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How I Almost Had Fatal Heart Attack...But Didn't

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How I Almost Had Fatal Heart Attack...But Didn't

My story starts on the week of August 1st. We were working an incoming shipment of files from a Regional Office from Winston-Salem. It's nothing new to me but it's pretty physical work throwing boxes on a table, pushing a cart loaded with boxes, cutting and flipping boxes open, and pushing files along to table to be processed. It's all really mind numbing, tedious work that has to be done to set up the files for our numbering system.

It all started for me pushing a cart down the hall loaded with 25 full boxes. Chest pain (like someone was standing on my chest), shortness of breath, sweating, and mild dizziness were the symptoms I was having. But I would stop and within 2-3 minutes it would all stop and I would feel normal again. My thoughts were I was working too hard, pushing myself too much. I was also dealing with the memory of my brother John whose birthday would have been on the first if he had not passed away. This had me concerned but not enough to do anything about it though. I should have but like most people they write it off. I would only have these feelings when I was working hard I thought. Not too many times though.

Now comes the week of August 8th. We had finished the shipment on Monday with only one case of pain for me. Tuesday seemed good to me as we didn't have much to do that was too physical but Wednesday was different. I had these same symptoms without working too hard. I thought something is wrong here that it couldn't be just working too hard or stress over John. I talked to my co-worker Bill who was once a Paramedic and he told me I really needed to get it checked out. I agreed. So I left work and got Dawn to take me to Memorial Hospital in Belleville.

They really get serious when someone walks in complaining of chest pains. There whole attitude changes for sure. I almost felt they were staring at death. They get me in and start the hook up of sensors and run an EKG. Nothing really stood out to them though. I wasn't in really any pain while all this was going on. It was more like tightness in my chest. So I told my story up to this point several dozen times to nurses, techs, doctors, etc. I was joking around with Dawn that I so have wrote it all up for them to just read. They do more tests but don't really have anything specific to tell me as to what is going on yet. They all think it had something to do with my heart but nothing was screaming at them.

Finally a decision was reached to admit me to the Cardiac floor of the hospital. Damn, I wasn't going home I thought. They said they were going to schedule a stress test for Thursday which should tell them more. By this time it was late and I told Dawn that she should just go home and take care of the puppies and try to get some sleep as she was still going to work on Thursday. I am not one to like people constantly being there for me while at the hospital. I get taken up to my room and its people in and out constantly. People who have been in the hospital know what I mean. You don't rest in the hospital.

Heart monitor attached, several dozen vials of blood drawn, vitals taken at least every hour, and several EKG's done. I felt like a lab experiment. Nothing still really told them or at least me what's going on. This is where I was SO glad to have my MP3 player with me to drown out my roommate and just the overall hospital noises.

Thursday morning comes and I didn't sleep well at all. In walks the Cardiologist and I explain to him what was happening. He got really serious and told me was cancelling the Stress Test and was going to do a Cardiac Catheterization on me. For those that don't know what that is, it is where they insert a tube through your groin and slide a Catheter up the artery to your heart and inject dye. They observe the dye via X-Ray to see if there is a vessel blocked.

But first I had to go through an Echocardiogram. That was cool. They use the same technology as they use to observe a baby still in the womb but they look at the heart. I got to see all the inner workings of my heart real time. Seeing on the screen what my heart was doing was a cool thing for sure. Nothing looked wrong to me but what the heck do I know. All the valves where opening and closing just fine.

Now it's time for the Cardiac Cath. They wheel me down to the prep room and of course shave. I am a pretty hairy guy in front and it was like they were shaving a huge circle around where the Cath was going. Oh well hair does grow back. They have you watch a video about the procedure which tells you, you will be awake through all of this. This was a little unsettling for me because I just didn't know if I wanted to see all of this.

They get me prepped and into the procedure room and more set up which isn't too fun laying flat on your back. They give you some "relaxing" drug through your IV to which I said "thanks I needed that". The doc comes in a finds the artery in your groin and proceeds to send the Catheter up to the heart. I didn't have a good look at the screen but I could see some of it. He told me he was going to inject the dye and I felt really warm but that was normal. The X-Ray machine is going all over getting different angles of the heart which the doctor is looking at on the screen.

The doctor then tells me he found the problem. OH SHIT I thought, I got a problem. He told me it was only one vessel that was 80% clogged and that if I would have waited a couple days to a week to come in that I would have more than likely been dead. He told me it was the Proximal Left Anterior Descending Coronary Artery they call it the "widow maker" as many that have a complete blockage of this artery don't live long at all. He told me most die before they hit the ground on this type of heart attack. He told me that I didn't need a bypass but I did need to have a stent put in the artery to open it back up.

