HEART ATTACK STORIES- RACHEL TURNER- WE ALL BLEED RED.

Today Please meet Rachel Turner .

In the spirit of Heart Month I am sharing stories of fellow Heart Attack Survivors that I have met through The Under 55 Heart Attack Survivors Group on Facebook. Everyone has a story and I hope you will take a read and help us create awareness of the #1 Killer in North America.

 

Who are you ?  Name, current age, where are you from ?

Rachel Turner, 38, Auckland New Zealand

How old were you when you experienced your heart attack?

35 Years Old

 

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Where were you when it happened?  Tell me your story. What were your signs and symptoms?

Started 2pm,  July 20, 2011 with severe reflux and generalised body aches and lethargy (seriously thought I was coming down with flu or such).

 I  went to work 3-11pm shift at a local accident and medical.   I had joked with my husband that if a pateint came in with these symptoms and was 10+ years older we would do ECG and refer them to hospital.    But yeah, I thpught,  nah,  I must be over reacting.   At work few people commented I looked a bit unwell, said I felt like getting flu. Discussed with senior nurse on duty but agreed ecg was probably over reacting. Walking to get dinner that night from subway felt like legs made of lead and short of breath just  walking 50 m each way on flat. Finished shift went home. Next morning woke feeling even worse, dizzy when standing, nauseous, had vomiting and diarrhoea. At home alone with 2 year old son, husband at work and when phoned not able to come home. Rang few friends & neighbours but no one free and given hard time for wanting someone to drive me to drs or hospital for bag IV fluids. (Have birth defect in kidney so get dehydrated really quickly with d& v which i thought it was). Syptoms at this point, dizzy, reflux, d/v. Father in law agreed to come and pick up my son but not take me to hospital or dr.

Rang ambulance embarassed as not able to drive self safely just to get a bag of iv fluids. Ambulance and father in law arrived, had crawled out to lounge with son as he was too short to reach the handle on the door and open it. He was so cute he just sat by mummy until help came. I joked with ambulance staff as they were concerned about tracing of my heart, but in past due to kidney ecgs when i was dehydrated showed weird rythms. So i thought everyone overreacting. Got to hospital (lights no sirens) at 9am. Taken into cubicle, nurse took one look at me laying on stretcher and went  ah no we are going around to resus ( at this point i’m thinking oh come on just give me a bag of fluids and send me home to bed). Sat up and they said okay cut clothes of, me no way they were my nice pj’s, so took them off thinking overreacting. TOP cardiac specilaist/ medical director of the whole hospital walks in. I knew him from my post grad nursing placement 13 years previously, so said hi Dr Hart (Seriously his name). Floored by his next comment, ” forget chest xray lets get her to angio” in my mind, ” f me it is a heart attack, bugger” still not freaked out. 2 hours later came out of angiography having had a stent put in main anterior left ascending artery, 100% blockage at spot called the widow maker.  Saw husband by the trolley as I am wheeled up to the coronary  ward, said to him “suppose this means no more babies” ” ah yes” his only reply.

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Did you have any pre existing conditions or family history ?

Birth defect left kidney (benign), fluctuating hypertension thought to be due to kidney. Most family live to their 80s with some heart disease in late 70’s. Since my ha both parents have been found to have developed high cholesterol. My cholesterol was 5.4 at time of heart attack (NZ normal is <5). Had chest pain a few times previously and had seen my cardiologist and even had had an exercise test negative.

 

Did this affect your life? / ?

Yes but not really, hubby and I are really roll with the stuff life throws at you people, if you can’t prevent it accept it and get on with life. Kept in hospital for 5 days as staff were concerned we weren’t taking it seriously (we were but why cry over something no one saw coming). My cardiologist was in the angio room that day and didn’t realize it was me until when my husband rang him that night. He just thought there were 2 people with my name and age in Auckland.

Physically for a year had to watch energy levels, couldn’t walk up steep drives, hanging washing up was hard as everytime lifted arms above head all the blood drained out of them and i would start puffing. etc. Now I have resumed my normal activities and life I don’t do marathons but can jog if the need arises and walk neighbors puppy 20 mins twice a week. Work 2 partime nursing jobs 32 hours per week, have an energetic 5 year old, am on school commitee. 

 Personally We have decided not to have a second child purely due to fact IF I ran into heart issues we would have to immediately terminate and that in our mind is no way to enter a pregnancy. We have a wonderful little man and to us it is selfish to risk him having to grow up with no mummy or one with serious heart issues. 

What lifestyle changes have you made ? 18 months ago changed job from 24 hour per week at a & E to working in community as a Parkinson’s community educator( Parkinson’s nurse in USA). We had worked out my angina triggers- poor sleep improved with son getting older and having his tonsils out. Working with certain people who increase my stress levels exponentially- changed job. Avoid certain people when not feeling at best (MIL), Low iron levels.

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 What are your struggles ?

 Pacing myself and not taking on too much (I hate to disappoint people)

Stents/ Zipper or Defib ?   What is your situation?

Stent x1 ejf 35%, Had 2nd angio at 6 months all clear stent good. HAd echo at 3 months back to normal EJF 55-65%, repeated at 3year mark normal and small patch of hypoplasticity visable on all echos, on some meds and 5 year recall to cardiologist and echo.

What do you fear now ?

Repeat MI

What are three things that are most important in your post heart attack life?

Son, husband, living my life to fullest.

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Did you do Cardiac Rehab?  What has been the hardest part of your recovery ?

Yes I did Cardiac Rehab.  The hardest part is the fact people don’t believe I had a full proper heart attack OR think i am broken somehow and unable to make own decisions rationally.

What are your new dreams ?

Grandchildren, retiring and travelling with husband in 20-30 years.

What do you wish you could do now that you never tried before but so wish you could?  Eg:  Skydiving. 

 Nothing,  I hate heights, cold water and roller coasters.

Who was there for you? 

My husband and son.

Did you lose many people after ?

No,  everyone soon realized I was still me and not fragile.

 What is the funniest thing someone has said or asked about your heart attack?

Nothing was said that was funny.

Have you had any detractors or people who have been hard on you? 

 A lot of people did not believe that i had actually had a heart attack or they thought i was over exaggerating the severity of it. Boss at a&e called me into a disciplinary meeting one year after my ha as i had had too much time off sick with my ha. (I was back at work part time 8 weeks after heart attack and back to normal 24 hours per week by 4 months, she had been a senior nurse until promoted @ 6 months after my heart attack).

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If you could go back in the past how would you live your life differently?

 Drink more, party more, not be afraid of life.

What do you want more of in life ?

 Time with my husband and son and not have to work so much

Is this the hardest thing you have ever experienced ? 

 Yes and no,  yes as it held me back for a year and everyone fussed over me, and no not the most painful- prior to this had had 13 kidney stones and since have put lower back out that hurt more, and went thru 2 periods of abuse in late teens.

What makes you great ? 

 Sense of humor, desire to help others, my husband and son, without them I  would just be mediocre.

What advice would you give to a healthy person?

 Don’t smoke, have healthy weight, live life to the most. 

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Rachel Turner

HEART ATTACK STORIES- KRISTIN FEELEY- WE ALL BLEED RED.

Today Please meet Kristin Feeley .

In the spirit of Heart Month I am sharing stories of fellow Heart Attack Survivors that I have met through The Under 55 Heart Attack Survivors Group on Facebook. Everyone has a story and I hope you will take a read and help us create awareness of the #1 Killer in North America.

 

KRISTIN PIC

 

I guess I should start my story when I was 7.  My mother, while on the phone with the electric company, collapsed in our dining room.  My father, a fireman and the other firefighters “worked” on her as they waited for an ambulance that never showed.  They finally picked her up and put her in the squad car where she died on the way to the hospital.  She died at the age of 38 of what I was later told a “sticky mitral valve”.

Last year, at the age of 39, on March 8, 2014 on an unseasonably warm, sunny day, I had my step-mother up to my house so we could find her a dog at the shelters near me.   My daughter volunteered at a shelter and wanted her to check out a dog there, we visited 2 shelters and had picked out Arthur, a laid back Jack Russell and Chihuahua mix.  We hadn’t eaten all day and couldn’t stop somewhere with the dog in the car so we drove her and the dog over an hour to the house I grew up in.  When we got there we decided to order some take out from the pizza place,  we all had chicken parmesan dinners. 

