May 25, 2018.
I originally posted this to my personal FB page on Friday April 13...9 days after I had a heart attack. It's now Friday May 25 and I'm finding time to post this story to my The Buoy Guy blog. I'm posting it here too because many friends who read have indicated it prompted them to look closely at their own health. So, if I post it here, more people may be positively impacted and that's why I wrote it.
Take Care of Yourself!
HEADS UP – THIS COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE.
I’ve taken some time before posting this to consider the pros and cons of doing so. I decided the potential that knowing this story may save a life outweighs my interest in keeping it private. I hope it helps you or someone you know avoid what I just went through, or worse!
TIPS TO REMEMBER
1. Listen to your doctor.
2. Avoid saturated fat.
3. Know the signs of a heart attack.
4. Realize the signs may not be a perfect match to your symptoms.
5. Better safe than sorry – seconds count – get to the hospital.
6. Call an ambulance!
7. Don’t worry about the money.
8. If you’re making a big change, get checked before you start.
9. Make time to take care of yourself. If you’re gone, who will take care of them?
10. If you have high cholesterol, don't eat loaded baked potatoes.
11. Be aware that you may be in denial that you are having a heart attack!
On Wednesday April 4, 2018 at the age of 55, I had a heart attack and am very grateful to be alive and able to tell you about it.
I didn’t believe it could happen to me. For most of my life, I’ve been able to stay fit by staying active. I’ve never loved exercise as a routine and would go on and off running or riding a bike. I’ve always hated the gym. The older I got, the harder it got. In my mind, my go, go, go work ethic and habits were enough to keep me in shape. On top of that, as an entrepreneur and small business owner, I didn’t think I had time for anything more.
I have high cholesterol. For many years, my PCP warned me about it and told me what to do about it. I was prescribed medication and urged to change my diet but being stubborn and not believing it could happen to me, I took half-measures to address it. I took the medication on and off – sometimes off for years. I paid little attention to the diet…food makes me happy, it’s just food not drugs or alcohol, and besides it wouldn’t happen to me.
This winter was hard for me, very hard. The snow, the cold, the full-time job on top of my business. SAD usually impacts me to a certain extent, but THIS winter seemed like the worst. I worked, I ate bad food, I gained weight. I was tired, a lot. I was depressed. I decided I had to do something to get healthy. I needed endorphins…I wanted to feel good again, I had to exercise. I could do it, I had to do it. I quit drinking going on three years ago and this winter it felt like I was trying to replace the alcohol with food – bad, processed, unhealthy food, and lots of it. I could not go on like this. The longer I waited, the harder it would be. (NOTE – some of the reason this past winter was so hard was likely due to a clogged artery, but I didn’t know it at the time)
I joined a gym. I walked/ran on a treadmill, I started classes for strength and cardio. I lost 4 pounds in the first two weeks. It was all feeling right and going well until the morning of April 4th.
I dropped my son at school and went straight to the gym. I was a half hour early for the 8 am cardio class so I rode a spin bike for 25 minutes before it began. The class seemed very hard but it was new to me, so I thought nothing of it. I was having a hard time keeping up. I felt really out of shape. I paused when I had to and skipped some parts completely to recover. Toward the end of the class I got light headed/faint…I thought I was going to throw up. All normal, I thought. I went outside to get some air, I didn’t throw up. I came back inside and sat down, caught my breath and drank some water. I gathered myself, my stuff and headed home. I thought I’d just overdone it…I didn’t think for a moment, I was having a heart attack.
I got home and immediately decided a nap was what I needed. I tried to take one, but I could not get comfortable. My teeth hurt. I needed to brush them, floss them, rubber pick them…none of it worked. It would pass right? What’s going on I thought. My arms were sore…why wouldn’t they be? I just worked out. My chest felt odd…but it didn’t hurt. Was I having a heart attack? Nah…that couldn’t be it, I just over did it. Besides, it wasn’t my left arm, it was both arms. Nothing really hurt, things were just sore, and I wasn’t sweating. It would all go away shortly, I was hoping but not sure. I started to google, but nothing was clear to me.
I thought of the money – I always think of the money – if I go to get checked, it’s going to cost money. I just wanted it to go away. I gave up. It wasn’t going away. I had to go. Better safe than sorry. Screw the money, I think I might be having a heart attack. I told my wife we had to go the ER and she’d be driving. We quickly got in the car and headed to York. I should have called an ambulance. With what I was feeling, how did I not know immediately I was having a heart attack?
Within minutes of arriving at the ER, I was hooked up and it was determined that I was having a heart attack. The equipment needed for the next step had broken at York Hospital that morning. I was put in an ambulance and rushed to Portsmouth. How fun. A lights and siren ambulance ride, my first.
At Portsmouth I was prepped for a procedure where a catheter was inserted into an artery from my groin and up into my heart to look for the blockage. I lay on an x-ray table and things happened fast. I was awake for it, I didn’t want to be but I had to be, so I closed my eyes and tried not to think about what was happening.
My right coronary artery was 90+% blocked. A procedure was done to push back the blockage then a stent was inserted to keep the artery open. It lasted about 3 hours I’m told, I wasn’t keeping time. I remember most of it and it wasn’t pleasant. It was cold in the room and I shivered a lot. I got sick a lot too. They told me my heart stopped and they had to restart it. (I don't remember this part!)
I am grateful I had a heart attack! On Friday April 6th I was released. It’s now Friday April 13th. I started cardiac rehab yesterday and I’ve felt GREAT for the past few days. I’m eating the right food and I’ve lost 10 pounds. I’m happy again.
Don’t be fooled. Because of the “imperfect” fit of my symptoms to what I saw on google that day, I waited. I waited to see if it would go away. It wasn’t “clear” or “obvious” or “certain” to me I was having a heart attack. I looked it up and even though I had some of the symptoms, I still wasn’t convinced it was happening to me. I arrived home from the gym at about 9:30 that morning and waited until 11:30 to go to the ER. Two hours. Two hours too long. Don’t do it. Learn from my mistake. If you have discomfort or abnormal sensations between your chest and your jaw, get it checked!
The longer you wait, the worse it can be. You can die. Or your heart muscle can die from lack of oxygen. Some of my heart muscle was damaged but I’m told it will heal. Don’t mess around! Get to the hospital FAST!
Planning to make big changes in your life? Don’t give yourself a self-administered stress test like I did! Go get it done by someone who knows what they’re doing.
HEART ATTACK SYMPTOMS:
Pressure, squeezing, DISCOMFORT, or pain in the chest, neck, JAW, shoulders, ARMS, or back. (I had what’s in caps)
Severe shortness of breath. (Mine was not severe, minor at best)
DIZZINESS OR FAINTING. (I didn’t faint but I felt like I was going to)
NAUSEA or VOMITING. (I was nauseous and felt like I was going to vomit but didn’t)
Sweating. (I was NOT sweating)
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