How to Remain Among The Living When You Experience A Heart Attack (part 1)

A heart attack is a life changing event for most people, The largest contributor to those who don’t survive is their lack of knowledge as to symptoms and how to take control of their own body for a sufficient amount of time for getting treatment. I hate to admit it but my own knowledge as relayed in this blog comes from having experienced 3 heart attacks since September of 2014! It is important to note, that I learned the symptoms of a heart attack very early in life as Heart Disease is a major component of  my genetic make up. Your symptoms may vary from mine, but most men will experience at least one of these symptoms. Here is how my symptoms presented when I left my car to visit a friend at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix for my first heart attack:

  1. Pain emanating from the center of my chest. It felt as if I had indigestion and I was about to blame it on the Vietnamese food I had for lunch until it subsided when I sat down.
  2. Pain in the center of my chest started radiating down left arm. This pain too  subsided when I sat down.
  3. Pain and shortness in center of chest radiating down both arms and difficulty breathing. This was the part that caused the admittance clerk to call code blue on me before I could tell him my full story.
  4. After being taken straight to the Cath Lab, Pain was getting worse, I started to sweat, managed to speed dial my wife from my cell phone but couldn’t speak due to the pain.
  5. As my clothes were systematically cut away in preparation for the procedure I was about to have, I became quite clammy, sweaty and cold. 

It seems as if at a pain level of 6 or higher, I no longer find the need for modesty. All that matters is letting the nurses and doctors do  the job they are there to do, save my ass!

The procedure was fairly simple, shave the groin to make finding and placing the catheter in the Femoral Artery easy. I was then sedated, but kept conscious while the first 2 stents were placed in my Right Aorta. Then I heard words that no patient wants to here, “We have a problem, push it.” Everything went black in an instant. 

I awoke in the ICU feeling reasonably good, but just a bit groggy. I was in a hospital gown. The monitors were set so I couldn’t get a good view of them, but the nurses would come in and check on me about every 15 to 20 minutes. One of them kept telling me how much longer I would have to wait before they would remove the pressure bandage that covered the entrance wound they used for placing the stents. Early the next morning, I was placed into a more normal room. Since I was now allowed out of bed, I made it a point to read everything posted in it. One poster said that heart patients were to walk around the nurses station at least 2 times per day. I wanted to do this, but until the doctors make their rounds, I was confined to my room. I decided to improvise and started pacing the room much like an animal paces its enclosure at the zoo. I kept my smart phone with me to monitor my progress.

By the time the doctors made it to my room, I was a bit tired. I asked them a few questions; Will I be ok to go on my Mediterranean Cruse in 3 weeks, answer possibly. Is it ok for me to walk more than just 2 times a day around the nurses station, answer as long as the heart monitor indicates you are not in any danger yes. What was the problem that got me sent to oblivion, answer you went unstable and we had to stop working on you for safety reasons you’ll be fine when we finish up the procedure on Monday. Uh Oh, I guess I had a bigger problem than I had thought. The doctors noticed I had my phone with me and asked if I had kept track of my heart rate with it. I showed them that although that app required me to actually press my finger to the sensor, I had kept track of my in room pacing. They were astonished to learn that since 05:00 that morning I had already logged over a mile in walking. At that point they said that if I continued to do that kind of walking, my cruise would not only be approved, but I would probably have a great time on it.

I continued walking around the nurses stations and managed to put in 3 miles by the end of Saturday. Sunday I put in about 5 miles of walking, and wore out the socks they make you wear. I was given a new pair. Monday, my next bout with the Cath lab was scheduled for the afternoon, so I managed to get in about 4 miles of walking before the procedure. This time they went in via the right Ulnar Artery. A stent was placed and once again I heard the same set of words as on Friday. I came to in the same room I had been in, with a nurse set up to observe me until the wound in my right arm could safely have its pressure bandage removed. She couldn’t tell me why I had become unstable on the table, but assured me that I would probably be going home on schedule as my heart rate was looking quite a bit better than it had when I was admitted. 

Tuesday morning, I was allowed out of my room at will, so I continued to walk. By the time the doctors arrived for their rounds, I had worn out a second pair of socks and logged another 4 miles. My questions for the doctors included; Why did I go unstable, answer your Circumflex Artery is still blocked 100% quite frankly we don’t know how you were able to walk in to the clinic in the first place. When you arrived, we were able to put 2 stents in your Right Aorta which was 95% blocked. When we tried to open up your Circumflex, you went unstable. Your LAD was 85% blocked, so we scheduled another procedure for Monday. Most people with that much blockage, are unconscious upon arrival. My answer was “It wasn’t my time!” Later that afternoon I was sent home. 

I continued walking and made my Mediterranean cruise!