 After dinner, I was sitting in the same room that my mother collapsed in and started to feel a horrible pain in the center of my chest.  At first I thought it may be indigestion,  I was hungry didn’t eat all day and maybe ate a little too quickly.  The longer I sat there the worse the pain seemed.  I asked my step-mother for an aspirin because the nagging thought in the back of my head was this is a heart attack.   She didn’t have an aspirin but had Aleve and so I took it just in case it had aspirin in it.  I sat for a couple of minutes and then I started to have trouble breathing.  I was starting to panic.  I turned to my husband and said “I am having chest pain and can’t breathe, we need to go”.   The phone rang and my step-mother picked up the phone and started talking to her son and all I could think is “I’m having a heart attack and she’s on the phone with her son?”  My husband was mad at her and said we’re going.  I got up and walked outside to our car.  I felt weak and prayed I could make it to the car.  My husband was trying to get my daughter to get in the car.  She was 14 and was freaking out and wanted to stay.  I opened the car door and got in the car and watched the two of them argue with each other and thought I can’t die now, they will kill each other.  I felt the tingling going down my right arm and then my left. I started to cry and yell to get in the car. 

 My husband drove me and my daughter to the closest emergency room, unfortunately well known for being a horrible hospital, but I had no choice.   On the way, I kept coughing as hard as I could because I had read it helps during a heart attack and asked my hubby to pound on my back, figuring if the coughing helped maybe the pounding would too. They were doing construction at the hospital, so my hubby dropped me off.   I walked to the front desk at the ER and told them I was having chest pain and couldn’t breathe.  They put me in triage pretty quickly, where the pain continued and I couldn’t catch my breath.  The nurse kept telling me I was having a panic attack and I was hyperventilating.  I knew I wasn’t.  The pain was unbearable and I couldn’t get comfortable in any position.  They hooked me up to an ekg and saw nothing.  They took me for x-rays and nothing.  They asked me for urine but I looked at the nurse like she was nuts, I couldn’t even stand up and she wanted me to pee in a cup.  They put me in a bed to wait for more results.  

 A male nurse, that seemed to be my angel, asked what he could do for me and I told him I was in pain.  He came and gave me some morphine, thankfully the pain let up a little.  My sister showed up, I guess my step-mother got off the phone long enough to call her.  The ER doctor came and said they couldn’t see anything but they would keep me for observation.  I was admitted and moved to a room.  I sent my sister home and my daughter and hubby back to my step-mother’s since we were an hour away from home. 

 As I was getting settled into my room, a nurse came in and said I tricked them.   I was like how???  The levels in my blood did indicate I was having a HA and they were still rising and I had some arrhythmia.  They would move me to CCU and do additional testing and probably catherization.  

 I was scared, I called my hubby and told him what was going on and they were moving me.  The doctor on that floor came in looking concerned and wanted me moved asap.   It was kind of nice in CCU,  I was by myself in a room and had a view of the NYC skyline.  The nurses were great there too and I felt like I was getting better. They did an echo and still saw nothing.  More EKGs and more blood work. I was in touch with my boss and seriously said to him, I’ll probably be back in a few days.  I remember posting on Facebook saying I may have had a “little heart attack” and my sister got so mad.  She was crying, which she never does and said it wasn’t little, stop down playing it. 

 That’s maybe when I realized I was in denial. 

 My step-mother called me and started saying this is too close to what happened to your mother, which got me get upset and set my machines off.  Hubby had to take her calls after that. Finally they decided to do a chemical stress.  They did the first part of the test that made my heart race and took pictures.  They said if that came out fine I would not have to do the at rest portion and could go home.  They took the pictures and wheeled me to the door to wait for the orderly.  They had the pictures on the screen and I could see one picture did not look like the rest.  I knew then, that there was a problem and would be back for the 2nd part.  When my sister came that day I said I saw something, she said maybe it wasn’t yours, but I knew. 

 The next day I went back for the 2nd part and was then told they were switching me to a different hospital for catherization. I am overweight so they didn’t want to risk doing a catherization at that hospital.  They wanted me to see a special cardiologist there who did many of these procedures a day.   On March 13, 2014 an ambulance came to transfer me to Hackensack University Medical Center.  My husband and my brother met me at the hospital and I was prepped to wait for the procedure. I remember not feeling nervous, just wanted to get in and get it done.   I was brought into the cath lab a little while later and given pain meds.  They moved the machine around me and explained they would go through my wrist and if they saw anything they would stent me.  I felt the wire going through and it hurt and I said it hurt and they gave me a little more pain meds.  I then heard a tech say, “here comes the BMW” and I am normally a smart ass so I said, “but I like Volvos better”.  That is the last thing I remember.  According to my current cardiologist “all hell broke loose”.  

 From what I am told, I had another heart attack and blood clots had blocked my LAD.  They tried unsuccessfully 3 times to stent me, but they couldn’t.  The doctors came out and talked to my husband and brother and told them I needed an emergency bypass.  If it wasn’t done, I would just continue to have heart attacks and damage my heart.  So, they moved me from the cath lab to the OR, they let my husband and brother talk to me before the surgery.  They said I was crying and talking, but I do not remember any of it.  As they wheeled me into the OR, I had a third HA. 

 Next thing I remember is I waking up in the ICU, tubes down my throat and thinking “what the hell happened”?  This is not a stent.  The nurse stopped me from pulling out the tubes in my throat and talked to me and told me what happened.  I was in a haze the next couple of days. I was then moved from ICU to the “heart” wing.  I slept in the reclining chair mostly and tried to move myself around.  A physical therapist came once but didn’t again so I walked myself.  I was released 5 days later. 

 Coming home and doing the stairs were tough but I did it.  I had a nurse come a couple of days a week and my mother in law stayed a week.  A week after coming home, I developed an infection in the wound on my chest.  I had to go on antibiotics and the surgeon had to cut the dead skin, leaving me with a hole in the middle of my chest that I had to dress and clean with my husband’s help for the next few months.  At first, I would cry at the sight of it, but now I wear my scar with pride.  It is my proof of overcoming something much bigger than I ever thought I could. 

 I attended cardiac rehab for about 2 months, wish I could have done the entire program, but I had to get back to work.  Work for me was my return to normalcy, now I wonder why I was pushing to come back, LOL. 

 I still can’t believe this happened without more of a warning.  I had hereditary high cholesterol since I was 15, but otherwise I was pretty healthy.  Don’t smoke, don’t drink much, and yes my weight probably is not the best, but my doctor’s don’t feel it was the cause.  I know my cardiologist wishes he had more info on my mother’s condition as he feels our events are related.  I went through a lot of ups and downs and still do.  I get anxious sometimes and my sleeping has never been the same.  My cardiologist feels I have some PTSD.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining.  I know I am so lucky that I have this second chance. 

 My daughter said to me months later that she was mad at her father not letting her be there on cath day, and I asked why? She said ” what happens if it was worse and it couldn’t be fixed?  I wouldn’t have had the chance to say good-bye”.  I cry every time I think of that.  I feel horrible that I had to put her through that and I know I could have been my mother who missed watching her child(ren) grow up. 

The bright spot is that this has made my amazing husband and daughter and me so much closer and stronger.  I also see that my sister and brother, even though they won’t always say it, would do anything for their baby sister.   If it wasn’t for these wonderful people supporting and taking care of me, I don’t think I would have made it through.

HEART ATTACK STORIES- TERRI PIZSCZEK- WE ALL BLEED RED

In the spirit of Heart Month I am sharing stories of fellow Heart Attack Survivors that I have met through The Under 55 Heart Attack Survivors Group on Facebook. Everyone has a story and I hope you will take a read and help us create awareness of the #1 Killer in North America.

Today Please meet Terri Pisczek .

 

TERRI3

 

My name is Terri Pisczek and I’m in my late 50’s I’m from Sunny Florida. I was 39 years young when I had a heart attack.

 I woke up one morning and within a few minutes I knew something was wrong by the way I felt.  I experienced a sudden thick heavy feeling in my chest.  Something that made me think… hmm.  The day before I was feeling great, enjoying life.  I leashed my dog then we headed out for our normal late morning scenic walk. While walking I noticed the thick heavy feeling becoming worse.  Halfway into the walk I felt short of breath a little weak.  I’d never felt this before.  I decided to turn around and head back home and call the doctor.

