THE YELLOW LIGHT

Maybe life is like a traffic signal. When the light is red you stop. When it’s green you go, when it’s yellow, that means caution. You have choices and choices have consequences.

Ten days ago I landed at the yellow. Let my story be a cautionary tale.

Over this last pandemic year I have spent more time sitting on my butt in front of the computer than ever before. For days I wouldn’t even go outside and outside around here is really pretty. Exercise? Puleeese…

A friend suggested that right after rolling out of bed, I do some kind of physical something. This is how it started for him and now he’s a jock. So I commit to a whopping ten minutes of weights or yoga every day and this particular Friday morning I am doing aerobics, dancing hard to my funky music playlist. When the ten minute timer goes off I’m a little winded but, stick a fork in me, I’m done.

Then I plop down at the kitchen counter to clean my computer keyboard. I’ve talked about the “spraying thing” in my classes. When we sing, we share our juices. Yeah it’s gross and every once in a while I have to clean off the grody. With alcohol pads and Q-tips at hand, a steaming mug of tea and honey nearby, I’m reveling in the early morning quiet. Aah…

Until a vague feeling of heartburn creeps into my upper chest and grabs my attention right away since I haven’t eaten anything for hours. I swallow a few times but it’s still there. This feeling is almost in my neck which is now beginning to tighten, just a little, along with my jaw. And shoulders. I keep cleaning the keyboard but believe me, my attention is laser-focused on this unfolding constellation of sensations. Then my right arm starts to throb. And get this, just my bicep. I danced this morning, but it’s not like I punched a hole in the wall. Then my left arm begins to ache too. In the same place.

“Walk it off Cali,” I tell myself. But when I stand up I feel a little woozy and nauseous. I’m wondering how much of this is anxiety or a panic attack because I’m really good at twisting myself into a great big knot with one frightening thought. But the sensations are not going away and now the heartburn feeling is moving into my chest. I also have a ukulele class and music show today on Zoom. “How am I going to make it through?” I ask myself. “Come on…you can do it.” That’s the workaholic talking.

Another voice pierces the conversation: “Take an aspirin!” I quickly swallow the pill, reconnect my keyboard to the computer and Google heart attack/women.

I already know that lady symptoms can be subtle, low-drama, and we can talk ourselves out of believing “this is happening to me.” I also know that my mother had at least two heart attacks, my father had triple bypass surgery and both my grandmothers died of a stroke. But hey, I’ve got things to do today…okay?

I’m driving towards the yellow light and wobbling mightily between denial and acceptance. My primary care doc would tell me later that this is what happens and the sooner you come to acceptance, the sooner you get help. Too many people freeze in denial.

My Google search lands at heart.org and this sentence grabs my attention:

“Many women I see take an aspirin if they think they are having a heart attack and never call 911…But if they think about taking an aspirin for their heart attack, they should also call 911…”

OMG, I didn’t just think about taking an aspirin. I actually did it. But there is no way in hell I’m calling 911. I’m feeling fine. Sort of. I’m talking. I’m walking. I call my husband Craig instead, who is having breakfast at his regular hangout.

“Honey please come home, I may be having a heart attack and need to get to UCLA.”

“CALL 911…”

“No-no-no, I’m okay, let’s just drive there.” La-dee-da. I later learn the restaurant staff is really worried for him as he dashes out, white as a ghost.

So what do I do next? Take a shower. Remember I’m still at the yellow light—yeah this stuff happens to other people. Not to me. BUT if I’m going to the hospital, at least I’m going to start off clean.

Afterwards I throw on some clothes, grab my backpack, take a last look at our living room, wonder if I’ll ever see it again, lock the door and meet my husband downstairs. He is a nervous wreck and right now I’m just trying to breathe—in, out, in, out.

 


We live close to UCLA and get there quickly. It’s early morning and these are Covid times. No visitors in emergency. My husband drops me off and I won’t see him again until that night. The triage nurse greets me at the door and I go into my spiel, which in itself reveals the complexity of the moment and how I’m processing all this. “Hi. Nice to see ya. I feel like an idiot being here…but I think I may be having a heart attack.” Then I rattle off the symptoms. The nurses whip me back to an examination room lickety-split, hook me up to an electrocardiogram and ask me to stop talking. You gotta love that…

Something is up with the first test and they put me in another room with a different ECG. “Is it me or the machine?” I chirp brightly. No answer. Until the ER doctor tells me there is a problem and barrages me with questions. A nurse promptly starts an IV line. Blood is drawn immediately. Chest X-rays and an ultrasound of my heart follow in quick succession. The tiny nitroglycerin pills they pop under my tongue don’t do squat.

If you haven’t already guessed. I am having a heart attack.

But when the cardiologist introduces himself, even he is not sure what’s going on yet because I am not “presenting” as a person in acute cardiac distress. You know how I love to ask questions and soon learn that when the heart muscle is damaged it releases a chemical known as troponin and this can be measured with a blood test. The first round comes back at .2 which is just a nudge above normal.

