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Notes From a Single Mom: The Beat Goes On

Lynn Armitage
4/22/12

I have a troubled heart. Me and about 5 percent of the population. A mitral valve prolapse, they call it. It’s pretty harmless most of the time. But occasionally, my heart will race, forcing me to do the unthinkable and slow down. Recently, I almost blacked out in back-to-back episodes, launching three days of emergency-room visits that had me using my health insurance card like an ATM debit. Cha-ching!

One night, after my daughters were in bed, the small, yet unrelenting pressure in my chest (and an overzealous advice nurse) scared me into calling 9-1-1. Within three minutes, my street lit up with flashing red lights and wailing sirens. Suddenly, seven paramedics and firemen appeared in my living room.

All this time, and Mr. Right was just a phone call away.

Single moms, heed this advice: If you ever have to call 9-1-1, use those precious minutes wisely before half the Playgirl calendar arrives: quickly brush your hair, dab on some lipstick and pop in a mint. You’ll be glad you did. (Just make sure the lotion you slather on hurriedly in your supposed weakened state doesn’t have glitter in it. Too obvious, what do you think?)

Secondly, have a contingency plan in place. A designated someone who can run over in a moment’s notice to watch your children in the event of an emergency. Coincidentally, I had made arrangements with a good friend earlier that day, “just in case, someday.” Little did I know, we’d put that plan into action a mere six hours later.

I learned a lot from this wake-up call. Namely, I’m not indestructible. Mommies break down, too. In fact, more women die from heart attacks than men. Know why? Because we ignore the symptoms, which are different for women.  Pain in the back? “Must be the heavy groceries.” Shortness of breath? “No wonder, I have so much to do today.” Chest pressure or indigestion? “Oh, it’ll go away.”

When the paramedic told me I might be having a heart attack and they’d have to take me to the hospital by ambulance for tests, as much as I wanted to drive in a fast, red car with this handsome, young guy, I protested. “I can’t leave the house! I have laundry to do and breakfast to make!”

Health problems are inconvenient. They throw you off track, mess up your precisely-timed schedule. But a drill sergeant temporarily out of commission is better than a cherished mommy six feet under. So it’s critical to mother yourself, too.

In the end, it was a false alarm. The test results came back normal. Shoot, this divorced mom was just happy to hear she had a heart.

Lucky for me . . . I’ve been given the gift of more time. More cuddles with my kids. More laundry to do (sigh). More meals to make.

And the beat goes on.

Freelance columnist Lynn Armitage now re-thinks her pajama choice every night. Silk, Laker-purple PJs don’t look so stylish under the fluorescent glare of emergency-room lights. You can reach her at Boatfolk@aol.com.

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