When the clock strikes 3:30 am…

I never even dreamed that I would one day sit here and right a story about a heart attack!

Are you kidding me? I eat right (you can count indulgence on both hands for a year), I exercise (actually, a lot compared to the a great percentage of our population), I am in very good physical shape, do yearly physicals, have low cholesterol and blood pressure, my weight – although not optimal – is definitely acceptable, yet here I was.

Thursday morning, 3:30 am, I awake with a start, drenched in cold sweat, looking at my chest, because there had to be someone standing directly on me. Tremendous pressure from the sternum outward through my body, feeling as bound in chains or a vice grip. Grasping my chest, then my neck, nothing but pounding sinew from what felt like an unbearable pull. Next, excruciating pain from my right arm pit down to my finger tips. Nausea took over, Fear gripped me in its entirety….then suddenly, nothing, well almost besides the searing pain down my arm. I am catching my breath, thinking you are having a heart attack and not believing it at the same time – it is just not possible. What woke me up came back with a vengeance 2 minutes later and those doubtful thoughts quickly vanished. Sitting up, my arms high over my head helped a bit, concentrating, trying to get up – finally making it, and scared, very scared…..

My wife was already downstairs, as she always is at that hour, I am making my way down the stair case, carefully, trying to call for her, but all I get out is more of a hoarse whisper, my throat and neck in cords. Finally reaching her, my hands clutching my chest and that was all it needed for her to understand. Seeing the fear in her eyes doubled mine. Sitting on the floor – Sue is taking charge – popping two Aspirins in my mouth, ordering me two swallow and the next thing I know I am at the ER at Santa Monica Hospital. The next 7 hours are a blur of faces, all of them friendly and re-assuring, a needle here, an IV there, another one here, electrodes everywhere, wires as far as I can see and numbers bouncing wildly around on a monitor.

One of the first steps in the ER is to manage pain and get a handle of the out of control heart pressure, something that took about an hour, I could be lying about that part, could have been less or more. Morphine finally did the trick, but from here on out the next several hours are fuzzy. Lots of blood samples and people checking back and so forth. Then the blood work came back and it was officially decided based on the Enzymes present that it was a heart attack, which means in hospital speak: admission.

I was for a short time in a general facility bed and a specialty spend a long time with me going over medical history and finally over my options. Option A: stress test (non invasive and only if the stress test reveals something going to option B) and option B: Angiogram – invasive, but whatever will be found in most cases will be repaired immediately. Since I do a stress test on my bike just about every week I opted for B – because I never ever want to feel the sensation of a heart attack again – period.

With that I am being prepped for surgery – get to meet yet another great team who’s names I could not commit to memory. I am going to spare the details, because there is plenty to read on the net if you want to learn about Angiogram. In summary: a shaft is inserted into your Aorta right around your groin area – this shaft is the launching pad for a sophisticated wire which has several attachments. The wire is snaked through the shaft into your heart, first all the while dispersing a dye which shows abnormalities on X-Ray such as deposits, blood clogs. narrowing passages. The ‘fun’ part is that you are awake the entire time and you get to watch that wire root around your heart, inject dye, snip away on obstacles, suck out clogs and finally install stints. I am now the proud owner of a 2.5 cm stint – just a little more bling to go along with my life. I was in there for a bit over 2 hours and the surgeons removed plaque, but more importantly, they found a blog clot which likely was less than hour away from dislodging. Had that happened, I likely would not sit here typing or do anything else for that matter any longer.

After that a trip to CCU for an overnight stay and observation and of course the removal of the shaft from the Aorta. A delicate and painful procedure which I spare you the details also. Overnight went well and todays physician round kicked me out and discharged me. So, within 36 hours I am sitting back at home on my desk typing a blog entry….lets just say, that everything is still a bit surreal to me right now.

The next few weeks will have many more doctor appointments and of course rehab, which starts with short walks and ultimately will get me back on my bike. It will be a while, but it will happen. I can’t thank my wife and the countless people I met in the past 36 hours, they all made a profound difference to me, because of them, I am alive.


About GT in LA

Road cycling enthusiast
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24 Responses to When the clock strikes 3:30 am…

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  10. Deborah says:

    Holy crap! This is beyond shocking…and I’m so glad you’re here to tell about it. Goes to show that anyone’s susceptible.