Talk about this modern technological world, I am getting lab results online as quickly as the doctors by just logging into my UCLA account on my phone. And believe me I am Googling furiously, trying to assimilate as much information as I can about troponin and heart attacks.

And worrying desperately about my husband. Our phones are our only lifeline to each other and I am having trouble getting through to him. He’s somewhere in the hospital or sitting in his car or the cafeteria and I would later learn, frantically texting our friends. They help him through the day. Not knowing what’s happening to someone you love is absolutely awful. And to think Covid families have been going through this for a year.


Google says when the troponin level is above .4 there is the probability of a heart attack. The next lab is .47 and ultimately will peak at 31. They wheel me to the heart catheterization lab for an emergency angiogram, just about the time I would be doing my Friday afternoon Zoom show. I’m trying to pay attention to what I am seeing and hearing and feeling. However, I’m not taking in the big picture. How can the words Cali, heart and attack be in the same sentence? This can’t be. But I’m right there when the cath team asks what kind of sedation I’d like them to use.

“Oh nothing, I want to watch.”

How many people get to see their heart lubba-dubbing on a computer screen. In real time? No twilight happy juice for me. When I later tell one of our friends about this he replies “Holy sh-t, are you f–king crazy? I would tell them to knock me out and keep me knocked out until I’m ready to go home.”

Each team I encounter at U.C.L.A. is caring, extraordinarily competent and so kind. In the cath lab, they do everything to allay my fears and help me feel comfortable. And preserve my modesty, considering that the entry and exit point of this procedure is below the Equator. One of the nurses offers to call my husband’s cell phone personally during the procedure.

It’s not like there is a roto-rooter sensation as the catheter inches up to my heart through my femoral artery. I hear the team jibber-jabbering but can’t make out what they are saying. What looks like a flying upside-down toilet (with the lid closed) is whipping in circles over my chest, other machines are hissing and the lights in the room go on and off. You see what I mean…who’d want to miss this? I catch a glimpse of the imaging screen when the flying toilet isn’t in the way but in truth I don’t know what is going on.

Itty bitty stent

Until finally the cath doctor leans into my face and tells me I have an 80% blockage in one of my coronary arteries. I will later learn, thank you Google, that the LAD, the left anterior descending, is the largest coronary artery in the heart and is also called, g-a-s-p, the widow maker. I know these doctors and nurses see this stuff every day but when it happens to you, well it’s shocking. He suggests that inserting a stent is the best option. This procedure is called an angioplasty. “Well okay,” I say, “but do you have a stent laying around so I can see what it looks like?” He pulls up a picture on his phone. First they will push through a balloon to open the blockage and then send that stent up the elevator. The nurse calls my husband again.

The symptoms I experienced earlier that morning had waned. Maybe the team in the ER had given me something for pain or to thin my blood. But when the cath doc starts manipulating the balloon, the tightness and discomfort come roaring back, WHOA, and believe me I let them know about that. The doctor says, “good, we know we’re in the right place. These are YOUR symptoms of a heart attack.” Once the stent is inserted the discomfort goes away.

Afterwards, the doctor shows me more pictures and video replays. I have other blockages but they aren’t as bad and will be treated with medication. Speaking of the new pills in my life—a blood thinner, stuff to control my cholesterol and blood pressure, baby aspirin—these medications are supposed to keep the stent and artery from closing up again. In other words, if you don’t take these pills you can kiss your ass goodbye.  Here are the facts:

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States.

I’m on the thin side, my diet is more healthy than not, my husband and I meditate. Yes I could exercise more, get more sleep and work less. “Why did this happen?” I ask my cardiologist. Apparently, in my case, it’s mostly about genes, genes, and more genes. So here we are, you and me, taking our seats at the poker table of life in the Grand Casino of Heredity. We get dealt a hand. Some cards are good, some not so much. At least today there is medicine (and yes, lifestyle changes behind Curtain #2).

The view from my room is a little spooky at night

That evening I am finally reunited with Craig as I’m rolled into my hospital room. I am SO glad to see him.  At least I’ve been royally entertained all day but he’s been through the wringer and needs to go home and get some sleep. I meet the team of nurses and residents on cardiology rotation as they help me settle in. I haven’t eaten anything in 24 hours and order a cup of vegetable soup. But mostly it just sits there.

I probably would have gone home the next day except for what happened in the wee hours of the morning after I received my first dose of magic pills.  Three nurses hover close as they help me to the bathroom to pee. So far so good but when I re-emerge from that glorious experience, I tell them “I’m feeling really dizzy…really diz…” and then everything goes black.

I freaking pass out and later learn that the nurses catch me as I fall forward onto the bed, keep me from slipping to the floor and somehow get my unconscious butt back on the mattress where I finally come to. When I open my eyes, I see a phalanx of residents and nurses looking at me. And not in a good way. They don’t know why I lost consciousness and are afraid I’m bleeding internally. Some bruises on my belly are gaining acreage.

