I was in my twenties.)

But it didn't go away, as I grew older the arrhythmia kept happening AND on top of that, the episodes became more frequent and lasted longer each time. I learned to hold my breath or drink cold water to help my anxiety minimize and therefore the heart beat would slow down. After giving birth to two children, the heart problem really began to worry me. I mentioned it to my doctor and, on at least two separate occasions, he had me wear a heart monitor. It showed nothing..... not one single blip out of the ordinary. I began to wonder if maybe I was causing the problem.... Was I worrying too much about something? Was I doing something that I shouldn't be?

I did have witnesses to the episodes, so I didn't completely think that it was all in my head. My husband had been with me many times when my heart would simply start racing. Once it happened in my classroom with students present; I just sat down and said, "Give me a minute." They could tell that something was wrong and sat silently until I was ready to continue. (That is saying a lot for middle school students.) It also happened once during a faculty meeting and the principal would not let me drive home, even after my heart returned to a normal rhythm. Instead, he phoned my sweet hubby to come and get me.

This sounds like a lot, I know..... but keep in mind that these episodes were spread out over 20 to 25 years. During that time the doctors and the monitors were NEVER able to verify a problem.

That all changed in 2008. It was nearing the end of the school year and I was hard at work preparing my middle school students for the upcoming end of year testing. I am one of those teachers with a reputation for pushing and pushing and pushing to get the best out of my students. I just don't give up. I will try quizzing, reteaching, games to help with review...... You name it, I have probably tried it over the years. This hasn't always pleased my students. As for them, they either like me or they don't. At the time, I had a lot of students who DIDN'T..... they didn't like giving effort, they didn't like work, and I required both. As a result, my time in the classroom was often wrought with a lot of "attitude" from some of my students and a lot of displeasure from me. I would often go home frustrated and tired, sometimes wondering why I had even become a teacher.

The week before spring break I developed a sinus infection. Here in Kentucky, that is nothing new. Almost all of my family members are afflicted with an allergy to something. I visited the doctor and was given my usual prescription, a Zpac and a shot. The doctor told me to hold off one day before beginning the Zpac, since the shot would kick in first.

The next morning I took my first dose.

I had taken Zpac before, many time, with absolutely no problem. I figured I would end the course of medication during spring break and return back to school as usual, ready to finish my preparations for testing. Again.... that was MY plan.

All day, I felt a bit unusual and toward the evening my lower back began hurting. I thought that maybe I had just been on my feet too much that day or something, so I tried lying on the couch for a while. After a bit, it became apparent that reclining was NOT helping, so I got up and began walking around. It was quickly becoming very painful and I couldn't keep the discomfort hidden from my husband. Given the position of the pain and the extreme level of it, he thought I might be passing a kidney stone. He had experienced the pain of those himself and had previously been hospitalized for the problem.

As the pain grew, we both knew that something had to be done, so we called his sister to watch our children and he rushed me to the nearest hospital. They got me into the emergency room and on a table. They hooked me up to all types of monitors and started checking me over. It was then that MY plan went haywire and God's plan kicked in.....

Suddenly, with no warning, my heart beat shot up to over 200 beats per minute. When that happened the attendants stopped worrying about the possible kidney stone and instead tried to slow my heart down. I don't remember how long it took, but I do remember the sense of panic in the room, two shots of Adenosine, and two hits with "the paddles". When my heart finally skipped a beat and returned to its normal rhythm they admitted me to the hospital and decided to keep me to see the cardiologist.

Over the next few days I was picked, poked, prodded, and transported to a second hospital. At that hospital they ended up doing heart ablation, which took care of my heart arrhythmia.

A few days later I found myself walking back into school---- walking a bit slowly, but I knew that I had to plan for my return.  I wasn't exactly looking forward to it. After all, I was still experiencing some soreness and I certainly wasn't looking forward to the "attitude" group.

It was spring break so there was no one else there.  As I entered my room I saw my room literally COVERED with notes and well-wishes. There were signs and cards scattered all over the walls. The dry erase board was littered with signatures and "I miss yous".

Nearly every single student had signed somewhere...... even those who had been giving me attitude.

NOW I was ready to return........ I was needed.......... I was missed........... I was appreciated.

Looking back on it all now, I think that God used this entire episode to take care of two things: He presented me with the opportunity to finally get my heart issue resolved and he also helped to remind me that, though students complain and whine from time to time, they truly do have a heart. They may not always appreciate my efforts, but they know that I am there for them and I mean well.

In the years since, I have taught a new group of students each year. Some of them have been "tough" and some of them have been "joys", but ALL of them have been liked. I make a point each year to tell my students exactly that..... I may not always like their behavior, but I DO LIKE them!

My carefully laid plans were interrupted, if only for a week or two by God and HIS plan...... and I am all the better for it.


  1. Yes!!! God does use you to make a difference in the lives of the young people you teach. Never forget that, even if you do not see the results!!!! Praise God for putting the appropriate people in your path when all that came to a head.

  2. Thank you for sharing today, Stella! I know we never want our life interrupted with things like this, but God is so good to see us through and he works everything out for our good. Love, Sue (OBS Leader)