I Am Not Dying

On the evening of Sept the 9th I went to bed early.

I was feeling slightly under the weather and had done so the previous night also. Just a little tired, and lethargic. The house was clean, the carpet lovely and hovered, the bedrooms clear of clothes and all of that miscellaneous crap that inevitably materialises as the days of work and parenting defeat all of our good intentions to do the housework after the kids down to sleep, and there is just no energy left at the end of the day. The pull of Netflix, the couch, or a mindless phone scroll is just too strong.

But this evening felt full of optimism and control, in the way that having your surroundings orderly and clean can lead you to as a bonus gift. I decided to head to bed early, and went for a cold shower in the bathroom, after which I lay down on my bed and completed the hyperventilation exercises as taught by Wim Hoff. His method was everywhere those days, the newest wellness fad to trickle down to the masses. My husband Simon had been taking cold showers for a couple of months previously and was finding them great for boosting his mood, energy and general health. I have always loved the feeling a dip in a freezing cold sea gave me and thought I would try it too. No harm in boosting the immune system too, what with Covid and all.

This evening was my second time doing it, my second night in a row. Lying on my bed I took 20 to 30 quick, deep breaths, inhaling through my nose and exhaling through my mouth. Then, a deep breath and exhale; hold until you need to breathe in. Inhale again, deeply and hold it for 10 seconds. My hands and arms tingled, and my head felt slightly drunk. It was pleasurable. I allowed my mind to reach forward into the future where practising Wim Hoff was an established habit. I had fewer colds and better sleep. My body felt more alive, and I was in it more.

I went to sleep with no worries, no concerns.

Happy with my clean house and healthier future.

Happy that my eldest Ben had started big school the previous week with no issues.

Happy Days.


crop man crushing plastic bottle
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I was awakened in the middle of the night with a crushing pain in the centre of my chest. I repeated that phrase so often, that later on, it became totally depersonalised, a phrase from a medical textbook.

But that is what it was. A crushing, painful pressure. I can feel the edges of it now as I write. I can trace its outline across the roadmap of my chest bones. I pulled myself up to sitting, switched on the light, and woke Simon.

“I need help,” I said.

“I’m going to call the doctor.”

I knew immediately.

Simon raised a slight protest about the time and told me to go into the other room so as not to wake the kids. I went. He followed me. I began to google the number of the out of hours GP but immediately realised I couldn’t do it. I told him that I couldn’t manage the dialling, he would have to do it and told him to call an ambulance.

Now. Straight away.

I lay down on the double bed in the spare front room. The light was on over my head. That ugly 90s light with daubs of paint on it. My left side felt weird and numb. I was sweating, and clammy.


plush toy bear placed near thin branches
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And then Nina came in.

Oh my heart, Nina came in.

My little Nina.

Almost 3 years old, but not quite.

She lay down beside me and put her small soft hand on my neck, as she always loved to do.

Do not let Nina see her mother die in front of her.


Do not let my daughter have her mother die in front of her.

12 Minutes

Where the hell was the ambulance?

Simon rang again, and asked what he should do?

The 999 dispatcher got a bit shirty with him.

Both of us were indignant, I mean for fuck sake was the consensus.

Surely an hour had passed, surely an eternity of me lying on this bed with Nina?

But apparently, it was only 12 minutes.

We heard the soft sweep of the tyres of the ambulance come to a stop outside. Simon went down to let them in. A middle-aged paramedic tramped up the stairs, surprisingly slowly given the circumstances, I thought.

Here was a man at the end of his shift, I thought.

But also, thank god the house is clean when people are coming upstairs. And thank god my legs are shaved. He instructed me to walk downstairs into the ambulance outside. Told me to get my dressing gown and slippers.

There was a younger female paramedic in the ambulance. Friendly, professional. Less world-weary.

It was bright, clinical, and frightening inside.

I lay down. They put something under my tongue. Put stickers on my chest and ran some tests, an ECG I guessed. I think they took my blood pressure.

All the while they kept asking me innocuous questions, small talk. But the tone was deadly serious, and they were laser focussed on whatever bits and pieces they were doing around their ambulance office.


