Seriously. Heart attack while shoveling snow. The surgeon told my wife that if we hadn’t called 911, I wouldn’t have made it.
I had the widowmaker heart attack. Named in the days when they didn’t think women had heart attacks, this occurs when the artery feeding the left ventricle (the big blood pump) gets clogged. Mine was 100% clogged. They put a stent in to open the artery back up again.
The whole thing is still surreal to me. I didn’t remember thinking “I’m dying”. I remember thinking “my chest hurts like hell” and “I’ll be at the hospital soon and they will take care of me.”
Everybody was awesome. The fire department (first on scene), the ambulance crew (calm competence), the ER and Cath lab crews (a ballet of people and talking and activity), and the nurses in the ICU (friendly, helpful, knowledgeable)
My wife is a caregiver at heart and is pretty shook up by it all. As a career nurse, she knows all the bad stuff that can happen. As a lifelong worrier, she knows how to get the most out of those concerns. My optimism doesn’t help. I don’t think anything will help other than time and her seeing specific improvements. She notices me being out of breath more than I do. She will likely me more in tune with my recovery that I will be. I’m very blessed.
She is out shoveling the two inches we got last night and it sucks watching her and not being able to help. Especially since, if I look hard enough into the mirror, I know that I could have prevented it. Yeah, yeah, my genetics are stacked against me and I probably couldn’t totally have prevented a heart attack.
I had some level of control (diet, exercise) that I did not choose to use. And as much as I am not a “shoulda, coulda, woulda” guy, that knowledge stings.
Here are two pictures. Note that the orientation changed between the two. In the Pre-Surgery picture, the clogged artery is on top, looking like one of those track stubs you get when trying to use every piece of Brio track in a layout with your kid. The blood just stops. That’s where the clog is.
In the second, Post-Surgery, picture, the problem artery is on the bottom and looks the way it is supposed to, full of blood. The arrow points to the location of the stent. The black line you see is, I believe, the guide wire part of the system that is designed to show up on the imaging so they know where it is in the body.
The actual surgery used a wrist catheter (transradial intervention). A tiny tube went into the artery in my wrist. Through that tube, they put a whole bunch of tools, usually one at a time, that did all the work. A dye injector, balloon inflator/deflator, stent inserter, etc. Pretty tiny and pretty crazy.
I can’t embed the video, but this one is a good explanation.
Our bodies aren’t designed to go without blood for very long, and, while the heart does act better than other parts of the body, it isn’t a good thing. If you saw Hunt For Red October, imagine Sean Connery, with his Russian accent paraphrased: the (body) doesn’t react too well to (lack of blood). Ok, that was funny to me and I’m writing this.
They tell me my left ventricle muscle is “stunned” and will take a few months to recover. And it likely won’t recover to fully normal. There will be cardiac therapy and diet changes and meds and all sorts of adjustments here in the next 3-4 months.
There is a ton more I could say, but I wanted to get this posted. My family and friends have been awesome and I am very fortunate to live within easy access of good healthcare.
P.S. If you are in a similar situation, call the f*en ambulance. Don’t be stupid.