Tales From a Dysfunctional Heart

There are so many integral moments that transpired between retreating to the locker room and being on that ER bed behind a closed curtain with people frantically trying to save my life. I think back on that night all the time.
01/27/2014 02:28 pm ET Updated Mar 29, 2014

The night I almost died I did not see a passageway or a ray of light with my deceased loved ones waving at me to join them. I did not levitate and watch from above as the nurse cut through my sports bra, exposing my chest so the doctor could shock my 21-year-old heart with a defibrillator. I just watched completely at peace, unafraid and in no pain. Some things simply cannot be explained, only remembered.

Hours before you would have found me on the tennis court standing tall with 5 feet of intimidation and heart. I was playing my first match of my senior collegiate tennis season so close to the big city you could almost feel the energy and buzz feeding off of the metropolis lights. All day long I had felt as though I was being followed, like a dark shadow was hiding in corners, tip toeing behind me, trying to seep into the part of my soul that houses intuition. My barefaced optimism won the first set, naively. And here I was at the start of my singles match on such a high after an awesome doubles win, adrenaline rushing through my body. Within minutes that same body felt like a bouncing ball that had been deflated. Suddenly all the lights in the indoor courts began to blur together and echoed voices were asking me if I was okay. At this point I am well aware the majority of people out there would have thrown in the towel, but I had the Rudy soundtrack playing in my head reminding me that the word "quit" was not a part of my vocabulary. So I continued to play as all the symptoms I had been feeling intermittently since I was 12 began to intensify and multiply like gremlins. I felt as if someone had poured a fresh cup of hot coffee down my throat and it splashed all over my racing heart. Tiny soldiers had set camp on my esophagus making it hard to breathe. Dizziness had captured my head and planted its flag on the logical part of my psyche that was desperately trying to tell me to stop playing...

I did not listen to that inner voice that speaks to you, nor did I stop playing. There are things in life that are inexplicable, and this would most certainly be one of those moments. I sprinted for a short shot from my opponent that had barely made it over the net. In route I ended up on the ground. I was miraculously not unconscious. It was as if someone had pushed me there. A couple people were huddled around me, but the only one I cared to speak to was Coach. I wanted to convince him to let me keep playing. Apparently his basic cognitive process was still intact, and therefore the match was defaulted on the spot.

I retreated to the locker room frankly pissed off and confused about what had just happened. My symptoms settled for a bit, like the "calm before the storm." When they decided to come back from their mini hiatus they had no intention of leaving.

There are so many integral moments that transpired between retreating to the locker room and being on that ER bed behind a closed curtain with people frantically trying to save my life. I think back on that night all the time. It was as if imaginary bread crumbs were left and if I followed them I won the best prize imaginable, my life. Something bigger was guiding me and the events of that night; telling me which hospital to go to, having the arrogant doctor that was not taking me seriously leave his shift for the night before he was finished "discharging" me, having a new doctor come on and decide to place me on a heart monitor where it was noticed I was significantly tachycardic in a life threatening arrhythmia with a blood pressure of 45 over 36.

So there I was, 21 years old, getting shocked like you see on those TV shows. They initially tried giving me medicine. When that did not work it was clear to them what they had to do. This is when everything started to look like a dream. I was there, but I was also an observer, and I was in such a state of peace. The last time I had felt that kind of peace I was on the Isle of Capri, Italy on a boat in the middle of crystal blue water. The scenery here looked quite different. Although I had been sedated, I was aware of my surroundings and what was going on. My eyes were open, and I watched everything happen in a slow motion type fog. I could feel the panic and urgency in my bones, yet I did not shake. I could hear an emergency unfolding, yet I was not scared. The nurse then pulled out a pair of scissors and cut through my red tennis shirt. She then cut through my white sports bra, leaving me unprotected. I had my clothes on because the previous doctor had intentions of sending me home soon. Who would have known that like a story, life foreshadows itself as well? That cut ended my athletic ride.

There I laid, chest exposed, my heart and my mind still not aware of what they were about to do. How was I to know that they were about to shock my heart to keep me alive? I felt a cold sticky pad hit my chest, then another. Then I heard more controlled panic. "They are overlapping. She is too small." Then I felt them take one of the pads off, lift my side up, place one on my back and set me down." I heard something that sounded like a charger. Sight decided to leave the building at this point. I always look back and wonder if it was actually still there, if it did not indeed fail me, but rather my brain deliberately locked it away in a dusty corner of my mind. Another of my five senses stood standing, touch. I do not remember feeling pain, just my entire body jolt and lift up as if it was meeting a magnet in the air. And then, again.

The next 24 hours were a haze, and when I woke I would be welcomed to the world of "misfit toys" and ARVD.

-- Rebecca K Sieg

This is the first story of Rebecca K Sieg. Please look for more to follow her ongoing journey.