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 I called the doctor’s office it was closed and would reopen at 1pm.  I left a detailed message with his answering service,  I was promised they could call back. I had made a veterinary appointment the day before, so, off I went. While in the veterinarians office I felt really bad and couldn’t wait to return home.  I sucked it up and made it through the pet’s doctor appointment.

When I got home I call the doctor again. I spoke with his nurse and explained my symptoms.  By this time the pressure had increased and turned into pain going down both arms and out the middle of my back between my shoulder blades. I asked if I could be seen by the doctor. She said I’ll give him the message.  I asked her when will he return the call, she said by 2;00pm.  By 2:00pm, they had not returned my call, so I called again. The nurse said she discussed my symptoms with the doctor and he said the pain I was having was either muscular or skeletal and he prescribed taking Advil.  I drove up to the store and bought Advil.  I took as he prescribed, but my symptoms stayed the same. At 4:00 PM the pain began to get worse and increased into something that felt like a painful attack in my chest with increased pain going down both arms and into my fingertips. The pain was in my chest, coming out the center of my back with painful pins and needles shooting up to the collar bone and neck area. Very painful, I wasn’t comfortable sitting or laying down.  I had to go outside and sit on a bench because I felt like I couldn’t get enough air. I need fresh air. By this time my chest area, arms and back felt extremely sore as if I had been punched in the chest and back, sorta like I just took beating.  The pain begins to worsen while I was outside so I went back inside.  My husband arrived home from work and  I ask him to get the doctor on the phone. I was feeling too weak and drained and confused.

 At 4:50, my husband did reach the doctor on the phone and he told the doctor I was in really bad pain. The doctor then asks if I could come to the phone.  My husband handed me the phone, I proceeded to tell the doctor again everything I had experienced since I last called him.  He told me that I was having an esophagus spasm and he recommend I take some liquid antacid. I question why I would be having an esophagus spasm, and if so, would the pain be this great? He assured me that esophagus pain is extremely painful and resembles a heart attack.  I ask him if I could be having a heart attack and he said NO because, for one, I have pain in both arms.  His other reasons were that I was a young woman and there was no sweating or vomiting involved.  He said, to trust him and assured me this was not a heart attack because I had no risk factors and he therefore had no reason to believe it heart related.

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He clearly stated that if I was a man he would have reason to be concerned.

 Back to the store for liquid antacid and took as he prescribed. My pain was not alleviated by taking the antacid. At 7:00 PM, I was still in pain, sore and I wasn’t sure how long it would take for the antacid to take effect.  The Doctors office had closed and I called something called ” Ask a Nurse.”  I explained to the nurse the pain I was experiencing all day. I told her I had spoken with my doctor regarding this.  She advised me to follow my doctor’s advice first, and if the symptoms persisted, go to the ER. I then tried taking more antacid, but still I had no relief. All of the symptoms continued and by 8:00pm my husband drove me to the ER.

 The Front desk nurse said to forget the usual paperwork and felt I needed immediate attention.  After explaining my symptoms to the ER doctors, They said I was describing a heart attack and they needed to run some tests immediately.  They confirmed that I had and was possibly still having one.  My blood work had come back positive for Triponen.  They said I needed medication immediately and which time I was administered TPA, they suspected I had a blood clot.  I was also given others medication and was told that my heart was responding. This confirmed their diagnosis. They said that my EKG was abnormal due to the heart attack. As a result, I had two cardiac caths, angioplasty and I was diagnosed with aggressive coronary artery disease. I underwent triple bypass.  Over the years, I’ve had 8 re stenoses, blood clots that required stenting. I’ve had 8 stents.

My signs and signs and symptoms were heavy feeling in my chest, pain in my chest coming shooting through by back between my shoulder blades, pins and needles, shooting pains in my collar bone and neck area, shooting pains down BOTH arms and ending in my fingertips.  I had high blood pressure and high cholesterol but my doctor never seemed concerned, so I wasn’t.

This crushed my world. I felt broken, I was traumatized, I stopped living and started worrying. Fear took over my life followed by deep depression.  I hated my life, I no longer felt joy. I had no desire to think or plan for the future. I didn’t think I’d have a future. While others laughed and planned future events I sat slightly in emotional pain. Physically I couldn’t do the things I once did. I couldn’t work it was too stressful.  I loved working in the yard, couldn’t do that, riding bikes, shopping, running with a group of friends all of this ended that day.  Angina took over and the medications side effects took it’s toll.

 I have to wear the ugly scars that come with open heart surgery. I live in Florida and always wore cute little shorts. That ended because of the scar. I hated the scar on my leg. I loved wearing T-Shirts. I stopped because of the scar on my chest.

I definitely made lifestyle choices after.   I do not eat fast foods, canned foods, snack foods like chips, donuts, breads, white rice, white potatoes, sodas, iced tea, very little red meat. I exercise more, avoid stress, removed toxic people from my life. What are your I do struggle with willpower due to lifestyle changes.

Here is me:  Triple bypass, 8 stent implants. They have placed 8 stents in my bypass grafts. One graft closed. What do you fear now? Geez, one of my bypass grafts is a vein and it’s 20 years old. Brittle, filled with stents.  Recent PET scan was abnormal. Lack of blood flow to the heart muscle in the area where the old graft filled with stents supplies.  This is like driving on bald tires. Not sure how many more stents can fit in this graft.  If they Cath me and make one little oops, I fear it could have a heart attack or death.

The things that are important to me are my little ones they were and are my life. I love my pets and they need me. Being happy and helping others.  My husband and mother in law were there for me, she did all of the work.

After my Heart Attack,  I lost everyone. I was a young 39-year-old and enjoyed life like I was 25 years old, now,  I couldn’t keep up with the 70-year olds.

I attended Cardiac Rehab as a part of my recovery and I recommend it to others.  I do have dreams and goals, a big one is to live another 20 years.  I also wish to travel, live

One of the funniest things that happened to me after was…..I was walking with an ex friend and she said if you pass out or have a heart attack I’m not doing CPR on you. lol. NOT funny since she knew I was having symptoms at the time.  If I could go back I would live my life more FOR ME!!!!! I wish and hope to have more TIME in life. Having my Heart Attack is the hardest thing that has ever happened to me.

I would advise others to exercise more and watch your blood pressure, cholesterol and diet.  I am a person who can do things for others with a smile on my face while I am suffering.

The bay area newspaper did an article on me after I had my heart attack. I’m not sure who contacted them. They called and ask if I would tell my story and offered to come to the hospital. Of course, I said no I can’t. I’m recovering from a heart attack. They ask maybe at a later date. I said yes/maybe. After I started rehab they contacted me and wanted to take a picture and post my story in the newspaper. I made the front page news. and a side page. The purpose was to bring awareness to women and the medical field that women are at risk of suffering a heart attack and it’s not a just a male disease. the inside article read as follows.

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Heart disease kills more women than anything else, but not many people know it. Public perception and some doctors still consider heart disease a male illness, even though for the past 10 years it’s killed more women than men.

Terri Pisczek knows. The 39-year-old mother experienced “crushing tightness” in her chest when she took her dog for a walk. The discomfort caused her to turn back.  Throughout the day she called her doctor as the “squeezing pain” continued to the middle of her back, between her shoulders and down both arms. She recalls her doctor telling her, I assure you it’s not your heart. Finally, Pisczek called ask-a-nurse service. They advised her to follow her doctors advice but to head to the ER if it continued. She learned it was a heart attack, but because so much time had elapsed before she was treated, Pisczek suffered irreversible muscle damage. Cardiovascular disease killed 478,179 women in 1990, the most recent year statistics are available from the National Center for health statistic and the American Heart Association The disease struck down 447,900 men that year.

More to this story. But I wanted to say, Nothing has changed in the awareness of heart disease.

Terri Pisczek

HEART ATTACK STORIES- WENDELL LAUGHTER- WE ALL BLEED RED.

In the spirit of Heart Month I am sharing stories of fellow Heart Attack Survivors that I have met through The Under 55 Heart Attack Survivors Group on Facebook. Everyone has a story and I hope you will take a read and help us create awareness of the #1 Killer in North America.

Today Please meet Wendell Laughter, a  man who’s last name suits his his personality and demeanor.

WENDELL LAUGHTER

 

It was July 26th, 2014, a beautiful Saturday.  I lease 2200 acres of land fairly close to where I live, I lease it for hunting as I’m an avid hunter.

