My Great Cardiac Adventure
On August 11th, I began my day off with only three things on my agenda: 1. Breakfast with my wife, 2. To meet with the worship director at Salem Heights church and 3. To dust off my bow-flex in preparation for a new workout startup (you’ll see the irony later). A pretty simple day according to my agenda but as it turned out, even the best laid plans can quickly change.Breakfast was good (chicken fried steak-not the best choice), visited briefly with my kids in North Salem and we had a great meeting at Salem Heights. But during the meeting, I started to feel an unusual pressure in my chest and was starting to sweat. At first, I thought it might have been nerves or the morning meal taking its toll. As we left the meeting, I mentioned the pain to Tami but it wasn’t bad enough to throw up any red flags, so we decided to visit the Fussy Duck antique store on the way home.
Just a few steps in, I really began to feel the pain start to radiate throughout my chest and neck and I told her that we needed to head to the ER. It was a pain that I hadn’t felt before and that was a clue that something was definitely amiss. Now, Tami knows that if I even talk about going to the doctor, it’s something more than just gas or a bad paper cut. I have “white coat syndrome” and avoid going to doctors at all cost. So, off we go to the ER at Salem Hospital where the staff whisked me away to my first set of tests and meeting with the cardiologist.
After a few hours of EKG’s, blood gas tests, a few nitro tabs and the like, the cardiologist couldn’t find definite signs of a cardiac event. In fact, he said that my EKG and other tests we’re boring. It was suggested that the cause of my pain might be advanced acid reflux. I do suffer from this and take medication for it, so it wasn’t beyond reason (especially with the chicken fried steak).We get a prescription for nitro tabs and go home to rest up. During the day, the pain was constant and I didn’t feel like eating much dinner but I still thought this was reflux-related, so that didn’t surprise me. As the chest pain continued, I did the nitro series (3 tabs as prescribed) but this didn’t seem to alleviate the symptoms. I took this as a small confirmation of the reflux diagnosis and settled in for the night.
After a miserable night of alternating between the bed and couch with less than 3 hours of sleep, I was confronted with the over-whelming sense that I shouldn’t try to push through this thing. I contacted work and let them know that I wasn’t going in and that I was on the way back to the ER for the second time. Once again, I found myself at Salem Hospital but this time, the EKG had changed dramatically and a team of eight or more people were suddenly gathered in my room hurriedly finding all available veins to impale.
Within what seemed like only a few moments, I was signing release papers and was in the “cath-lab.” An angiogram showed 100% blockage on the right side along with a secondary blockage and two other occluded ones on the left (these will have to be attended to later). The right side needed two platinum stents, which were placed successfully with access through the wrist rather than the femoral artery. It was a much less invasive way to address the issue as the other was a full bypass surgery, which was considered at the outset. The whole thing was done in less than a few hours and I was settled in to ICU.
In recovery, the cardiologists were keeping a close watch on my EKG’s and bloodwork to make sure that the heart was stabilizing. I’ve never had so many wires attached to me before this and the hourly blood pressure checks were a constant companion. There was talk of a second angiogram but as each test came back a little stronger, they decided to go with just an echocardiogram. I was on full bed-rest and in ICU for Friday and Saturday and then moved to intermediate care for the remainder. I was then allowed to walk about the halls, shower and the like. There was talk of releasing me on Sunday afternoon but after discussing it with Tami and my doctors, we all felt that one more night would be beneficial. It would also allow an opportunity for me to meet with my new cardiologist from Kaiser Permanente and other people who would be involved in my future care. So I came Monday after only four days (including Thursday’s visit).
Since I’ve been home, I’ve been making a lot of changes in my diet and activity. Obviously, no more chicken fried steak but beyond that, I’ve been limited to 2000 sodium per day and rely heavily on fruits, veggies and low-fat meats. The main change is that I’m cooking instead of just heating my food. I’m channeling new energy into finding ways to create food that is better for me and yet doesn’t taste like styro-foam. My diet now included very little pre-packaged, processed food and I have to research every restaurant to make sure that I choose the best items for me.
I have also been walking a lot (for me), and have been averaging about 1 ½-2 miles per day (2000-3000 steps) which is a challenge in the hills of West Salem. I have to weigh myself each day to make sure that no edema or excess water weight comes back as that could be a sign of further problems. This hadn’t been an issue so far as I’m down about 11-12 lbs already . I’m back at work at work and I’m gaining new energy every day. Welcome the “New Normal,”
Almost as bad as the actual heart attack was the fact that the 14th was our 34th anniversary and we had to spend it in the hospital. This being the second anniversary in six years that this has been the case. Yes, I really know how to show a girl a good time. We did finally celebrate on Thursday with dinner and a movie but Tami tells me that she’s watching out for 2022 to make sure that history doesn’t repeat a third time.
What have I learned?
- If your body and brain are telling you that you should exercise, don’t wait…start doing something.
- If your body and brain are telling you to lay off the chicken fried steak (or other artery-clogging food), don’t wait…start doing something.
- If your body and brain are telling you that it’s time to go and see your doctor, don’t wait…start doing something.
- Basically, I was not pro-active in my own health care and now I realize that I can’t wait, I have to start doing something.
Procrastination is the mortal enemy of progress.