They put me through a battery of mental acuity and physical tests. What’s the date today? Can you lift your right leg? More blood is drawn and my hemoglobin has dropped a little. Now the residents are really worried and want me to have an invasive procedure to detect internal bleeding. “Good Lord. Can we just wait and see?” I ask, “I feel okay now.” In the end the cardiologist-in-charge puts the test on hold.

The advances in modern medicine are miraculous. Science is a wonder. But medicine is also an art. How many times a day do knowledge, experience and intuition intersect and pause at the yellow light. What to do? What to do?

This is a teaching hospital and teaching goes both ways.

As it turns out, one of the medications they gave me dropped my blood pressure precipitously low and that’s why I passed out. No internal bleeding.

I’d like to know how big pharma comes up with the generic names for their pills. Do they throw darts at an alphabet chart on the wall? It’s impossible for me to remember, much less pronounce these words. So I stick to the more accessible brand name. I mention this because a long time ago, in another hospital, I was given a medication for high blood pressure. When I tried to stand up, I passed out.

My day shift angel and me. I will long remember these nurses with fondness and gratitude.

I remember the brand name and vowed that I’d never take THAT stuff again. Not once did it occur to me that, after all these years, I was the only one who knew this. And furthermore, I didn’t recognize the generic name when the nurse presented me with the pill that night. But it was the same medication. Big lesson. Put information like this in writing, on a card in your wallet or enshrined in the electronic medical records. These kinds of personal details can make a big difference. For you and your doctors. The medical professionals know the science but no one knows your body and your story better than you.

The day shift arrives. “I heard about last night…” they tell me, one after another. Apparently word spreads fast around here. My husband arrives too, with fresh undies and a ukulele. He stretches out, all 6’3” of him, on the comfy vinyl-padded couch under the window and gets some sleep. He’s exhausted. They are changing up my medication today, for obvious reasons, and I am “observed” by one Florence Nightingale after another. The rest of my hospital stay is blessedly uneventful.

The next morning I plop into a wheelchair and am Fed-Exed to our car by a nice transportation lady. Craig safely delivers us home where I end this “trek through heart attack land” the same way I started. With a shower. Getting to the emergency room when we did probably saved my life. I heard this more than once during my stay at UCLA. Thankfully, I have minimal heart damage. Somehow we pushed through the yellow light. So many helping hands. My heart is full.


These are the “before and after pictures” of my heart. I suspect these images look like hundreds of thousands of others, women and men who have had blockages and were given a second chance. With a stent.

Just imagine the scientists and designers who dreamed this stent thing up, the researchers and fabricators who developed the hardware and refined the techniques for this procedure, all the teams of doctors, nurses and techs who train long and diligently to do it right. How about the countless number of people who support them, emotionally and otherwise, so they can do their work. Or the farmer in Brazil who grows the coffee beans that end up in the early morning cup of Joe that is just what the doctor needs to focus and forge ahead for the day. On and on it goes. All I can say is thank you.

78 Responses

  1. Mariana Williams
    | Reply

    Cali, I am so glad you got the medical attention in time. Huge understatement. I’m so impressed by your writing skills— I was there- as you went through all your emotions and denial and wonder and gratitude.
    You are a teacher of uke, of course— but this experience taught we women a valuable lesson on what might happen— even to a thin, person who eats well, meditates and has a loving partner! Geeze!!!!
    ( genes, as you point out , is the culprit.) Your genes also gave you a beautiful face, smile and ability to reach middle- age and not diet, so there is THAT!
    Love and blessings,
    Mariana

    • Cali Rose
      | Reply

      Thank you so much Mariana! I don’t think my experience as a woman is unique. The symptoms can be so different for us–subtle, mild–and it’s way to easy to talk ourselves out of it and get on with the tasks of the day. I have since learned that the location of the blockage in my coronary artery was worst case scenario and without treatment would have done me in…or at the very least left me with permanent damage to my heart. So I hope we can all exercise a little more, eat lots of green stuff, delete the added sugar in our diets, hang out with people who nurture us and take a few minutes everyday to sit still and feel the ground under our feet. Two little words–Thank You–pretty say it all.

  2. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Wowee! Your “‘Yellow Light” should be published worldwide. It could save many people’s lives. You wrote it beautifully, illustrated it, made it humorous and educated us without alarming. Well your life-on-line experience of course was alarming but you expressed it in a way that is reassuring to the reader.

  3. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Your blog is terrific. I couldn’t find a single bit of information that wasn’t crucial. Reads easily and funny, and real! It should be published somewhere. really. The New York Times Sunday magazine might work, or wherever you favor!
    Too much included and too accurate not to share more widely and it is a great read anyway. Just perfect.

  4. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Last year I went to a Heart Foundation Luncheon and they had 2 cardiologists talking about why more women die in the hospital than men from heart attacks. Men get a chest pain, and loudly and quickly own it and say “heart Attack” and get fast tracked.
    Women may get tiredness, indigestion, discomfort and make excuses for it …oh , its not severe! So do not get fast tracked…The cardiologist said if you are even slightly concerned..say I think I’m having a heart attack…get fast tracked..better be safe than sorry…

  5. Anonymous
    | Reply

    I two had something similar. I was having a heart attack and ended up in the hospital getting 2 stints inserted. I had no pain only a strange feeling in the body. That was the last thing I ever thought I would ever have. I’m doing fine now and I’m sure you will also.