The morning of the 26th I got up fairly early and went to the lease property to work on building a shooting house for deer season. Basically a 4’ by 8’ by 7 feet tall house built 15 feet off the ground. The only unusual thing that happened this day was, my wife decided to go help me, and that wasn’t something she done hardly at all. She has other things she likes to do on her Saturdays, as she works a full time job through the week like I do.

 When we left the house and headed to the lease property I didn’t feel all that good, but wasn’t feeling sick or anything either, I was just being lazy I thought.  In order to get to where I was building my blind you have to have 4 wheel drive as the road is an old logging road and it’s easy to get stuck. I guess at this point I should give you a little of my history.

 I was 45 years old, and in good shape.  I’m 6’3” and at the time for my heart attack I weighed 270lbs. I carried it really well, I wasn’t over weight at all. I smoked close to 2 packs of Marlboro reds a day, and partied on my boat at the lake most weekends, all bad food and good ice cold beer and some occasional moonshine. 

 Anyway, back to that memorable day, haha.   I had unloaded some 16’ long 4×4’s and some plywood and 2×4’s out of the truck, and Rhonda (my wife) was helping hold them together while I screwed them together, making the frame of the building. It was in the low 90’s and I was sweating pretty good.  I had been eating allergy medicine because I had flu like symptoms. My chest was congested and my nose was runny, so when I started feeling light headed and sick, I thought I had got too hot. I told my wife that I was really nauseated and dizzy headed and she thought I had got too hot as well.  She convinced me to go sit in the truck with the air conditioner on,  the truck was about 20 feet away from where I was at. 

w2

 

 When I started walking to it, I wasn’t sure I could make it, but I just stared at it and stumbled my way over to the truck, almost falling/walking.  When I got to the truck I fell to my knees at the truck door and rested my head on the running board/step… I was trying to “shake off” whatever was wrong with me, so I stayed on my knees there for a few minutes before hearing my wife ask me if I was ok.   I, of course answered yes and reached up to open the truck door.  At that moment my left arm felt like someone had jerked it out of socket, it felt dislocated at the elbow and shoulder and just “ached” something awful! That’s when I thought to myself, “oh crap! I’m having a heart attack!”. I yelled to my wife, “Come on Rhonda, we need to go”.. and of course she yelled back, “ok, let me gather your tools up.”  I was thinking we didn’t have time for that! Haha ! but I also knew that if I argued with her about it, it would take even longer, so I just stayed on my knees and waited.  In a couple of minutes she was at the truck and said everything was picked up and we was ready. I stood up to get in the truck and it felt like someone had shot me with a rifle, dead center of my chest.  That’s when fear overwhelmed me, the weird part was, I wasn’t really scared of dying.  The fear was more of a panic, all I could picture in my head was my wife being stuck out on the middle of nowhere with a dead body,  what would she do, how would she handle that? OMG!!  I need to get out of here! I don’t want her to go through that!.

 I started driving us out of there and she was getting mad and yelling at me because I was driving wide open and even making new roads here and there, lol.  She wanted to drive but I knew we needed to hurry and she would be too slow.  I honestly don’t remember driving out of there, my wife said I slid to a stop 3 or 4 times and put my head down on the steering wheel, when she would ask if I was ok, I replied that I was ready to pass out.  I would as her to just give me a minute and I would be ok.  I don’t know how exactly, but I got us home, (my wife says it was the scariest ride she’s ever had, lol).  We got home around 1:30pm.  Ok, mission one was to get out of the woods so my wife wouldn’t have to deal with a dead body.  Mission one, step one a success!!.  Mission two: I’m filthy.. sweaty.. dirty.. filthy!.. so apparently I started undressing as I walked to the front door.  By the time I made it to out bathroom I was naked and getting in a very cold shower, my wife was right behind me asking if she should call an ambulance.  I told her no, that I must have torn something in my chest from all the coughing (was hoping) but I stepped into the shower and rinsed off and stepped out. I barely remember crawling out of the bathroom and down the hall to the kitchen, it’s like I dreamed it. My wife had me some fresh clothes and was demanding that I let her call 911.. I told her no, that she was going to drive me to the ER, so I got in her little Lincoln MKX and off we went.

w3

 I kept telling her to go faster! Faster!  She was barely over the speed limit.  I remember passing a state trooper parked on the side of the road and her pointing him out to me as a reason to not speed.  I think my exact quote was something like “phuck him!! Go damnit!! Go!!  I’m dying!”  The pain was so unbearable that I was upside down in the passenger seat trying to find a spot that didn’t hurt me, my feet on the ceiling of her MKX, pushing like a woman in labor, lol.  I finally gave up and had her go to the ambulance service place.  We got there and everybody was gone, so we called 911 from the ambulance garage, lol, it took them forever to get there (about 15 minutes), they checked me, ran an EKG and said: “We can take you to the hospital but you can drive and get there just as fast, your EKG shows your heart is ok.  I get back in Rhonda’s car and off we go. The hospital is about a 40 minute drive and she’s not going fast enough.  I’m mad as hell because everybody is ignoring her emergency flashers and won’t move over, finally we hit a long straight away with nothing coming, so she passed about 10 to 15 cars.  I remember looking at the speedometer and she broke 110mph, I laughed and told her that NOW she’s driving !  I was trying to make her laugh and lighten the mood.  We get to the ER around 3:00pm, and when we walk in they ask what’s wrong and after I tell them my chest is killing me, they take me straight in. They run an EKG and it’s good. They send me and get a cat scan, it was all I could do to hold still long enough, I was in agonizing pain. They put an IV in me for the scan, to put dye in or something, so when I got back to my room they wanted me to drink a “GI cocktail”. it tasted like shit and didn’t touch the pain.

The cat scan guy walked into my room and said: “The cat scan didn’t show any fluid around your heart, no blockages and no aneurisms, your heart is fine” I as adamant that something was literally killing me.  I was begging for something for the pain and trying to convince them that I wasn’t a druggie looking for a “fix”.  They gave me a nitro pill under my tongue, it didn’t help.  They gave me a second nitro, still didn’t help, then a third pill, still no help at all. They gave me some morphine through my IV then a hydrocodone pain pill. Still. No. Help…. at all. I was getting mad as hell, I thought they was giving me placebos. I got up at one point and was going to walk out,  I told them if it wasn’t my heart that I could tough it out long enough to get home and take a hand full of pain pills (I never take them, so I had plenty in the cabinet from other things over the years).  My wife and an emergency room doctor talked me into staying for more tests and observation.

 They wheeled me to a room and started giving me a pain pill every 4 hours, and morphine every 2 ½ hours.  I watched the clock like a hawk and was asking for the meds 10 minutes or so before time from the previous meds were up, so they would have them ready, lol.  At 1:00am (now it’s Sunday), my wife is asleep in a chair in the corner of my room when a doctor comes running in, turning my lights on, and telling me “Mr. Laughter, your blood work is back and your enzymes are sky high!!.”  I looked at him, with my fists clinched against my chest and asked what that means, he said “you’re in cardiac arrest, you’re having a heart attack!”  

He stood there awaiting a reaction, I looked in straight in the eye and said, “no shit!!”…. lol.  I was actually relieved to know why I was in agony, believe it or not,  He told me that they cancelled my stress test they had scheduled for the morning and was getting a cath scheduled no stress test??… smh.  When he walked out I whispered to Rhonda (not knowing if she was awake), “did you hear that?”.  She whispered back, “yeah” but didn’t move or a make a sound the rest of the night, it scared her more than it did me, lol.  

The rest of the night was a Chinese fire drill, nurses crawling all over me.. yeah, was wondering if it was heaven a few times, lol.  The morning came, and at 9:30am, 18 hours after arriving at the ER, I was headed to the cath table for a 30 minute procedure. They put me on the table and started shaving my groin, but went through my wrist. They did a “radial” cath  but shaved the groin just in case they needed to go through it. I was hurting too bad to lay still, so they knocked me out.  I woke up still on the cath table, with my doctor poking me on the shoulder, calling my name. “Wendell. Wendell. Wendell.”  When I answered he said and I kid you not,  he said: “This ain’t good, this ain’t good at all!  We need your help, we’re in a tight spot here, can you lay still and hold your breath when we ask you to?”.  I, of course said yes and done as he said.  I remember him talking with someone over an intercom, “insertion of 10X in LAD”… “Insertion of 8X in LAD”… after the first insertion he turned his head to talk to whoever that guy behind the glass was.  I used that instance to readjust myself, I was hurting too bad to lay still, he wasn’t looking at me but immediately knew I had moved, everybody laid their hands on me and was saying “don’t move, don’t move”.. was like, “ok, ok!!”, lol.