    You already know that no hill is impossible with the right gear and the right attitude. I know you’ve got the mental part down. I wish you a speedy and complete recovery.

  11. Dick Powell says:

    You are a warrior and will be riding you bike for many more years. We are so alike in our experience with heart problems and will be emailing back and forth for mucho mas years.

  12. Hey GT,
    I was reading ME’s blog and was stunned to read about your situation. I wish you the very best and I know with the kind of determination we cyclists have, you will be climbing mountains once again in no time, just do most of what the doctors tell you and you will be fine. At least you will be able to watch most of the tour while your taking it easy for a few days.

    Be good and will tweet to you here and there. @plochman

  13. dwb says:

    I am surprised to hear that this happened to you but glad to hear that you received quick treatment and that you’re OK.

  14. tracywilkins says:

    Oh man! Nobody’s immune. Glad to know you’re getting on the road to recovery. Hang in there and do what they tell you.


  15. OMG GT, can’t believe I didn’t know! I am in shock right now. Sooo glad you ARE ok and that you WILL be ok tho.
    Last week, I kept thinking of you, telling myself how quiet you’ve been on Twitter. Then this morning, gave you a hello shout just to check on you! Would never have imagine that adventure…
    For me, the human body is such a weird machine. Sometimes it just makes no sense.
    I will be thinking of you everyday.
    Baby steps to full recovery.
    You are a strong man GT, nothing will get in your way.
    As a cyclist, you can climb every single mountain. Just go at your own pace.
    And with, your beloved wife by your side, you’ll get through it.
    Mari-jo, your French-C friend

  16. Bryan says:

    First off, I’m glad you’re OK and recovering. But, reading that story, on your blog, I just couldn’t believe it. You would never think someone who lives like you do would undergo something like that but it just goes to show you that anything can happen to anybody. As someone who is pre-dispositioned to heart disease, this has really struck a cord with me.

    GT, if there’s anything I can do for you just let me know.

  17. gtinla says:

    Hello friends – thanks for stopping by, your comments, phone calls, emails, text messages, tweets and Facebook entries … hard to keep up, but much appreciated!!!

  18. Sandy Jankowski-Rose says:

    Gerhard, What can I say? I guess no one knows the real plan for any of us. I always like to think there is a reason for everything, cannot understand the reason for this event except that it has cleared you for any new impending problem associated with your heart. Thank God, Sue pulled on an inner strength and rushed you to the hospital. Gosh, you are really brave and strong to withstand this test. You will be back to normal before you know it. It is amazing, as much as one thinks they are in control of something within themselves, there are many outside factors that we do not know how to control. Good luck on the rehab and don’t rush it. I have kept you in my thoughts on my rides, so at least you are getting out in spirit!! We are both so glad to hear that you are home!!

  19. jeff leintz says:

    GT, I can’t believe it! I’m glad you’re doing better. I’ll be looking forward to your accounts of the bike as a rehab tool. You’re in my thoughts.


  20. Joshua Buckner says:

    Phil just told me what happened via email. I am incredibly glad to hear that you are doing better. You know that you are family here at SPL. If there is anything we can do to aid in your recovery, please let us know…anything at all. Knowing you, you’ll be back up to speed in no time. Be well my friend! -Josh

  21. Debbie says:

    Wow, GT, what a story! I’m so happy to hear you are ion the road to recovery. Take care of yourself and you’ll be riding again in no time. (with ME, our mutual friend)

  22. GT, I’m so glad you got help when you did. Your experience scares the hell out of me. Good lesson for all of us. I push my body pretty hard, and perhaps I should stop to listen to my body. Hope you get back to feeling good and back to enjoying the bike. Give your wife a big hug from all of us.
    Warmest Regards,
    Rickie Rainwater

  23. bikinginla says:

    Man, I’m shocked. If something like that can happen to you, it could happen to any of us. Glad to hear you’re going to be okay.

  24. Wow, GT….this is crazy. I was so shocked to hear about this, but so happy that you are doing fine. Keep us posted on how things go and I hope to see you back on the bike soon.


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