  6. Anonymous
    | Reply

    I wanted you to know that your original email to our class telling everyone about your trip to the hospital was one of the things that spurred me to go to [to my hospital] when I did. So thank you very much for that!

  7. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Thanks for sharing the details of your heart attack and hospital adventure. We women need to pay attention to the things you mentioned and respond to them quickly. I am grateful to you and delighted that you are “on the mend.

  8. Anonymous
    | Reply

    What a story teller you are! You had me hanging on every word and trying not to skip parts and get ahead of myself. You missed your calling in suspense writing. I have heard several stories from my grandddaughter who is a cardiac nurse in the valley and was always fascinated and had always wished I had become a nurse. Anyway I am so happy that all turned out so well and you can check off another experience in your varied life. Hang in there and will see you soon. Happy strumming.

  9. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Oh my gosh! I just read your blog. I always look forward to reading your posts, and I thought when I opened my email this morning, “Wow, what a perfect birthday treat! A cup of coffee and a funny, thoughtful blog from Cali!” Now my birthday treat is that you are okay. I’m sorry you and Craig had to go through such a stressful experience, but I am very, very grateful that you took your symptoms seriously and went to the hospital.

  10. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Such a valuable, informative and riveting piece. You may save our future lives because we’ll pay more attention to symptoms. I hope you are collecting your memoirs. They are so readable. Glad you got the outstanding care you did at each step.

  11. Anonymous
    | Reply

    I was so moved by your story about your heart attach. My wife was wondering why I had tears on my face.You are such a joy to this world, it would be tough without you.
    I haven’t been to a uke class since before covid but will start again because I want to feel the joy of the music and your brief company. Thank you for sharing your story.

  12. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Wow–what you went through! Sharing your “experience” with all is really a help to women, especially, who tend to think their symptoms are just a result of being tired. You did the absolutely right thing–heading to Emergency.

    How amazing– with your presence of mind and writing skill–you were able to record your whole experience. Thank you for that! Yes, and Craig must have gone through his own terrors–as your loved partner–and feeling so helpless. Good for you both for soldiering through it all!

    I know what a good and strong spirit you have–and the WORLD needs people like you. You’re much loved by so many–and that will help you get back to your good life.

  13. Anonymous
    | Reply

    You are an amazing, remarkable woman. I can’t imagine how you were able to join us at [our local retirement home] for the Saturday Zoom performance. And carry it out so beautifully. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. We love you and wish you a very speedy and full recovery.

  14. Anonymous
    | Reply

    I always enjoy your blogs but this one was especially good and informative. I am sooo glad you’re doing well. My brother had a similar story a few years ago and I’m happy to report he’s doing great too. You make the world a better place, Cali. And the longer you’re on this planet, the better.

  15. Anonymous
    | Reply

    You are one amazing woman! Thank you for sharing this part of your journey. I’m SO glad you did what you did when you did! Eek. Terrifying. I think so many of us women can relate to the “oh, just shake it off” response.

    I’m sure you were a bright light for all those hospital angels working on your behalf! I can only imagine what songs you played for them before you cleared out for their next patient… Here’s to so much more music ahead…

  16. Anonymous
    | Reply

    I am beyond happy that you had treatment in time and are recovering now. Please know how special you are to us and what joy you bring to so many people. Not sure how I would have gotten through all of the trauma of this last year without you.Take all of these heart filled wishes and take care of yourself. Be good to yourself and listen to the doctors! We’ll be waiting for your joyful return and will strum as we wait!

  17. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Sooo glad you’re back with us. Missed you greatly but boy am I glad you’re ok. What a beautifully written blog. You’ve had quite an experience. Please please take care and don’t work too hard. We only have this one life and we need you very much. I’m being selfish for feeling the needing part. Thank you ever so much for the wonderful instructions which I cherish. Please again take care and take it easy.

  18. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Thank you for sharing your personal stories. As a 62 year old ukulele playing woman many of your stories have resonated with me and my own experiences (health, mothers…). Your transparency is refreshing and I wanted to thank you now, while you’re fine (trying not to say “alive”)…when you share your stories, it reminds me that there will always be music in my life and a reset button to get through the tough bits. Thanks again.

  19. Anonymous
    | Reply

    I’m so sorry that you had to go through your recent heart attack. But so glad that your quick action saved your life. Thank you so much for sharing your story in such detail, as it may save many more lives. It is hard for a woman to know the symptoms of a heart attack, as they are so different from those you hear of for a man. Again, thank you for sharing your story and trying to save others from this disease.

  20. Anonymous
    | Reply

    I love your writing! Glad you are still with us…really glad.