Anyway, I remember laying there and all of a sudden the pain leaving, I remember my muscles finally relaxing and my body settled.   I remember saying out loud, “oh thank god!!”.  I said that a couple of times before the doctor asked me if I was alright.  When I told him the pain was gone he smiled and said that was what was supposed to happen.  It was such a relief, I was the happiest person alive!!

 I had two blockages, one on my right side and one on my left side, in the LAD?.  I still don’t understand all of that, but that’s ok I have 3 stents in 2 blockages.  My LAD was the 100% blocked artery and he had to put a stent inside of a stent because my artery kept collapsing the single stent,  thus the 10X and 8X, they were stent sizes! Haha. The other artery was a 95% blockage. The 30 minute procedure took over 3 hours, and I was rolled back to my room.  I’ve had so much crap happen since then, that it really gets overwhelming and sometimes you think it’s winning.  I try my best to still be a strong guy and keep a good attitude. I’m not going to lie though, it’s a hard thing to accept knowing you’re not near the man you were 6 months ago.

w4

I did attend Cardiac Rehab, it was an important part of my recovery.  I loved it !  They were on me to keep my heart rate within reason as sometimes I would go too hard.  The nurses kept me in line lol.

My wife, I could not ask for anyone better.  She is concerned when I am concerned and OK when I am OK  The entire time at the hospital, the whole 4 days she stayed by my side.  We have been together since high school, we were prom King and Queen.  We have lived a good life together.

Advice I would tell others…..Quit smoking, don’t eat the fat stuff.  I do still spend time with my old crew just not as much.  I use to hang with them a lot, drink the beers and eat all the bad food.  They were very understanding when I made the changes.

I have had a great life, always have and I love it.

 I’ve already wrote a book here, so this is where I’m ending “me story”.. I hope I didn’t bore you all to death.

Wendell Laughter

HEART ATTACK STORIES- ONDRA ELDRIDGE- WE ALL BLEED RED.

In the spirit of Heart Month I am sharing stories of fellow Heart Attack Survivors that I have met through The Under 55 Heart Attack Survivors Group on Facebook. Everyone has a story and I hope you will take a read and help us create awareness of the #1 Killer in North America.

Today Please meet Ondra Eldridge.

ONDRA

Who are you ?  Name, current age, where are you from ? 

Ondra Eldridge  50  from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

How old were you when you experienced your heart attack?

 Just turned 50 in Sept 2014

Where were you when it happened?  Tell me your story.

 In Feb 2014 I had lost my job and after 30 years of working I became really stressed trying to find another job.  My last job was also stressful and I couldn’t handle the stress.  After losing my job I began looking everywhere and was really hard to find one with my experience and pay.  The days before the heart attack I realize now that,  I was really tired and having issues with heart burn.  I just shook it off and was eating the wrong foods.

On October 8, 2014 I was going over to my best friends to do my hair and spend some time with her.  We had just colored my hair and she was cutting hair when I realize I was getting pain in my chest and arms, then my back and jaws starting hurting really bad.  I told my friend something wrong and told her to get me some Aspirin.  I started not being able to breath and pain was getting worse.  My friend’s husband called  911 and luckily the fire station was down the street.  She told me they got there within 5 minutes and started working on me.

 I don’t remember a whole lot but they tried to put equipment on me to see what was going on but the  wires wouldn’t stay on me.  EMS showed up and started working on me and told my friend I was having a heart attack.  They then put me in ambulance and ran hot to Oklahoma Heart Hospital.  I was semi alert until I got to the hospital and then I passed out and don’t remember much after that.  I did come to after they put stent in and asked if I was alive.  Everyone was looking at me when I finally got to recovery.  I felt no more pain by then and was so thankful.

I found out that my triponon count was over 200 and I had to stay in Hospital for 4 days.  My doctor told my  family that If I didn’t think quick like I did I wouldn’t be here.  I found this out after.   My LAD was 99.9 blocked and I had Widowmaker Heart Attack.  It’ been 4 months since my Heart Attack and I am  feeling better every day.  Thank goodness for the knowledge of Doctor who said I had a horrible heart attack but easy fix.  I am thankful for everyday that I get to see family and friends.  Very thankful for my best friend and EMS and firefighter and doctor for saving my life.

What were your signs and symptoms?  Did you have any pre existing conditions or family history ?

Heart burn and really tired for three days before.  No Family history

How did this affect your life?  Physically/ Personally?

I have a harder time getting around like I used to but it gets better every day.  I haven’t really absorbed that I had a heart attack and I take one day at a time.

What lifestyle changes have you made ?  What are your struggles ?

 Eating better and trying to get back to my new normal.

Stents/ Zipper or Defib ?  What is your situation?

 I have a stent now.  Unable to work at this time but ready to work again.

What is most important in your post heart attack life?

Living better

Did you do Cardiac Rehab?  What has been the hardest part of your recovery ?

I had no insurance for rehab.

What are your new dreams ?

To get healthy again.

What do you wish you could do now that you never tried before but so wish you could?  Eg:  Skydiving.

 I have done a lot in my life.  Don’t really have any wishes except to live longer.

Who was there for you?

 My best friend.

Did you lose many people after ?

 No

What is the funniest thing someone has said or asked about your heart attack?

Did it hurt…lol.

If you could go back in the past how would you live your life differently?

 Yes, I’d take meds better.

What do you want more of in life ?

Health and happiness.

Is this the hardest thing you have ever experienced ?

 Losing my job.

What makes you great ?

My positive attitude.

What advice would you give to a healthy person?

Stay healthy and keep it up.

Ondra

HEART ATTACK STORIES- MARK HUMBLE- WE ALL BLEED RED.

Today Please meet Mark Humble.

In the spirit of Heart Month, I am sharing stories of fellow Heart Attack Survivors that I have met through The Under 55 Heart Attack Survivors Group on Facebook. Everyone has a story and I hope you will take a read and help us create awareness of the #1 Killer in North America. 

 

My name is Mark Humble, I’m 52 years old from Bloomington Illinois.

 

Mark Humble

 

My story begins on November 30, 2014, just another Sunday.

My wife and I woke up, went to breakfast, then came home to finish preparing for a harsh winter.

  I had just put a new seal on the bottom of our garage door when I started feeling strange…tightness in my chest then down hill quickly. Within a minute I had severe chest pain, nausea, sweating like crazy @ 34 degrees outside, then the pain shot down my left arm. I knew what was going on, and I yelled for my wife. I said ,”Heidi I need some aspirin!” she said, “You have a head ache? you want some Tylenol?” “No Baby I think I’m having a heart attack.” She got the aspirin and off to the hospital.  Cardiac Cath was performed and minimal buildup of less than 50% found. Medicine prescribed and sent home December 2.

 I felt pretty drained and weak for the next few weeks but was told it was from the meds and HA.

 

Three weeks later…December 22, I was at work. 8:00am started feeling bad. I knew again what was going on…this was much worse! Same symptoms as before, but this time I couldn’t breathe. I yelled for a co worker and told him I was having another HA. He rushed me to the ER which was only 3 minutes away.

 

  Got to the hospital and collapsed into a wheel chair…V-fib…thankfully after I coded three times they were able to stabilize my condition thru shock and resuscitation.

 

 Immediate Cardiac Cath again, again no damage and less than 50% buildup in my LAD. This time my EF (ejection fraction) was 35. Next day my numbers were getting better. Doc said he’s adjusting my meds and sending me home because he couldn’t find anything wrong with me. What? huh? nothing wrong? Something has got to be wrong!!! I was scared beyond words.

 

I expressed my concerns to my nurses and told them I felt I couldn’t / shouldn’t go home without knowing. Several hours later Nurse Jill comes in and hands me a brochure for the Zoll Life Vest. She said she got one approved for me to wear home. For those who don’t know, the Life Vest is an external defibrillator that is fully automatic.  No outside intervention is needed. This gave me a feeling of hope that I would be OK if I went home on the 24th. By the way, I named my life vest… ‘Hope’.

