Heart Attack Stories- Sue Thomas. We All Bleed Red.

My family history of heart disease and early death should have been enough of a mental intervention to supersede any feeling of immortality that I had.   At 53, I was a strong woman…. a mother, a wife, and a business owner.  I was very fit and an avid exerciser, even though admittedly in the last few years stress was taking its toll and I had let some pounds pile on while slacking on my exercise.  I had been diagnosed with high blood pressure in my twenties, but as they say “there’s a pill for that”, and on I went, thinking that my life would continue as per usual.

Sue Thomas Photo

My world started to change with a strange feeling in my throat.  It felt like something was stuck and I couldn’t swallow it down.  For the next 19 hours, as my body was telling me that something was terribly wrong, my mind let fear and denial take over and freeze any intelligent action.  From the tightness in my throat, to pressure in my chest, to shortness of breath, to not being able to lie flat, to jaw soreness and a tingling down my left arm, my symptoms continued to mount.  It wasn’t until I felt an excruciating burning pain in my chest that I decided that “yes, this was happening to me”, and I should go to the hospital.

I now don’t let a minute go by without being thankful that I survived a nearly fatal heart attack.  My LAD artery (the widow maker), had two blockages; one at 99% and one at 80%.  Four days in ICU and 2 stents later, I was sent home.  While still in the hospital, the reality of what had happened to me was sinking in fast, and I knew that I had to take control of my health.   I was told that my genetics were an outstanding factor in my heart health, which to me was another strike against me that perhaps others in my situation didn’t have.  It wasn’t something I could control.  But what I could control was my lifestyle.  My second chance at life was gifted with an enormous sense of empowerment, neither of which I will ever take for granted again.

The advice I got in the hospital on nutrition was to cut my sodium intake and to cut out the mayo and French fries.  Ok, I could do that, but with my genetics I felt I had to do more to save me from being one in the 23% of women who don’t make it within a year of having a heart attack. I also had the personal implantation of watching my father die of his second heart attack within a year of his first , which was a huge driver in my mission to live. I dove into researching everything I could find about heart health and nutrition. By the time I had my first follow up visit to my cardiologist, I had committed to eating a plant based diet, which consisted of vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains.  I cut out all meat (except for a piece of salmon twice a month), all dairy, eggs, oil and processed foods.  My doctors were a bit shocked but very pleased with my commitment and especially pleased with my weight loss.

One month after my heart attack, I began suffering from shortness of breath, extreme exhaustion and terrible chest pain.  I would notice a pattern of these symptoms coming just hours after my exertion in cardiac rehab.  After much testing which all came back normal, it was decided I should have another angiogram to make sure that there were no other major blockages and that my stents were still open.  My doctor decided to stent a 50% blockage in the mid diagonal artery, which had been noticed in the first angiogram but thought too minor to cause me any problem.   Everything else looked great.

 Unfortunately, the symptoms still persisted, and 3 months later, I was diagnosed with Coronary Microvascular Disease.   The hearts microvessels  assist blood and oxygen transportation that our hearts require when placed under the extra burden of exercise or stress.  Our vessels are lined with endothelial cells which produce nitric oxide to open them when needed. Because of my endothelial dysfunction  the microvessels were not opening, thus causing the pain, exhaustion and shortness of breath. I began to make sense of why I was having such a hard time jumping back into life, let alone jumping at all.

 I knew that my plant based eating was helping to reverse my Coronary Artery Disease, but after more research, learned it was also helping to heal my endothelial cells.  I believe I am also reversing my Microvascular Disease, as I continue to get better, not worse as predicted.

The way I now live my life to the fullest is to first accept responsibility for my health.  My heart was ailing, and even though some of that was not in my control, there was a lot that is. Taking control of how I feed my body, managing stress, and maintaining a positive attitude are huge.

 I might not be able to live the exact life I had before, but I have been given the opportunity to make a different one, a better one.  I have readjusted my goals and my mental energy and now spend time helping others with heart disease with my voluntary project called Heart Hungry.  Through talking to others via online heart support groups, doctors and insurance case workers, I learned that many people who suffer from heart disease don’t have the time, energy, resource or willpower to take control of what they can.   For two years now, I have been gathering information focused on plant based nutrition and heart disease, collecting and trying recipes, and share it all on my Heart Hungry social media pages.   