  21. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Cali, I read every word of this last night. I remember thinking, this is so good on so many levels! I guess the most important thing is the message you are conveying. This is a real cautionary tale (a good pun on the “Yellow Light”!) especially for women. And the details of your experience are interesting and helpful. But I’m an English teacher, and old English teachers never retire, they just keep listening, speaking, reading and writing with a mental red pencil ready to critique it all! You are a great writer! I just plain enjoyed your style and I had to keep reading–the way a page-turner keeps you up all night to the end! I’m so glad you are doing well and on the path to full recovery.

  22. Anonymous
    | Reply

    How good and wonderful that you got the stent in good time, and are home and recovering.

    You are some smart, brave “cookie” to recognize things and
    respond as you did.

    It sounds like after the surgery and medicine,things settled
    and got better. And you got good care.

    Thank you for the detailed description and pictures. You are a
    conscientious patient just as you are a conscientious teacher.
    And that helps the situation. You’re able to give the needed
    information.

    May you make a good recovery. You give us so much pleasure.
    We need you. Take all the time you need, dear Cali. We will
    keep your place warm and waiting at our “helm.”

    It is a lesson to all of us to be more attentive to and at regular
    doctor visit check ups.

  23. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Oh my gosh, you had me on the edge of my seat!

    I’ve only seen you in person twice, but through your music, Facebook, and these blogs I feel as though I know you much better. More like a friend, coworker or family member!
    Oh, can I borrow a couple of bucks?

    And we are so similar in our work ethic! I could be having a coronary at my desk at work, and resit going with the paramedics because I still have work to do! Are you kidding? I have a meeting to prepare for!

    NO ONE COULD POSSIBLY DO THIS BUT ME.

    Thanks so much for that, you have always been so good at sharing your life with your fans. I wonder who else will be saved by your careful documentation of your experience and your subsequent advice? No pressure, huh?

    Anyway, I’m so glad everything turned out OK. You did the right thing at the right time.
    Looking forward to seeing you and Craig again some day!

  24. Anonymous
    | Reply

    I just read your message and am totally speechless! I am SO glad you are ok!!! I really don’t know what to say. It is so amazing that you are able to take such a scary experience and share it with your trademark humor with so many people who can learn from it. Thank you for including me, and I will share your message with other friends. I hope you’re feeling ok now. It sounds trite, but what a wake up call!

  25. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Cali- I just read your blog. Exhale. Lordy! I’m glad to hear that you have a stent and meds to protect you from further issues. Sending a huge hug your way.

    I hear my story in your words…not much exercise or sleep, and works too hard….
    Checking the cholesterol on food products (as I just did repeatedly earlier tonight at TJ’S) isn’t going to cut it. Thank you for your extremely well written essay. Is it possible to share this on FB? I think it’s so important for women and those in their lives to be reminded of our warning signs (and habits of just pushing through difficult experience). This is random, but I must say, I’m still trying to imagine that flying upside down toilet!

    Take care of yourself. Thank you for educating others with your story. I think you should publish a book of your blogs. You’re an outstanding writer.

  26. Anonymous
    | Reply

    I am so glad to know that you got to the hospital in time! Your poor honey must have been so worried about you! Thank you for taking the time to share this very important information about your experience with us! We need to listen to our bodies. Please take care of yourself and get well soon!

  27. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Holy smokes, Cali girl, what a story, what a scary adventure. Your indefatigable curiosity is quite incredible. No drugs during the procedure? You are a maniac, but, of course, it makes for a terrific story.

    Anyway, loved the blog. Thanks for all the transparency, all the details. As a fellow writer, we both know great stories are in the details and your blog has plenty of fascinating details.

    Someone in the class today mentioned that, based on your experience, she and her husband bought some aspirin. I’m going to do the same. My Anne’s family has a similar lousy genetic picture when it comes to heart disease. Having a few aspirin around isn’t a bad idea.

    Thanks for jumping back on the teaching horse. It was interesting to see your energy and enthusiasm gain steam as the class rolled on. It’s obvious you feed on the energy of the class and the music. The class—and you—were terrific. I hope it didn’t wear you out too much. I know you tend towards over-working, friend, but please recognize that heart disease is serious business, especially with your family history. Please don’t push it. Take your time. If you need to step back from teaching and performing so much, please do it. All of us value you so much. We’d much rather you take it easy and give less of yourself than to lose you. And that’s the truth.

    Anyway, thanks for class today. It was so lovely to see you. You are such a joy.

  28. Anonymous
    | Reply

    I kept waiting for the Cali punchline,
    but just getting back out the front door of the
    hospital was it!
    Glad to see you’re still with us and can’t wait
    to see you again.

  29. Anonymous
    | Reply

    We are all both appalled and delighted by your medical news. Very high marks to Craig for overriding your uncertainties and getting you in the car and to the emergency room toute suite! But wonderful that today, the sun is rising over the hill and the birds are singing and we are thankful for this brand new day, as a wise and beautiful songwriter once said. You are ever an inspiration, Cali.

