I had a heart attack. No, really. Last Friday. At 4 PM. It's not the first post after my glorious vacation I expected to write. I had chicken croquettas planned, like the ones I'd tasted all over Spain. I wanted to do a quick and delicious linguine with clams like the one I had sitting right on the beach in Positano on the Amalfi Coast. I wanted to show you pictures of the glorious markets I visited in Barcelona, Nice, Majorca.
For those of you who know me as the organic queen, the healthy diet maven, the person who traps you at a party and talks you into a glazed-over stupor about some recent finding on artificial sweeteners and their effects on blah, blah, blah, this news come as a shock.
It certainly knocked me on my proverbial butt, to be carted out of my house on an ambulance stretcher, after my brave and beautiful daughter, Lily, called 911. I almost talked her out of the call because things like this are not supposed to happen to her mother, and it was probably just going to be a vacation-induced-super-reflux or some other whiny weakness I was going to be supremely embarrassed about in an hour or two. But then I locked eyes with her and simply said "I'm afraid." and she said, "I'm calling." She told me later that she had just finished reading a book for her required summer reading assignment in which the protagonist, a 9-year-old girl, fails to call 911 when she sees her mother having a seizure, and feels responsible for her death forever after. Lily finished the book 30 minutes before she had to make that call for me. If I ever doubted that there are inexplicable and meaningful serendipities in life and not just mere coincidences, this last thing has cured me of that corner of cynicism in my psyche forever.
Over the course of 4-days I was intubated, EKG'd, ultra-sounded, blood-thinned, opiated, angiogrammed, statinized, poked, prodded and monitored by the excellent and caring staff of Hunterdon Medical Center and found out, after some head-scratching by everyone involved, that my heart was completely healthy, blockage free....except for a tiny "tear", inside the layers of one minor artery in my heart. It's a rare condition, about 300 documented cases and it's known as Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD). From what I've been reading (obsessively) about this, it effects mostly woman, mostly younger women (than the typical heart patient), or pregnant women and may be related to hormonal changes and levels that soften or weaken the lining of the arteries. Or not. There is not much definitive research on it.
I came home last night and early this morning while browsing my email and my favorite blogs that I've missed. I came across one that left me crying the tears I'd held back all weekend while facing my own fragile mortality, while talking calmly to my son, to my husband, to my daughter, while thinking "could this be the last time I see them?" Jenny of In Jenny's Kitchen asks her readers to make a Peanut Butter Pie in honor of her husband, Mike, who died of a sudden heart attack just days before. He was in his 40's. They have young children, little girls. I wept for Jenny and Mike and the girls, and I wept for the chance I got to live through it, to come home, that he didn't. I wept to release the fear I'd been holding in and the fear that is still right behind the light tightness in my chest that reminds me I'm just at the beginning of my healing process. I wept in gratitude for the chance to heal.
My heart, my healing, aching heart goes out to Jenny. Below is her peanut butter pie. Make it and enjoy it with the people you love...or do something else to remind you of who and what is immediately and ultimately important. I wrote this "poem" from my bed, tethered to three different IV drips of blood thinners and fluids, a heart monitor and a blood pressure cuff that woke up and squeezed my arm every so often to see if I was still there. To use a cooking analogy, let me just say that what became important to me this weekend reduced down to a very specific and rich realization: nothing matters...only how much you love and the people you love. Everything else is strictly garnish.
My heart is spilling enzymes…mmmmm.
It’s demanding my attention. It’s gripping me by the throat and saying look at me, give me what I want. I am tired. Tired of being so tight and protected. Tired of being held in, held back, wise-assed and just plain asinine. Tired of longing for more and more, when so much has been graciously given.
My heart wants blood thinners. It wants an easier flow. It wants to bathe easily in life force and love. It wants to gallop like a young girl’s. It wants to be seen and heard and palpated and embraced. It wants it’s picture taken with neon nuclear fluid running through it and more pictures again with a candid camera shot up through my hand so I can see what is really, really there. It wants to fill up with the only thing it needs to heal.
My heart is enlarging, one ventricle at a time…the right one saying…expand, expand, expand.
I hope that everyone knows how much I love them.
Creamy Peanut Butter Pie
from In Jenny's Kitchen
Serves 10 to 12
8 ounces chocolate cookies
4 tablespoons butter, melted
4 ounces finely chopped chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup creamy-style peanut butter
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1 – 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Add the cookies to the bowl of a food processor and pulse into fine crumbs. Combine melted butter and cookie crumbs in a small bowl, and stir with a fork to mix well. Press mixture into the bottom and 1-inch up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave. Pour over bottom of cookie crust and spread to the edges using an off-set spatula. Sprinkle chopped peanuts over the melted chocolate. Place pan in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.
Pour the heavy cream into a bowl and beat using a stand mixer or hand mixer until stiff peaks form. Transfer to a small bowl and store in refrigerator until ready to use. Place the cream cheese and peanut butter in a deep bowl. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in the confectioner's sugar. Add the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract and lemon juice. Increase speed to medium and beat until all the ingredients are combined and filling is smooth.
Stir in 1/3 of the whipped cream into the filling mixture (helps lighten the batter, making it easier to fold in the remaining whipped cream). Fold in the remaining whipped cream. Pour the filling into the prepared springform pan. Drizzle the melted chocolate on top, if using, and refrigerate for three hours or overnight before serving.
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