 

24 hours later…Christmas Day: Went to my in-laws for Christmas dinner. Everyone was filling their plates and bellies when I started feeling bad. I looked at my wife and said, “Heidi, it’s happening again!” Same symptoms, except breathing not an issue this time. I sat down at the dinner table as she called 911.  I popped a nitro pill, and said to Heidi, “I’m going out!” Down I went..V-fib… My wife was trained on the vest, so she knew to have everyone stay away and let ‘Hope’ do her thing; and she did. Blam!! Single treatment shock brought me back after about 30 seconds. (I’m sure that’s a Christmas dinner Heidi’s family will never forget). 

 

 It took 7 more minutes for the ambulance to arrive. If it weren’t for God, my wonderful wife, and the Zoll Life Vest, I wouldn’t be here today. 

 

 This time a new Cardiologist. Cardiac Cath #3. Placed stent into that “less than 50% buildup”. After two days in our local hospital (OSF St. Josephs) they transferred me to St Francis Peoria and ran every test imaginable. All tests negative. 🙁 scheduled and installed an ICD the next day,(I’ve named my ICD ‘Faith’.)  I was sent  home on the 30th. Now I wait….

 

The thing I fear most is the unknown. Still to this day we have no idea what happened.

 

 Most important things for me now., God, My wonderful wife, and my family!

 

 Just started Cardiac Rehab last week, 1/30

 

 I’m not to the new dreams stage yet, I cant. Someday I will, but right now it’s one day at a time.

 

 If I could go back in time; I would never have smoked, and I would have spent every day with my kids.

 

 I have never been consumed by anything this intense. It’s almost impossible to do anything without being aware of every little thing. People say it gets better with time; I hope their right.

 

What do I want more of in life?  Time…My wife and I have a lot of living to do yet. I need and want to be here for her, my kids, and my 3 grand kids.

 

 What makes me great? The people in my life; especially my wife. Without those folks I’d be nothing!

 

 Healthy folks…Do your best to stay that way. and live everyday to the fullest. You never know when….well…

 

Mark Humble

HEART ATTACK STORIES- TONY YIP- WE ALL BLEED RED

Today Please meet Tony.

In the spirit of Heart Month I am sharing stories of fellow Heart Attack Survivors that I have met through The Under 55 Heart Attack Survivors Group on Facebook. Everyone has a story and I hope you will take a read and help us create awareness of the #1 Killer in North America.

 

Hi, my name is Tony Yip.  I’m currently 48 years old and have been living in Calgary, Alberta since the age of 21.  I was born and raised in small town Saskatchewan (Canada).  I am one of five kids in our family.  Like the typical asian family in the rural prairies, my mom and dad ran a little Chinese/Canadian food restaurant.   Fried and fatty foods were the norm growing up.  In grade five, I remember weighing more than my teacher; I was over 150 lbs. 
 
Being overweight has always been an issue for me growing up.  In addition to the health concerns with carrying too much weight, my self esteem took a beating a well.  My oldest brother, also overweight, had diabetes, and had passed away from a heart attack at the age of 40.  My dad, who was a smoker, had a severe allergic reaction to the latex in the heart lung machine during bypass surgery and passed away as well at the age of 66.  These two events were wake up calls for me.

 

Tony Yip
 
On January 2, 2012, at the urging of my sister, Nancey, I joined Weight Watchers.   At 5’9″ tall, I weighed in at 260 lbs.  In a year and a half, I lost 100 lbs.  What started out as a “diet” for me had become a lifestyle change.  I was watching what I was eating, exercising more, and feeling pretty darn good.
 
On March 20, 2014, I had my heart attack at the age of 47 (weighing in at 160 lbs).    A week prior, I had experienced chest pain while curling (a winter sport in Canada).  The pain was intermittent; as I exercised more, there was more pain.  If I rested, the pain went away.  A couple days later, I was participating in a hot yoga class, and the pain began again.  I left the yoga class early and met a friend for coffee.  While walking to the coffee shop, I experienced more pain.  Again, the pain was off and on.   Since I live alone, I decided to drive myself to the emergency clinic a few blocks away.  The triage staff at the ER clinic assessed me very quickly and did the full battery of blood tests and EKG monitoring.  Everything was deemed normal; they sent me home and asked me to follow up with my family doctor.  A couple days later, I was walking  to a dentist appointment.  I experienced pain once again in my chest and had to rest once I arrived at my dentist until the pain subsided.  After my dentist appointment, I went over to the medical clinic to explain my symptoms.  They suggested my pain may be related to stress, prescribed Ativan, and sent me home.
 
Two days later, at 4 am in the morning, I woke up with chest pain again.  I took the Ativan tablet and waited ten minutes.  The pain did not subside, so I drove myself to the ER clinic that I had visited a few days ago.  The same triage staff were there again and they recognized me.  I said, “it’s me again….It’s probably another false alarm, but since I live alone, I just wanted to get it checked out”.  I was whisked away immediately where they went through the routine of hooking me up to the EKG machine again.  As soon as the machine started providing the readings, the curtains to my private cubicle flung open and 12 nurses and doctors started to tend to me;  it was like a scene from an ER television show.  They told me I was having a heart attack, but I didn’t really realize the seriousness of the situation until I heard the doctor telling the nurses to admister morphine.  They called an ambulance to take me to the nearest hospital.  When I was being prepared by the staff for the ambulance transport, the doctor had asked me if I wanted to be resuscitated should I needed to be.  I must have had a stunned look on my face.  I fully expected to live through this.  My thoughts to myself were….”I can’t die now, I haven’t been in love yet”…..  I asked the doctor to repeat the question and I replied “yes, I want to live”.
 
The cath lab did an incredible job.  I was assessed as having 4 blockages:  two 50%, one 40%, and a 100% blockage at the RCA.  Two stents were used to clear the blockage at the RCA.  I was in ICU for 24 hours.  Initially after the stents were placed in, I was experiencing A-fib; fortunately, my heart converted back to a normal heart beat on it’s own overnight.   I was in the hospital for 5 days….off work for 5 weeks.
 
I attended cardiac rehabilitation for 12 weeks.   I highly recommend taking part in the rehabilitation program.  After my incident, I was in constant fear of over-exerting myself and possibly triggering another attack.  The cardiac program here allowed me to exercise and determine my limitations while being under constant watch by health care providers.  More importantly, I think it’s very important to talk to other heart and stroke survivors about his/her individual stories….you learn from sharing information….much like the “Facebook Under 55” group provides…..
 
 After having a heart incident, you become VERY sensitive to what’s going on in your heart;  when you’re healthy, you don’t think about your heart actually functioning.   After a heart incident, you feel when you’re more emotionally stressed….you feel when you’ve taken one extra step up a set of stairs…..you feel when you’ve lifted too much….. you feel this directly in your heart.   I wanted to know if I was ever going to feel “normal” again.   It has almost been a year since my heart attack, and most of the time, I don’t “feel” my heart anymore (and this is a good thing!).
 
I had my six month appointment with my cardiologist and wanted to share one piece of information that I thought might be useful for heart attack survivors.  I asked that if I were to have another heart attack, what would the symptoms feel like?…..The reason for the question, I explained, was that I had my blockage in the RCA…..but if a different artery were to be blocked, would the symptoms be different?  He told me that in most cases, the symptoms you experienced during your inital heart attack would be the same symptoms that you would likely experience if you had another episode, regardless of which artery was blocked.  Everyone’s symptoms are different, but you will recognize the pain if you feel it again.
 
If I can offer some words of wisdom having experienced this life changing event:
– if you experience any sort of pain, and YOU think it’s serious…and feel you should go to the hospital, call 911 (call it a feeling of doom….your gut will tell you that it’s serious….don’t ignore your gut instinct)
– don’t wait for a wake up call to change your life for the better (I know…easier said than done)
– don’t only save to live for tomorrow; live for today as well
– express gratitude wherever possible
 
It may seem kind of ironic that I had my heart attack after having lost 100 lbs, but in the end, if I didn’t lose the weight, perhaps I wouldn’t be here today, sharing my story.  In addition to eating healtier,  trying to lower my salt and sugar consumption….and exercising more…..I’m also trying to reduce stress by living a kinder, gentler life….and expressing more gratitude.
 
Tony

HEART ATTACK STORIES- GINNY- WE ALL BLEED RED

Today Please meet Ginny.