  30. Anonymous
    | Reply

    …I especially appreciate you sharing the details. I’m still paying for getting Covid in September. The most serious symptom is suspected AFib, which is an irregular heartbeat resulting in shortness of breath. The worst consequence is heart attack. After all this time of uncertainty, I’m getting an EKG Friday, which should tell if I have it & how badly, and so how to treat it.

    I’ve had heart attack on my mind all this time, and your share is the best thing for me, information I may need to know one day. So thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing this with me, and all who read it.

  31. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Soooooooo relieved to hear that you are mending! Our universe needs your music and energy!

  32. Anonymous
    | Reply

    I am so glad you are on the mend. I went though the exact situation 20 years ago with my husband. He thought he just had the flu. Like you a stent and medication-in his case a statin and blood pressure medication were ordered. You and your husband have been through a lot. It is quite a shock to hear the words heart attack. I know getting back to your music will help a lot.

    Cali’s reply: Thank you for sharing some of your story. This kind of wake up call can reorient our precious life in a more healthy direction!

  33. Anonymous
    | Reply

    …Good on you for knowing your own family medical history and knowing you needed help. Before I started writing about food and travel, I wrote about health for nearly 25 years, including books on women’s health and a book on coronary artery disease. You can’t imagine the number of women who end up dying from heart disease because their rather “non-traditional” symptoms (i.e. non-male symptoms) are ignored by the medical establishment.

  34. Anonymous
    | Reply

    How incredibly lucky you were!!!! How lucky we all are that you will be ok and continue to “ play” an important part in the lives of so many in your uke community. How scary this must have been for you. Rest, rest and recover from this trauma. Being alive today is amazing because of all the advances in the medical field. We fix rusted out plumbing, get new parts for our cars and now you too are repaired, with lots of years added to your life!!!

    • Cali Rose
      | Reply

      Yes I do feel great appreciation for modern medical plumbing tools! I’m just beginning to learn that the blockage was in the worst possible location of this coronary artery and if it had continued, I would not have survived. But they started medicinal treatment almost immediately in the emergency room and then later, the new part. Slowly I’m coming to grips with this, but it’s sure taking time. But my prognosis is sterling because they caught it, fixed it and are teaching me what to do so hopefully it doesn’t happen again.

  35. Denise Magasin (Richard’s sister-in-law)
    | Reply

    Dear Cali,
    Thank you for sharing your experience! I am so glad that you acted promptly and are safe!
    I know how fragile health can be. After a lifetime of never getting sick, rarely a sniffle or cold, I just finished a two year battle with cancer! I won, but it changed my perspective forever.
    Your attitude and honesty are so appreciated!
    Be well!

    • Cali Rose
      | Reply

      Thank you Denise for sharing some of your story and I really get where you are coming from. It takes something that carries the onus of life and death to really shake us from our waking dream and how we are living our life. This moment. It’s all we’ve got. And don’t we know how precious it is. And we are. I’m so glad you are okay and forever changed. Please give Richard a big hug. He’s a treasure.

  36. Anonymous
    | Reply

    This is not the right order of things…I am sure that everyone thought the same thing. We had figurative heart attacks to hear of your health scare. It was shocking and jaw dropping. It is also not the right order of things to have our fit, figure-like-a-teenage-girl, yoga practitioner, meditator, healthy-eater Cali have a heart attack.

    Anyhow, I was thrilled that you were writing the Strummers within the week about how you were doing, and I walked away, even before your official blog post “The Yellow Light” thinking, wow. Cali had this heart attack and in doing so, might literally save lives because of your experience. You shared the details of your symptoms and now the Strummers can keep an eye out if that happens to them or a loved one.

    Your full blog post conveyed your experience in vivid detail. So, I am grateful for many things. That you were clever and wise and did the right thing in getting to the hospital and are doing well; you have a loving and supportive sweetheart, and that by sharing your experience, you just might save lives. That is big time! N.

  37. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Important note: You are important to me. The selfish me want you to take care of yourself.”

  38. Julia Ying
    | Reply

    Hi, Cali, I am always grateful to you for your loving and generous spirit, even when you went through this heart ordeal recently as you did, you still take time to share with us all your experience, so we may benefit from them. I hope just as you give out so much love and care, so you will also receive all our love and best wishes to you for a full and lasting recovery. Take good care of yourself going forwards. As always, thank you for being there for us, and love your writing skills!

    • Cali Rose
      | Reply

      Oh my goodness Julia! Thank you for your very kind words. Writing about all this is therapy for me. Even though my story is personal, we all go through storms and sunshine in life. There’s great comfort for me knowing that being human is group effort and we need each other to make it through the day.

