What happened to me? Bottom line – heart attack!
It wasn’t stress and it wasn’t from being overweight. I didn’t do anything really wrong. The reason for the heart attack was something much more insidious – genetics. It was as plain and simple as that. Oh, I guess I did do one thing wrong, I didn’t see a doctor beforehand to figure out that there was anything wrong with me. I’ve been retired from the military for about ten years now. In all that time I’ve never really seen a doctor at all. I did stop in a Med-Stop for the flu once during that time way back about six years ago, but that’s the one and only time since I left the military that I’ve talked to a doctor.
There is a long history of heart problems in my family – my brother, my father, and my father’s father. So why not me? I was indeed very worried about it all during my military career (24 years), but every time I brought the subject up with the doctors they told me not to worry about it – that I was perfectly fine. My current cardiologist can’t believe it because he thinks the signs were clearly there that I should have been on a very careful watch list long, long ago.
So what happened recently? It went like this.
On December 31st, New Years Eve, at around ten in the morning, I was at work and started to not feel so good. Nothing major, I just didn’t feel right, and I was a bit hot – which is nothing new since it often gets slightly warm in the office I work in. But it persisted. I took a couple of aspirins then a half hour later, I took a few more aspirins. But I still wasn’t feeling any better. I noticed a very slight ache in my left arm and my chest, but other than that and the fact that I was more than a bit warm, no other major signs. But I’m the kind of person that rarely get’s sick, and I didn’t feel well at all. And it was getting a bit worse.
I finally mentioned it to my boss and I half-jokingly said that I was a bit worried about my heart – because of the slight discomfort where I felt it. He asked if I wanted the paramedics called and I refused. But a bit later, I decided that maybe it wouldn’t hurt to call the paramedics – just to be safe. What could it hurt to make sure?
It was amazing how fast they showed up. Unbelievably fast! And I was surprised at how serious they seemed to be about me. I was further surprised when they brought in the gurney to put me on. “That’s stupid,” I told them. “I can walk just fine.” But they wouldn’t hear of it and I was quickly strapped to the thing and wheeled out to the ambulance.
As they loaded me in, I remember trying to tell my boss about where I stood on my office work that needed to be done and him trying to tell me not to worry about it. Then we were gone - two paramedics working on me constantly all the way. I didn’t know it at the time, but they were trying their best to get me to one of the premier heart facilities in the area – and they didn’t think they were going to make it. I was really surprised – and thought it really cool – at how fast the driver was driving. NASCAR would have been very proud! The paramedics kept asking me the same stupid questions like how old I was and when my birthday was and I kept trying to give them a running account of every sensation I was feeling. By the time we got to the hospital, both paramedics were pumping fluids into me as fast as they could and what I found out later was that they were amazed that I hadn’t died on them.
Once we reached the hospital, things became much more of a blur. I found out a few days later that I was the very top priority for everything that was coming in. The hospital was waiting on me and was ready for me. I remember being wheeled into a tiny room and a few minutest later seeing my wife out in the hallway. Wow did that ever make me feel good. I have never felt such a strong emotional wave of love as I felt just then for her. Oh wow! Wow! Wow!
I was quickly sent from that tiny receiving room to the Cath lab where three technicians shaved the entire front of my body – which was not an easy chore. I am as hairy as anyone has ever been. The surgeons were complaining constantly that it was taking them so long – and remember, there were three of them trying to shave me.
I’m afraid I don’t remember a single thing after that till I woke up in the recovery room – the next morning. I’m told that I didn’t get out of surgery till eight o’clock the night before and that they woke me up after the surgery and gave me a bath to help get me awake but I have absolutely no recollection of that. I only know that it was so excruciatingly painful to breathe when I did fully came to my senses. Major - major pain!
I found out later that I had five bypasses done. I’m more than glad that I don’t remember any of that. I have a beautiful long scar running straight down my chest where they cut me open to work on my heart. I have another even bigger scar from my wrist to my elbow where they removed an artery to use in my heart. And I have a series of three scars running down my leg where they grabbed veins to also use. And it all hurts!
It’s been about three weeks now since it happened. I’ve seen two doctors so far and there will be a lot more doctor visits coming up very shortly. My chest is still in major pain and uncomfortable – mostly because of all the nerves that were cut and have to heal. My biggest pain however is my hand and arm – not around the scar where they took the artery, but further down all around the back of my hand. It feels constantly like someone is holding a cigarette lighter up against my skin all the time. What fun! I’m really hoping that get’s better real soon. But – I can move my fingers and use them all just fine. In fact, I’m having no problem typing with that hand right now.
Things that everyone keeps telling me that are and were in my favor – I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, and I lead a fairly healthy lifestyle. I walk every day. I enjoy walking, it clears my brain and helps me think. It was all just genetics though. A build up of junk in my veins. I should have made it to the doctor sooner. The funny thing is though, that I was trying to do just that. The new company insurance took affect on January 1st and I was actively trying to find a doctor that would take me as a patient. My first choice doctor wasn’t taking any new patients. I was looking for another one just then. I think it was probably too late anyway. I’m sure that from now on though, my entire life will be filled with doctor visits and medicine. Before, I hated even taking a single aspirin for anything. Now, I’m sure my life will revolve around pills.
So that’s the basics of what happened. My wife has been amazing. She has rarely left my side for weeks and only now does she feel comfortable enough to leave me unattended for a little while at a time. I’m starting to walk on the treadmill again to try to build up some strength – but it’s going slow and cautious. I’m too afraid to try anything too much. Because of the pain in my chest and my arm, I constantly walk like I’m walking on eggshells – I hurt enough as it is.
I will recover fully in time. I know I will recover because I’m way too stubborn not to. I have a good attitude and I want to get better – fast. I’m going to do everything I can to get over this as quickly as possible. There are others out there that need my attention more than I need theirs, yet I’m ever so grateful for all the thoughts and prayers that have been sent my way – more grateful than I can ever express. Thank you all. Thank you. It seems like such an inadequate way to express gratitude, but it’s all I have.
In other family news, my wife’s mother and father are still in Louisiana and are not doing well. They went back to stay for just a month or so to take care of business to make moving here easier and more permanent, but now, we can’t go get them because of me. My father-in-law is doing particularly bad and has days now where he can’t remember how to walk. His mind is definitely getting worse.
The son that was getting the divorce is still in that process and it looks like he will be staying here with us for a long time because of finances. So we also have his two daughters staying with us on the weekends too. He is helping out with the finances though which is a big help since I don’t have a regular paycheck right now.
The other son who we constantly are giving money to is doing worse because we can’t help him right now. There’s nothing I can do about that. I both happy and sad that I can’t help him. He’s the next person that’s going to have a heart attack. He works endless hours for very little pay and he get’s no support in any way at all from his wife. Very sad.
So thanks so much once again to everyone. You don’t know what your prayers and wishes have meant to me.