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.