  39. Cali Rose
    | Reply

    Thanks to all of you for your support and stories and encouragement. One of my friends, Alison C, posts a beautiful newsletter every week about what it’s like to be human. The themes vary, as do the pictures and poems and personal observations. This week she shared three perspectives about mortality. As in, our mortality–you and me. And she included my blog as one of the three. It’s all too easy to brush the conversation about “the big stuff” under the rug. But that doesn’t happen here and I think we are all enriched when others tell us the truth, with a side of gratitude… Here is the link:
    https://madmimi.com/p/5002221?pact=43128-162551535-11204485637-32f7a3e49afbcd23258a5aba0a1ebf6d8a9a837c

  40. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Your story really hit me — I think I shared that on your FaceBook post where I learned that this happened to you. Thank you for sharing your story — your wake up call is our wake up call, although certainly not as dramatically, of course!

  41. Anonymous
    | Reply

    You are blessed. It’s remarkable how you went thru it all! Like they say, it was not your time. You cannot leave all your students, right? I am so happy you were taken care of so well.

    Waiting to see you in “physical” classroom. Take care. Love you

    • Cali Rose
      | Reply

      We are all blessed!!!

  42. Anonymous
    | Reply

    The ❤️Attack story u shared blew me away! Glad u stopped being in denial when so many family members had the same unfortunate history. U certainly tell a GREAT story. Were u a WRITER in another life?
    AND grammatically correct. If I drank, I would lift my glass to toast your new, longer LIFE

  43. Anonymous
    | Reply

    First, you are a marvel. While I think that we probably are all getting the WRONG message – that everyone should hurry back after a significant medical event such as yours, rather than take recovery slowly and seriously – it was just remarkable to see and hear you at what seemed like high-gear full performance. Thank you again for the inspiration.

  44. Anonymous
    | Reply

    I have forwarded your blog to sooo many people – last week was heart week – first my sister on Monday (eats way too much sugar and carbs) heart ultrasound and halter monitor for 2 months then my mother in law on Weds. in the hospital for heart related issue for tons of tests.

    This is such an IMPORTANT blog Cali. Sharing your experience is going to save lives – that’s pretty darn heavy.

    I have to send lots of love to you and to Craig – and blessings that this experience is one you can live to tell so you can continue to lift hearts with your music!

  45. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own lives that we don’t realize that other people are experiencing their own struggles in life. Your recent blog was an eye opener in many ways, and my heart goes out to you for your bravery in what you have just gone through. Life does indeed throw us some curve balls, especially when we are least expecting it. You caught a big one, and you certainly rose to the occasion. Your inner strength emerged to carry you through this next journey in your life. I am so sorry you had to go through this, but so completely happy that you are doing better now, and I know that the love and support from all of us, your ohana, who care about you, will help to carry you through to a complete recovery.

    Thank you for sharing your personal journey of survival with us. Thank you for the music, and for all you have given to us. May you continue to get strong and feel well, and always remember we are thinking of you, and are behind you all the way! Take good care!

  46. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Whew. I’m nearly speechless – certainly breathless – having just finished reading your blog email re your heart attack. I have so many thoughts but really don’t know what to say. Most importantly, thank God and the Universe (depending on your beliefs) that you are alive and survived the event. Everything that lead to your survival – as you so brilliantly outlined – deserves a note of gratitude and thanks and a celebration of fireworks! The education you provided along the course of the email is also duly noted, as I hope everyone absorbs the critical information.

    I remember the blog re your mother and how honest you were with your thoughts and memories. This blog reads with the same openness. You are always so willing to be vulnerable and share your heart, which comes across when you play or sing or just chat with those fortunate enough to be in your company. Soooo….whew!!! You are way too important to this world to check out yet, so please continue to take care of yourself. I’m so glad you are still here! Thanks for including me in your email list.

  47. Anonymous
    | Reply

    What an incredible sequence of events, I am so happy you pulled through it all. It must have been very scary, but I couldn’t help but smile when you told the medical staff to forget the anesthetic because you wanted too see the whole procedure. (what a great spirit you have!) Please take care of yourself, don’t over do it and keep on singing..it heals the soul.

  48. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Cali,
    I read your recent blog (beautifully written as always) about your heart adventure. I had to write because I just had an eerily similar experience.

    I wanted you to know that your original email to our class telling everyone about your trip to the hospital was one of the things that spurred me to go to {the hospital} when I did. So thank you very much for that! I too am very grateful to be alive!

  49. Dorothy Nugent
    | Reply

    Oh Cali, you’ve done it again, awed me and moved me with your writing. You may not realize the effect you have on the people around you. Your friendliness and positivity to virtual strangers, like myself, endears you to us and on our side, we consider you a friend. I am so thankful that you have survived this ordeal, and I know you will soon be at 100% again, and teaching us embellishments to our ukes and our lives.

    On the flip side, as I tell my friends, a little exercise is a dangerous thing!!!

    Love you Cali. Happy strumming

    • Cali Rose
      | Reply

      Thank you Dorothy. Writing this blog really helped me begin to process what happened. I can only hope that some will recognize themselves in my story (and visa versa) and take note of the warning signs. So onward we go–learning some more life embellishments and doing a few jumping jacks too. Take care of YOURself!

