Without realizing it due to no discomfort during any exercise I was doing, My LAD started narrowing in the lower part. It had been over 3 years since my second heart attack. My heart rate had settled into a fairly nice 45 to 55 resting and 60 to 70 while sitting. I regularly was taking my heart up to the 120 to 120 via exercise and with the medication, my blood pressure in the morning was regularly in the 110/75 range. I easily was able to walk 3 miles without stopping (no treadmill, actual neighborhood walks). About 10:00 on a Monday, I finally had my first symptom of the LAD’s problem!
I had completed a rigorous round of exercise in a class, and my heart rate had returned to its normal range, when I felt a sudden tightening of the chest. A quick glance at my heart monitor indicated my heart rate had dropped into the upper 40s and I started to get light headed. I calmly asked the instructor to help me get on the floor and to call 911 as I was having a heart attack. She looked dumbstruck, but complied with my instructions. She asked how I knew I was having a heart attack. I explained to her this was my third one and by now I knew the symptoms. Furthermore, being calm is more beneficial than trying to react to the pain. I placed a Nitrostat pill under my tongue.
The EMTs arrived and started their assessment. I handed them my phone set on the emergency medical information page. This enabled them to know that I had a severe allergy to Codeine, Ace Inhibitors and Bee stings; a set of medications I use including the time of day I take them and what they were; my doctors names and phone numbers; my insurance numbers; and my emergency contacts. This is a page most cellphones have that should be set up as this page can be accessed even if the phone is locked. Check your phone and learn how to set up the emergency information page! It can save your life.
They started an IV and injected 50 mgs of fentanyl to lessen my pain. I was then transported to Banner Baywood’s ER. There, I experienced 2 inexperienced people trying to set up IVs. After 6 failed attempts, the nurse sent them away and had the work done by someone that knew how to do it correctly. About 2 in the afternoon, I was finally moved to the Banner Heart Hospital (a short ride on the gurney and an elevator ride away). There I was prepped for the Cath Lab.
In the Cath Lab, I could actually see the monitor the doctor was using. This I thought might be interesting. I saw him snake the catheter into my LAD’s stent and witnessed the angioplasty balloon expanding to open the stent a bit further. I saw another stent get placed in a section below that one. I saw the catheter get moved to another location and then everything went white. Not just white, an eye hurting white like you get when lightning strikes close by. The next thing I remember is waking up in the intensive care room.
I felt ok for a while, but noticed that I had a pain in the left side of my chest. Since I had not had that pain from my first stent procedures, I was concerned. I was given assurances that it was a normal thing for most patients, and was given morphine to ease the pain. By the time my third shot of morphine, I was concerned and asked if they knew why I was likely to be experiencing this pain. About the same time, they were getting ready to do an echo cardiogram and started to remove some of the EKG leads and also the large pad that had been placed on prior to my procedure. It’s removal gave me the first clue as to why I was in pain. I asked the nurse politely if I could read my chart information. She said yes and as soon as the echo cardiogram was finished she brought it to me.
It told the tale I had seen, right up to where I went white. Then it continued that patients heart stopped was restarted and a second attempt to unblock the circumflex also resulted in stopping the heart. The heart was again successfully restarted and the procedure was ended.
Now I know that I’ve had a near death experience, I never saw anything other than the whiter than white light and never heard anything during that event. The chest pain that one gets from the arcing across the paddle electrodes is tolerable, but one need not remain in pain when there are alternative measures. I do recover from these procedures rather quickly, and was able to walk 3 miles within 3 weeks.