In the spirit of Heart Month I am sharing stories of fellow Heart Attack Survivors that I have met through The Under 55 Heart Attack Survivors Group on Facebook. Everyone has a story and I hope you will take a read and help us create awareness of the #1 Killer in North America.

Who are you ?  Name, current age, where are you from ?

            Ginny, Age 52, Southern Maryland 

How old were you when you experienced your heart attack?

            50

 

GINNY PIC

Where were you when it happened?  Tell me your story.

 

            My 20 year old daughter and I had decided to go to Disney World for New Year’s Eve (really bad idea, don’t ever do it)  We rode rides, ate dinners and had an over all good time.  We returned from Disney on Jan 2.  She returned to college on Jan 3.  I went to work on Jan 4 and had a typical day.  I was rushed all day and didn’t get a chance to eat so I grabbed a Subway sandwich on the way home and ate it in my car in a rush.

            When I got home the indigestion started – this is not the least bit unusual.  I have it all the time.  That evening a girlfriend called and said her daughter was going back to college the next day and did I want to come over to say good bye.  I said of course I do, but I had a terrible upset stomach and would not be staying long.  After the good byes I sat on the couch with my friend laughing about how getting old sucks.  One turkey Subway sandwich is sending my stomach into fits.  (And I was taking Tums and acid reflux pills by the handful and nothing was relieving the symptoms)

            So I went to bed that night with a very upset stomach.  It was so upset, I knew I’d never fall asleep like that so I took a sleeping pill (God protects the stupid)

            Next morning I woke up with the same nausea and wondered what I had done to my stomach to get this.  I assumed it was some bug and not just general indigestion.  (This was like no indigestion I have ever had)  But I started to do my normal Saturday chores.  The next symptom  was pressure in my chest.  (Women will understand this – it was like wearing a bra 3 sizes too small.)  Again, I chalked it up to whatever bug I had picked up. 

            Next, I was carrying a bucket of clean clothes upstairs to put away.  I got about halfway up my stairs, and was so out of breath, I couldn’t breathe.  I started to sweat and was cold and clammy.  (Still thought it was all bug related)  But at this point, I decided whatever I had, I should sit down and rest.  This was no time to be doing chores. 

            So I went back down stairs to sit on the couch and I started coughing.  Not a sore throat cough or a tickle or anything else.  I think of it like someone was pressing a cough button and my throat reacted.  At that point I said to myself, “what the hell is going on”

            This is where WEBMD saved me.  I literally went onto WEBMD and did a search of symptoms of a women’s heart attack, and all the things I’ve described were like a checklist – each and every one of them.  So I drove myself to the hospital.  I sat in the hospital parking lot with smart angel and dumb angel on my shoulders.  Dumb angel was telling me I was a wimp and I needed to go home and do my chores.  (There were leaves to be raked)  Smart angel said, you’re here.  Go in.  You have good insurance.  Let the kind doctors tell you that you are a wimp.

            So I went into the emergency room at about noon on a Saturday afternoon.  Fortunately all the drunks and car accidents weren’t in yet when I said I was having chest pains, they took me right back.  Blood pressure was off the charts.  Not sure what the EKG showed, but some enzyme showed up in my blood work that said I was having a heart attack.

            I went to a small rural hospital and they do not have a cardiac area, so I had to be sent up to DC to be treated.  It’s about 80 miles away, so there was discussion about a helicopter ride up vs an ambulance.  But after some aspirin, nitro and morphine, I was stable.  I actually stayed in my local emergency room for about 12 hours waiting for a bed to open up in the city.  But as I said, I was stable.

            So I got up to the hospital in the middle of the night.  Was checked in on Saturday and I was still stable and still on morphine so they decided I didn’t have to be done under emergency procedures and my stent was planned for Monday morning.  They found an 80% blockage.  Put in the stent and I was home by Wednesday.

 

What were your signs and symptoms?  Did you have any pre existing conditions or family history ?

 

            Symptoms are above and I have a ton of family history.  My oldest brother died of a heart attack when he was 39.  My Dad and his brother both had young hear attacks.  My Mother’s father died of a heart attack young.

 

How did this affect your life?  Physically/ Personally? 

           I’m not really sure.  At first I jumped right back into my life.  Gym, every morning.  Didn’t think a thing about it.  I even ran my first half marathon (I use the term ran loosely here) in October.  But about a year and a half after it all, I’ve been getting very, very tired and I’m not sure why.  My doctor did the stress test and I passed with flying colors.  I just seem out of sorts.  Every twinge in my chest sends me into a panic.  I’ve gone to the hospital with a really upset stomach because I thought it was happening again.  I’m more scared now and I’ve never been like that.

 

What lifestyle changes have you made ?  What are your struggles ?

           I’ve never had an issue with going to the gym.  I love the gym.  I struggle with it now because I’m tired a lot, but I’ve recently recommitted myself to it.  I can’t control what I eat.  I see people eating a salad at lunch and can’t imagine why they would choose a salad over a yummy sandwich.  My vegetable and fruit intake is almost nill.  I know I’m the only one who can fix this, but I truly don’t know how.

 

Stents/ Zipper or Defib ?  What is your situation?

           Only a stent. 

 

 

What do you fear now ?

            Little pains.  Every tweak in my chest makes me jump.  I have trouble concentrating and have terrible memory issues, but I’m not sure if that’s just the 50 stupids or it’s a result of med or just an occurrence after it happens.

 

What are three things that are most important in your post heart attack life?

  • Being around for my daughter for a very long time. I want to be at her wedding.  I want to play with my grandchildren
  • My job. I have a lot of responsibility and my employer deserves my full attention and I don’t know if I can give it
  • Enjoying the rest of my life. I use to be a get out of the house person, but not anymore.  I sit around a lot and I want to reclaim who I was

Did you do Cardiac Rehab?  What has been the hardest part of your recovery ?

            I did not do Cardiac rehab.  My dimwitted first doctor didn’t even tell me about it.  That is was something I could/should do.  I changed cardiologist, about a year after and she said it’s never too late to do it.  So I went to an appointment and was told that I had to pay an insurance deductible so It would be $20, three times a week for 12 weeks.  All they have in the room are treadmills and bicycles.  They provided no other information other than physical rehab.  No nutritional counseling.  So it would have cost me over $700 for a 3 month gym membership.  And I was already going to the gym, on the treadmill for 45 minutes a day.  There didn’t seem to be an upsize.

            The hardest part is the lack of information.  First doctors treat women (especially younger women) with heart issues differently.  I can’t tell you the number of times I was asked “Why did you have a heart attack?”.  What an amazingly stupid question.  To this day, thinking about that question raises my blood pressure.  I was told the female hormones are supposed to protect the heart so it shouldn’t have happened.  I swear some just didn’t believe it happened. 

 

 

What are your new dreams ?

            Hmmmmmmm???  If I figure some out, I’ll let you know.

 

What do you wish you could do now that you never tried before but so wish you could?  

            I’m not much of a regrets person.  Not sure there is anything

 

Who was there for you?

            My sister from another mister.  BFF – Wanda. 

 

Did you lose many people after ?

            Not a single one.

 

What is the funniest thing someone has said or asked about your heart attack?

            WHY – and it’s not the least bit funny

 

Have you had any detractors or people who have been hard on you?

            Nope – not a one.  I have one sister who is getting me heath magazines and such for presents, but it’s done in love

 

If you could go back in the past how would you live your life differently?

            I wish my Mom had forced me to eat my vegetables. 

 

 

What do you want more of in life ?

            I want to be more outgoing.  I want to take more personnel risks with my heart.

 

Is this the hardest thing you have ever experienced ?

            Not even close.  I didn’t believe it was happening up until they told me in the hospital.  At that point I was on morphine.  They made me comfortable.  (Deliver an 11 pound baby and we can talk hard things.  Find pictures of your ex having sex with another woman and that’s hard.)  This was a blip

 

What makes you great ?

            I’m very kind and very funny.  I can find the good/great in anything.  I enjoy giving to those who need it.  We are only on this earth once and we are here to take care of our brothers and sisters who can’t take care of themselves.

 

What advice would you give to a healthy person?

            Find the good.  There’s a great line in “Pretty Woman” where Julia Roberts says “Ever notice how it’s easier to believe the bad things”  Find the good, get rid of negative people, Surround yourself with people who are proud of you and can find the good in every bad situation.