  50. Jenny Leerskov
    | Reply

    Hi Cali, you are a prolific writer and possess great penmanship. Thanks for sharing your harrowing experience of a heart attack and all that you had to go through. It was really informative and is an eye opener for many. Wishing you a speedy recovery.

    • Cali Rose
      | Reply

      Thank you so much Jenny!

  51. Barbara
    | Reply

    Thank you for your story. I’m a practitioner of the “I’ll be alright, just wait a minute” school of health which I realize doesn’t always work.

    • Cali Rose
      | Reply

      Yep…me too. Sometimes waiting is the better choice. But… How to know the difference? That’s the question. I’d say, that for me, the call to action came from a “deeper” place. That I could not ignore. Please take care.

  52. Bev
    | Reply

    Cali. You had me on the edge of my seat! Can you imagine if your Mom was still alive?! So thankful this has a happy ending. We tend to make excuses when something like this happens to us. But, a complete turn around when it happens to someone we care about. I believe you would have had Craig to the ER lickity split! I keep an index card in my wallet with a list of meds, med allergies, surgeries and medical conditions. It has come in handy. Stay well. No more yellow lights! Hugs.

    • Cali Rose
      | Reply

      Thank you Bev!

  53. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Thank you so much for this. The up close and personal description of your experience helps everyone who may have to do it too. Thank heaven for modern medicine and the wonderful people who administer it.

  54. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Dear Cali – I’m so glad your story had a happy ending. Wow. This is important stuff for people of my age to read and know about. I’m so glad you did this write up. Take care and stay inspired with your new lease on life!

  55. Anonymous
    | Reply

    I hope you and your stent are doing well now. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I will start exercising and watching my diet so I won’t have an experience similar to yours. I feel I know you because of your blogs although we have only met once. I am so glad you made it through as you are one of my favorite people. Tell your husband hello too.

  56. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Cali we are the lucky ones, we got a second chance much because we got help in time.

    After the fact, my doctors advised me, among others of course, is to take my medicines as faithfully as possible. I’d like to pass the same as an unsolicited advice to you.

  57. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Cali, thank you so much for sharing yourself. Express so well. although such a thing has never happen to me, I hope I never forget your descriptions. Next time I am out I will buy some aspirin. Thank you for you!!

  58. Joni Rae Russell
    | Reply

    Cali – what an amazing, informative and thought provoking recap of your “Yellow Light” experience.
    I am so glad that you are OK. Thank God that the experts really know alot about the heart. I too wonder about the teams of professionals who create these tiny life saving pieces of hardware.
    So now you have a warning and a plan. Equipped with this stint and your newfound knowledge you become bionic and hopefully live a decade or 2 longer! My husband Robert was so concerned about you as I am sure many of your students were. I know you are a great Uke player and instructor – but I had no idea you are such a creative writer ( Fed-Ex’d me to the car – lol). Thanks for sharing this info to all of us so that we too are informed about the minor symptoms that can be not so minor. Take care – stay well. My Best, Joni Rae Russell

    • Cali Rose
      | Reply

      Thank you so much Joni. I started writing this thing to help myself process what happened. I can flip into denial at the snap of a finger. But these symptoms can appear so benign that it’s easy to talk yourself out of it, especially being a woman. So I’m hoping this story will help others be alert to the danger signs, however ordinary they appear. We adore your Robert! What a jewel he is. I’m glad you are taking good care of each other and staying safe.

  59. Victor
    | Reply

    OMG! Gulp. My eyes are like pancakes!

    • Cali Rose
      | Reply

      Well then add some syrup and butter!!! Thanks Victor.

  60. Anita Jaskol
    | Reply

    I am so grateful for our medical professionals who know what they are doing to save our lives. Congratulations, Cali, for being you and getting yourself to the hospital when you did! Be well for many more years now!
    Our world needs you and your music! Love, Anita Jaskol

    • Cali Rose
      | Reply

      Thanks Anita and I’m so grateful and in awe at the level of expertise and genuine human kindness that I experienced. You and I are lucky to be here!

  61. Peggy L Calvert
    | Reply

    Gotta’ love those who practice medicine, nursing and doctoring as their passion!
    May you be back to your passion, gently, but daily!
    Thank you for sharing THESE lessons.
    Not as much fun as ukulele, but life changing!

    • Cali Rose
      | Reply

      I completely agree. These medical people are heroes in my book and I loved being in a teaching hospital and watching the teams work and learn together. It was definitely life-changing and I’m still processing, big time. Thank you for your sharing your thoughts.

  62. Marlou
    | Reply

    Cali, what a scare!!! So appreciate you sharing your experience. May we all be mindful when our bodies speak. ❤️

    • Cali Rose
      | Reply

      Amen to that Marlou and thanks!

  63. Peg Hunter
    | Reply

    Cali, not only are you a feisty, fun person and a talented musician, you are also a fine writer. I LOVED your post on your website; even read some of it out loud to my husband, who laughed (in the funny parts, of course) along with me. Here’s to continuing good health and a speedy complete recovery!

    • Cali Rose
      | Reply

      Thank you Peggy!

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