In comes another doctor who places the stent in the artery and observes to artery. At this time they move the monitors closer to me so I can see what has happened. It's pretty shocking to see an artery almost closed like that. It is basically cholesterol building up in the artery causing the blockage. I knew my cholesterol was higher than normal but had no idea it could cause that. He finishes up with me but has to leave the sleeve in me because I was on high dose IV blood thinner before the procedure.

They get me back to my room and everyone tells me that I am very lucky to have gotten to the hospital before in clogged completely. I undergo more EKG's and more labs. I start to feel like they are draining my blood one vial at a time. The nurses tell me that sleeve has to stay in for a couple hours and that I would be in for another night. Damn I really wanted to go home after all of this.

A team of nurses come back several hours later to remove the sleeve. They take this pretty darn seriously as it is an artery that this thing is in and that my blood is very thin and not able to clot like normal. They tell me this is going to hurt and give me a shot of Morphine in my IV. They weren't kidding when they said it was going to hurt. It wasn't painful when they removed the sleeve too much but they had to put direct pressure using their finger tips for 15 minutes so I do bleed out. They hook up a sound monitoring device to my foot so you can hear the blood flow in the artery. While they press the blood isn't flowing at all. They press hard on the spot against the pelvic bone which hurts very much.

Once they are done you can't move your right leg for 6 hours. That is tough seeing that you are already in an uncomfortable bed and just went through a great deal of pain even with the Morphine. Then they check on you every 15 minutes for a couple of hours. All I wanted to do is sleep but you can't cause every time you nod off someone is in checking on the site or taking vitals or drawing more blood. You can't rest in the hospital at all.

The site healed just fine and I didn't have any bleeding problems yeah me. Now just send me home already. Nope I had to stay on a blood thinner till 1pm and longer for more observation and discharge. So Friday about 7pm or so, I was able to leave the hospital under my own power.

Now here are the changes to my life. I have to be on an Aspirin regiment the rest of my life. I also get to take a blood thinner for at least a year. I am also on 2 cholesterol medications. I have to go on a low fat, low cholesterol diet the rest of my life. I also have to quit smoking. That is going to be tough as I have been for quite some time but I can do it with the help of my primary care doc for sure.

When I went in I weighed 315 lbs and I intend to lose at least 80. It's going to be tough but I got a second chance in life and I want this bad enough. I have to quit smoking for sure. I also have to get my cholesterol down to a safe range.

Like the idea of writing down what happened to get to the ER I am writing this to all that read it so they know what happened. I also can't stress it enough to learn the symptoms of a heart attack as it could save your life as it has mine. I wouldn't be here boring you to death with this blog post if I had ignored my body.

Dawn hugged me tonight and told me she was so glad that she didn't have to make funeral arraignments for me this weekend. Death comes to us all but at 40 I am want to do and see so much more of life.

I do want to thanks all the people I dealt with at Memorial Hospital, to Dawn for being there for me, and to my friends and family for the all the well wishes.

Some say I am blessed I think of myself as just frakken lucky. Think I should start playing the lottery.


4 Comments On This Entry

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Cylon-Knight Icon

15 August 2011 - 10:59 PM
WOW Zipper!!!
I AM SO HAPPY you got checked out - very very very very smart!
Some men are too stubborn to go in. Kudos to you, your coworkers and family for all acting quickly.

My wife has had many of the same tests (over and over) and other surgeries/items (for value and pace issues). I know a few Cardio-$100 words you had to learn too. Glad that you are still around to tell us the story! You can't ignore those $100 words ;)

Rest up, heal up, and live life to the fullest!
It is corny, but so are 1978 Cylons like me, Today is a gift - that's why they call it the present! My wife's uncle just had a fatal heart attack just over a week ago - and I was one of his pallbearers... you can't hesitate with such medical stuff, or be too careful. Again, SO HAPPY you did not wait and got treated!


Nanouk Icon

17 August 2011 - 07:49 AM
Wow thats some heavy stuff man!
II hope youll feel better!

p0is0n0us Icon

17 August 2011 - 08:08 AM
That's crazy, I hope you rest up and feel better. This ship needs its Captain :)

obsolete toaster Icon

18 August 2011 - 02:41 PM
Zipper, I am SOOOO GLAD you are still here to tell us all of this!!

I hope you make a full recovery, and learn to embrace your lifestyle changes (I know I've changed a lot of what I eat these days and I started going to the gym earlier this year, so I know a bit of what that's like). Don't resist it; embrace it. You'll succeed. Sounds like you had one hell of a scare, my friend.
I AM JUST ETERNALLY GRATEFUL THAT YOU ARE STILL WITH US. :cylonclap: :cylonclap: :cylonclap:

My 'virtual Cheers' would be nothing without my virtual 'Sammy.' ;)

Your virtual Norm,
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