 

Ginny

Heart Attack Stories- Gregory Curry. We All Bleed Red.

Hello.  My name is Greg Curry.  I’m 47 now, from West “by God” Virginia.


In June of 2009, at 42 years old, I had a widow maker heart attack.
I had a history of high cholesterol, and was supposed to be taking medication, but I let my prescription run out and never did refill it.


I am 6’1” and at the time about 210 pounds.  I didn’t really watch what I ate that much, exercised pretty regularly, used smokeless tobacco, and drank a good bit.

 

greg (3)


I am married with two girls, and at the time they were 1 and 5 years old.

Unfortunately, most of my story I had to hear from other people.   I work at a National Guard base, and we are allotted time during the day to exercise.  From what I hear, I was pretty flustered that day, and told people I was going to run before I went home.  I normally ran a couple miles a day at work.  People said my face was real red and I was agitated, but hell, I’m like that most days at work.  Anyway, I pretty much finished my run and stopped to talk to a co worker before running back down to my building.  The guy I was talking to said that I didn’t look unusual for a guy that had just finished running on a hot late June day.  I guess sometime on the way back down the hill to my building I collapsed.

 I was found by the road unresponsive by a contractor that just happened to forget something where he was working and was headed back up to pick it up.  Our base has a Fire Dept. with EMTs and they responded in just a minute or so once called.  They had to shock me a few times to get my heart started again, and I guess I flat-lined a couple more times on the way to the hospital.  I was in a coma for a week and they couldn’t get my heart to beat normally.  They had already told my wife to prepare for the worst.  The doctorssaid that I probably wouldn’t make it  and if I did, I would have severe brain damage.

  I know that they were checking the surveillance cameras on base to see how long I was down.  One of the doctors decided to try cold therapy.  They lowered my body temp trying to shock my heart into beating right.  I guess it worked, because my heart started beating right and I woke up.  They had to keep me drugged up because I was trying to do all kinds of crazy stuff, tearing the IVs out, yelling at people, all kinds of things before my brain started working right again. 

The next steps were to do a heart cath and found the blockages.  Luckily, the cardiac nurse was a friend of the family.  She said that the options were stents, or bi-pass.  She told me if I got stents I would be on blood thinner and other meds, and it was likely that I would be back in for more work in a few more years, so I decided to go with a double bi-pass.  Someone somewhere pulled some strings, because the Dr. scheduled to do my open heart was changed, and I got the premier heart surgeon in the region.  So they cracked me open, did the surgery, and sent me home a few days later.  No evident brain or heart damage, although there is about a four week period that I have no memory of whatsoever.

I did go through cardiac rehab, and I highly recommend it to everyone.  If nothing else, it gives you the confidence to push yourself more.  I was bound and determine to get back to my old self, so I was probably doing things that I shouldn’t have been doing (I’m stubborn like that).  I was off of work for over three months.  I tried to slowly go back to doing the same physical things that I did before, and have pretty much succeeded.  Today, I run 3 or 4 miles at a time, and the only problem I have is with my knees.  Physically, I’m in better shape than I was before the HA.  I had to go through a medical board to keep my job, but I did fine.

The one thing that I had to overcome, and cardiac rehab helped with that, is the intense realization of your heart beating.  When I started running again, my heart would beat hard, (I’m sure it beat hard before, but I just wasn’t as aware of it) and it would really scare me, but I counted the beats and told myself it was alright.  That goes for everything.  I am very aware of my heart beat and every little ache or pain that comes from the chest area (those of you who had open heart know there are several aches and pains that have more to do with splitting your chest open than actually with your heart).  Also, and I don’t know if it’s just me or it is heart related, but I hate the cold now.  I can take the hot weather, but not the cold.

My biggest fear is, not knowing or not remembering what my symptoms or signs were.   What if it happens again and I don’t realize it?  My wife is constantly worried about me, and if I am 10 minutes late for home, I start getting phone calls.   I don’t want to go through all of this and then still die a (relatively) young man.

My family and work and friends were very supportive, so I have no complaints about that.  My wife and mother are a little over protective, but I guess that is normal.  My dream is to live old enough to be a dirty old man and to see my kids grow up and have families of their own.   My philosophy is that God let me live for a purpose, and try not to let Him or my family down. 

There is very little in this world that is worth stressing yourself to death over.  I had and still do have some issues spiritually like,  why me, why did my family have to go through this, but there isn’t anything that can be gained by dwelling on the “Why’s”.

So if you ask me, the best things you can do is stay active, and try to find something that you really enjoy doing.  A healthy hobby or activity that not only keeps you active, but helps clear your mind and reduce your stress levels.  Also, take advantage of your “second chance” to help others.  And never take anything too seriously.

Greg Curry

Heart Attack Stories- Donna Diaz. We All Bleed Red.

Today Please meet Donna Diaz.

In the spirit of Heart Month I am sharing stories of fellow Heart Attack Survivors that I have met through The Under 55 Heart Attack Survivors Group on Facebook. Everyone has a story and I hope you will take a read and help us create awareness of the #1 Killer in North America.

 

DONNA DIAZ PIC

 

Who are you?  Name, current age, where are you from?

Donna Diaz, age 49, Cedar Grove, NJ

How old were you when you experienced your heart attack?

48 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?

We were on a mini vacation Easter weekend (4/19/2014) at The Revel Casino, Atlantic City, NJ.

Seven months earlier went to hospital with indigestion. I was admitted. EKG a little off and mildly elevation troponin level. Had catheterization–showed two 20-30% lesions. Really nothing. Couple of weeks before HA, was tired, felt a little lousy when exercising. Thought it was dehydration. Morning of HA, felt sense of doom. I knew something was wrong. Sweat started to pour off of me. Then severe pain in chest and arms went numb.

Was brought to cath lab right from emergency room. Dr. saw blood clot and 70 blockage. She said they would administer meds to break up clot and scheduled another cath two days later. That morning started to have severe chest pain. LAD had become 100% occluded. I coded and needed to be cardio inverted and resuscitated. They brought me back to cath lab and put in two stents where lesions were.

I had no pre-existing conditions. All my “numbers” were good—blood pressure, cholesterol, etc. Exercised daily. Ate organic paleo diet—lots of green veggies, etc. 5 feet tall 120 pounds. No family history. Only major work stress.

How did this affect your life?  Physically/ Personally?

It has hit me in a major way and truly taken a toll on me. Feel like my body let me down. I did everything right. I live in constant fear that it is going to happen again when I least expect it. In seven months I went from happy and healthy to a train wreck.

What lifestyle changes have you made?  What are your struggles?

I have made no lifestyle changes, except not eating paleo. I now eat wheat again, oats and grains. I have no dietary restrictions. Lots of emotional issues and PTSD.

Stents/ Zipper or Defib ?  What is your situation?

Two stents LAD

What do you fear now?

Everything except death. When I was being resuscitated, I was in a place of great serenity and peace. It was probably a lack of oxygen to my brain, but it was surreal-calm and just so peaceful.

What are three things that are most important in your post heart attack life?

  1. My faith—I would not be here doing this well without it.
  2. Want to live life and do everything and not put anything off.
  3. My family

 

Did you do Cardiac Rehab?

Cardiac rehab was alright. Met lots of nice people. Staff would not let me do much though.

What are your new dreams?

Just to enjoy life as much as possible and live every moment.

What do you wish you could do now that you never tried before but so wish you could?  Eg:  Skydiving.

Ironically, I want to try everything (ok, maybe not sky diving).

Who was there for you?

My sister and my aunt. My husband and my kids were okay, but my aunt and sis really helped me. I posted a mini blog on Facebook about what happened, as a sort of therapy I guess. The outpouring of love and support I received from people I hadn’t seen in years was amazing. It made me feel very loved.  Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my dog, Nellie. She sat next to me day in and day out and never left my side.

What is the funniest thing someone has said or asked about your heart attack?

Most people do not believe me. They said I was one of the healthiest people they ever knew.

Have you had any detractors or people who have been hard on you?

No. I am harder on myself than anyone would ever be.

If you could go back in the past how would you live your life differently?

I wouldn’t. We learn from our past. It is who I am.

What do you want more of in life?

Free time.

Is this the hardest thing you have ever experienced?

Yes.

What makes you great ?

I am easy going and empathetic. I love people and try to please everyone and love to make everyone smile.

What advice would you give to a healthy person?

You never know.

 

 

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