It finally dawned on me.

They are not interested in the names and ages of my kids, they are keeping me talking so they can assess my state by how I answer. Maybe keeping me alert. Maybe keeping me distracted.

But they are not interested in the names and ages of my kids.

A Special Occasion

table with plates and flowers filed neatly selective focus photography
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All I can think about IS my kids.

I just want to get to see them grow up.

That is all.

Nothing else is of any importance.

Absolutely nothing.

I have a definite knowing that they will be ok, even if I am gone. Because they have such a good father. Because in this moment of crisis I am not seeing my worth as their mother. But I want to see them grow up. As you do for something you have already lost and are beginning to grieve, I long for that.

An image of them coming down our stairs floats into view.

They are much older, the event undetermined.

Perhaps a debs or prom? A wedding? A graduation?

A Special Occasion.

Just one of those ordinary, everyday, beautiful rituals that remind us how precious our family is.

That love and loving and seeing and being with are the only things that matter.

I am afraid.

I do not want to die.

I Am Not Dying

Photo by Luan Rezende on Pexels.com

The ECG confirms what looks like a heart attack, and they call ahead to the hospital. They send over the ECG results and wait for the confirmation that they should bring me in.

It comes, “Bring her in”.

One of the paramedics goes back into the house to tell Simon what is happening, and to follow them. He has called his mother Nuala and will go to the hospital when she arrives to watch the kids. We set off. I overhear a short discussion between the two paramedics about whether or not to take a short detour to collect an advanced paramedic who they had obviously contacted earlier. The male paramedic says it will only add a couple of minutes, let’s swing by and get him on board.

And in comes Oisin.

In his 40s and capable, with his defibrillator bag. He takes the lead in the ambulance. They brief him. He comes over to me and starts asking about my kids again, but this time is different. He connects, really sees me, and makes a joke about his own kids.

I like him.

I trust him.

I start to get sleepy.

There is commotion around me. Oisin is leaning over me, putting on an oxygen mask. He is looking at me dead in the eye. Stay with me Winnie, stay with me. My pyjama top is being pulled up and they are sticking pads on my chest. I feel the whoosh as the ambulance accelerates to full speed with a determined, calm, purr.

Oh Shit, I think.


I do not realise that I have been defibrillated.

I am grunting and shouting with all of my might.


“I am not fucking dying” I roar.

“Urggghhhh. It is not my time. I am not dying.”

It probably sounded like a muffled whisper into my oxygen mask to the others. But it was the fiercest roar of my life. Immediately I thought of the guttural grunting roars I let out of me giving birth to Ben. It was the exact same sound. Life, moving through me. My will, and the will of the universe working in communion to create life.

I was reborn on both of those days.

What gifts both were.

2 Days After

This is me in the CCU 2 days after the cardiac arrest, September 2020.

I took this photo to send to friends, and I look so ok in it but really I was not. I could barely stand or open the door to my room I was so weak, could only manage a couple of minutes of conversation, and mentally I was all over the place. I am shocked at how normal I look remembering how I felt at the time. I was in the CCU for 2 weeks while they figured out that my SCA was caused by a spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD), and implanted a defibrillator in my side (S-ICD). I had my kids’ paintings up on the blinds behind, and the hand sanitiser at the end of the bed reminds me of the added stress and isolation of having a heart issue during peak Covid.

6 Months On

6 months post SCA.

Enjoying the forest with my children, Nina and Ben. My recovery was ongoing at this time, I still was hitting walls of exhaustion and PTSD regularly. Can you sense the energy exuding from my son!? It took a while to get back into the swing of parenting life again! I had just returned to work part-time when this photo was taken, but would go on to leave that job 6 months later after accepting that I had changed too much to do it properly. I realised I needed to prioritise where my energy went. It was a blessing in the long run, as I am now planning on retraining in an area I have had a lifelong interest in.

Life Is Good

Enjoying a night out with my husband Simon 20 months on.

Life is good!

We both turn 40 later this year, and I am looking forward to 40+ more years of treading the earth!! I have decided to live more from my heart and less from my head, and thank my heart every day for keeping me alive.

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