Who are you ? Name, current age, where are you from ?
My name is Anne Clark, I am 50 years old and I currently live in Damascus, Maryland. Where are you from is a very complicated question for me, my Dad was in the US Navy and we moved often, so I am not really “from” anywhere in particular, although I do consider Hawaii my home.
How old were you when you experienced your heart attack?
I had my heart attack on 7/8/2010, I was 45 years old.
Where were you when it happened? Tell me your story.What were your signs and
symptoms? Did you have any pre existing conditions or
family history ?
In July of 2010 I was working as the Director of Acquisitions for a Property Management Company in the Washington, DC area. I worked in the neighborhood of 55-60 hours a week and had a 2-3 hour daily commute. It was a high stress job, to say the least. I had been with the company for 16 years and had worked my way up to the position I held. I was well compensated, but I was also expected to to put in as much time and effort as was needed to get the job done. I did not eat well, I smoked two packs (or more) a day and got very little exercise. Sometime after the fourth of July, I got into a huge fight with my sister (& best friend) and she stopped speaking to me, which added to my stress. On July 8th I left work and went to a homeowners association meeting, getting home around 8:30 pm. I went about my normal routine, I fed my dogs & let them out, I called my parents, sat on the back porch and smoked a few cigarettes. I hadn’t eaten since morning, I had been too busy to stop for lunch.
I started feeling queasy and I was hot. I wasn’t all that concerned, I have suffered with terrible acid issues for years and it was July afterall, it was hot out. I went upstairs (six stairs up) and thought I was going to throw up, when I didn’t I decided to lie down. I started feeling worse and somehow I knew something was terribly wrong. I tried to walk downstairs to the phone and couldn’t, I ended up crawling to the stairs and sliding down. The first thing I did was try to call my sister multiple times, as she was still not speaking to me, she didn’t answer the phone. Finally, I called 911. When the ambulance arrived, I was actually feeling better and I tried to send them away. Apparently, they cannot make you go to the hospital, so I refused. I was feeling better. Everytime I refused, the EMT said okay, why don’t you re-think that answer. He was not going to take no for an answer.
As the ambulance headed toward the hospital, when we were about two minutes away from my house, apparently I turned blue. I remember very little from that except I desperately wanted to go to sleep and the EMT wouldn’t let me, he kept asking about my dogs. We arrived at the hospital and I was immediately surrounded by 5 or 6 nurses/staff. I was wearing my favorite pink tee shirt and pants with my college logo. After they cut my shirt off, I heard someone ask the doctor about my pants, they were able to pull them off with out cutting them…yay! I don’t recall too much that the doctor said to me but one thing is still clear in my mind, he said “Smoke again and you will die”, I have never smoked again. They wheeled me into surgery where I have an angioplasty and a stent. One was 68% and the other was a 100% LAD blockage. I was somewhat conscious during the surgery and I remember at one point the doctor and the nurse started discussing baseball. I am not a baseball fan, I like football. Apparently, I told them if they felt it necessary to chat while they were fixing me,I would prefer they chat about football. Once the surgery was done, they brought my sister in to see me, my first words to her were, “I win”. She was not amused. That was a Thursday night, I was released from the hospital on Saturday. It took me several years to say it out loud, I had a heart attack.
How did this affect your life? Physically/ Personally?
After my heart attacked, I re-evaluated myself and my life, as many do. I went through a severe depression, which I am still struggling with and almost took my life, several times. If not for my dogs, I probably would have. My two dogs were already named when I adopted them in 2009, their names are Hope & Grace. In 2011, after 17 years, I walked away from my job and took a year off. I now work for a construction company, make substantially less money, have a fifteen minute commute and I am happier than I have been in a very very long time.
What lifestyle changes have you made ? What are your struggles ? Stents/ Zipper or Defib ? What is your situation?
I have a stent. I still don’t eat as well as I should, I gave up smoking (cold turkey) and rarely drink anymore, although I do enjoy a cocktail from time to time. I don’t exercise as much as I should, but more than I used to. I am still a work in progress.
What do you fear now ?
I don’t fear dying, but I do fear dying and not leaving a mark on this world.
What are three things that are most important in your post heart attack
The most important things to me are my family, my dogs and my happiness
Did you do Cardiac Rehab? What has been the hardest part of your recovery?
Cardiac Rehab was good, after I completed the program, I had a personal trainer for a while and that helped me a lot. The hardest thing was quitting smoking, I still miss it all the time.
What are your new dreams ?
I don’t really have any dreams right now. I went through such a severe depression for such a long time that every morning I would set the goal that I would make it though the day without killing myself. I have.
Who was there for you?
I am blessed to have an awesome family and a few life long friends. There are very few people in this world that will drop everything and come running when they know you need them. I am lucky to have people in my life like that.
Did you lose many friends after your heart attack ?
I lost several people that I considered friends after my heart attack. One in particular, we had been friends (so I thought) and co-workers for almost 20 years. On Monday after my heart attack she called me and asked when I was returning to work, according to her, things were beginning to pile up on my desk and the owners were not happy, at the time I did not know that was a lie. I returned to work on Tuesday. About a week later she asked me if I wanted to go to happy hour at an outside bar across the street, I said sure. When we got there she ordered a beer and I ordered water. She yelled at me saying what is the point if I’m not going to have a drink and stormed off. We have not spoken since 2011.
What is the funniest thing someone has said or asked about your heart attack?
Every time there is an issue at work that my friend/co-worker thinks is going to upset or stress me out, before she tells me she always asks “How’s your heart feeling?”
The Saturday after my heart attack, my parents came to town to see me. I was home from the hospital at that time so my parents said they would stop at the store and get dinner. They showed up with ribeye steaks (very fatty) and baked potatoes, complete with butter and sour cream. Really?? I don’t think that’s on my new diet plan. My Dad knew that was one of my favorite meals and he just wanted to make me happy. His heart was in the right place.
If you could go back in the past how would you live your life differently?
I don’t really think I would do anything differently. My life has made a dramatic change in the past few years. If not for my heart attack I would not be the person I am today. I like the person I am today. I have come to realize that I didn’t really like myself for a very long time.
What do you want more of in life ?
I want love and happiness. I used to be an angry, stressed person, I do not want to be that person ever again.
Is this the hardest thing you have ever experienced ?
I would say this is one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through. It has been a learning experience and has reminded me what is important in life.
What makes you great ?
I don’t think anything makes me great, yet. I am still trying figure that out.
What advice would you give to a healthy person who has never experienced something like a Heart Attack?
I would say to all, don’t judge, be kind and show compassion. You will never know what is going on in someone else’s mind and you will never fully understand their struggles.