Summer with a BANG!

Peter and Janek arrived on Saturday, June 22nd. It was good to see them again.  My dear friend Katie had made arrangements for their motor home to be picked up in Wasilla and agreed to drive them up there to get it.  Of course Peter would be seriously jet-lagged by traveling from Germany, and I realized during the night that I should probably fly up to meet them and help drive the Big Rig back to Soldotna.  Katie agreed with me, so that’s what I did.  It was a good for him to have the help, and we made it to my house before midninght.  Of course he spent a couple of days working it, cleaning things and stocking it with supplies for family life on the road. I was able to contribute pots and pans, linens and some travel gear.

P1190357 kid-dogP1190367 caribou P1190363 the wallP1190379 cooksP1190373 cookies

As you might be able to see, the first days were filled with mosquitoes and mosquito bites, and Janek looked like he got the worst of it.  This is the most awful year for biting bugs that I can ever remember and everyone is complaining.  Fortunately the guys developed the morning habit of putting on bug dope, and we gradually learned to cope.  Janek and I had fun fixing meals, making cookies, going to the playground, and taking walks with Cheyenne.  The boy and dog buddies spend a lot of time together.

Here is Peter with Janek, ready for the first time he could go out with his dad for a commercial fishing day.  Janek is proud to say, “I’m a fisherman!”

P1190382 fishermen

The “BANG” happened on the sixth day after they got here, during Peter’s first day out with his boat.  I didn’t feel good, and had some pressure on my chest and a hard time breathing.  I had heard that if you go in to the hospital right away, they can tell  from a blood test if it is your heart, so I decided about 3 p.m. to take the boy and dog with me to the emergency room.  Although all the initial tests were fine, they had us wait six hours for another blood test, and this time it did show the heart protein troponin so I failed.  Now this was officially a heart attack, which meant that when a helicopter became available I would be medivaced to Anchorage where they have cardiac services.  Unfortunately that would be many hours later, so Peter had time to come in from fishing, go home to pick up my chargers and laptop, and take charge of Janek and Cheyenne.  Then just before midnight I finally headed north in a very dramatic fashion.  By the time I got to Anchorage my tests were good again.

This whole episode has been a learning experience but to make a long story short, I was lucky to get a great doctor who decided to go into my wrist for a cardiac catheterization, spent just 1 1/2 hours in the cath lab and got four stents in three arteries, was all fixed by noon, and was walking around an hour later.  As the doc predicted, I got released the next day and Katie gave me a ride to the airport so I could catch a flight home.

To be honest, I didn’t really think anything was wrong with my heart at all, I just wanted to be sure. The symptoms for women are always different and unpredictable, and usually it looks like something else.  By going through my wrist, he saved me great pain and a long recovery, and he did a marvelous job. Most people have no idea what’s going on inside them, but my heart has been reamed out and tidied up relatively painlessly, and I’m grateful that it was done. I have no idea why he chose this method for me because it is not often used, but all the nurses were astounded that it was so much easier for me than other patients, nearly all of whom get a groin entry. They were lying in bed suffering while I got up and walked across the hall for a shower.

Heart issues do not run in my family, but I believe that not only are we living longer and healthier now, but our medical services are far beyond what existed just a few short years ago, and many things can be repaired that women would have just lived with in the past. The sad part is that all heart research was done only for men, so only recently are they learning about women to know that their symptoms are so varied, and now have stents small enough to fit inside women’s arteries. Apparently my timing was perfect.  I believe that if I can force myself to take the medicines on schedule, my heart will be good for a long time to come.

I’m feeling normal already. I was conscious through the whole procedure, could hear each time they found a problem, put in a balloon and blew it up, inserted a stent and moved on to the next one. They say I’ll be better than new soon, and will have much more energy than I’ve probably had for a long time. I might even be able to start hiking again, after working with a cardiac therapy group at the Soldotna hospital. The nurse said that my heart might have been a big reason I could hardly go up and down the stairs, not just arthritis.  What a good way to start this new chapter of life.



  1. Candy Bustanoby July 8, 2013

    How are you feeling, now? I heard the news about he terrible crash at the Soldarna airport earlier today and got worried that it was a medevac with you on it! Not so, but how sad. People expecting to go on a fishing trip of a lifetime and never quite get there!

  2. Kristin July 6, 2013

    Thank you, my dear friends, for writing! It is so wonderful to get your good wishes and concern. I will certainly say that having a heart attack for me was nothing like the dramatic images we have been given all these years. But it is truly a wake-up call for human mortality and the treasures of everyday life and the fragility of good health. Any of us might have a ticking time bomb inside our bodies, and this was one for me. Nothing can be taken for granted.

    My dear “family of my heart”
    - brother Steve, thanks for taking time to write because I know your own life is overflowing with fear and grief for your fragile wife Shann. My heart is with you every day.
    - sister Camelia, I am grateful for your kind words and constant love, your family is dear to me and I miss you so much. Hug your family for me, and tell everyone that I send my love to Florin, Manu, your mother and father, and your sister.
    - my Peace Corps travel buddy Gloria, I’m so glad that you and Sonny did come to visit in June, before all this happened and we could enjoy your exciting times in Alaska together.
    - Candy and Jim, Margaret and Mike – I can’t wait to see all of you in Mexico again next winter! San Carlos is so much more fun when you have friends there to play with, what great adventures we have ahead of us!

  3. steve porten July 3, 2013

    In seattle listening to the din of the fireworks as the 4th eve has hit the big city. Our poor 4 legged has himself tucked closely up against my feet, as he is not one to enjoy the popping and explosions—-I don’t very much either. Talk about excitement! Holy sammolie ‘sister K’!—-glad you were paying attention and found some pro’s that knew what was happening and how to deal with it—-Back to walking and pushing those legs and arms and all the rest of you—-Enjoy it kiddo in health and lightness. Carpi Diem! steve

  4. camelia July 3, 2013

    Dearest sister,
    I am glad that everything went so well for you and above all, that you were not alone.
    I wish you to be in good health.
    Your loving sister, Camelia and her family

  5. Candy Bustanoby July 2, 2013

    My God! That is quite a story, Keistin. I am so glad this ll happened while Peter was there, andyou did not have to cope alone. It sounds like a very successful event, at least in the big picture. Your decisions were perfect!

  6. margaret palmini and mike July 1, 2013

    WOW. Interesting!

    Thanks for sharing, the photos adorable.
    Will chat when you get here OK. I too have an issue with heart but under control.
    See ya!

  7. misty glow July 1, 2013

    You’re alive and well!! This is the most important. I am glad it’s all over. What a relief and it had all been easy. Indeed, an amazing procedure.

    Hail to the new/reborn woman! You’re as fresh as early spring. I believe that stenting and the medications you’ll be taking religiously is a way of giving you a new lease of life.

    All the very best of luck and health for the future.

    Love always,

    misty G

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