Knowing that I might be helping someone with this information does my heart good.  One beat at a time!

Please check out her blog at  :  https://www.facebook.com/HeartHungry?ref=bookmarks and her  Heart Hungry pinterest page, where I have over 1000 heart healthy recipes (all plant based, low sodium, no fat, little or no oil) I test and try: https://www.pinterest.com/hearthungry/.

 

Sue Thomas.

Heart Attack Stories- Melissa Gillett. 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 Melissa Gillett.

My name is Melissa Gillett and I am 52 years old and have lived in San Diego, CA for the last 8 years, originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Melissa Gillett

I was 42 years old when I had my first heart attack.  I was a banker and was working many hours in a stressful job.  I was also a smoker, for 30 years!  I was told by my doctor on a visit a few months before my HA “ what do you want?  Your life or your job?”  What a question from your Dr.!   Well, I had just sold my house, so I thought…I’ll quit my job and lay by the pool at my new apt for the summer and then find another job.  My children were 15, 19, 22 and I was a single Mom.

  I started my summer by quitting my job, going to the library to get many books and laying out every day at the pool reading.  It was relaxing or so I thought.

  I didn’t feel good about 2 months or more before my HA, my teeth hurt, my jaw felt tired all the time, like I was chewing gum for years.  I just didn’t feel good.  One day after getting out of the hot tub I couldn’t breathe, I felt tingly all over and weird, it passed.  3 days later it happened again and lasted longer and it was a more painful this time.  I mentioned it to my sister, who is a MD and she said if it happens again, call 911…(she’s always over protective of us, I’m not calling 911!) 

  Well, it happened again right after a massage, I was standing out with my masseur smoking a cig and it happened.  She said I looked grey and asked if I was ok, I said yes and drove home in pain the whole wait, it didn’t go away this time…I called my sister and my parents and then 911….I was laying on my bed not knowing what was going on.

  A Heart Attack never even crossed my mind, I was sweating, nauseated and wanted to pull my jaw off.  Once the EMT got there, of course it went away…I didn’t want to go to the hospital…but I did…my sister was in the ambulance with me and when we got to the ER she told them to work me up for a heart attack…the doc looked at her and said….no…she’s a woman, young, not over weight it can’t be a Heart Attack!!  Right then and there on the table I had another one….the look on my Mom’s face was the worst…I was in pain and she couldn’t help me….they rushed me to Cath Lab and stented one side of my ramus that was 99% blocked.


I was in the hospital for 5 days and was getting ready to go home when my jaw started hurting again….they took me back to cath lab and stented the other side of the ramus which was blocked….I  came home after another 3 days and was scared to death it was going to happen again.

I learned to live with the fear and decided to go to school to become a X Ray technologist….I had quit smoking but everyone at school smoked, so I started again (stupid) it was stressful going to school and doing clinical but I loved it.  Half way through my 2 yr program I had another Heart Attack, I was at home by myself and stressed out because I lost my engagement ring….it hit me hard…I called my son to come home and then 911….the last thing I remember for 15 days, is my son putting his hand under my nose to see if I was still breathing.  I died and they used the paddles on me twice in the ambulance and once again in the ER.  I was intubated for 13 days and they called my family in not knowing if I was going to make it.  I remember waking up trying to pull out the tube so I could breathe….I opened my eyes and remember seeing my nephew and saying hi to him, I didn’t remember much of anything else.  I kept asking questions, I had short term memory problems, I still have some memory problems now.

   I cry as I write this.  The memory is so scary but I’m so thankful to still be here!  Cardiac Arrest now in my mind of fears.

  Two years after this I was helping my daughter with her 13 month old son while awaiting the birth of her twin girls….they were born on Oct. 5th and Oct. 7th.  During that time I had another Heart Attack and was in the same hospital as the twins…Because this hospital was out of town, they really didn’t know my history.  I received another stent.  More fear….another year passed and another HA and stent.


In total, I’ve had 4 Heart Attacks, cardiac arrest, 4 stents, and 15 angioplasties …..I have prinz metal, CAD.  It’s been a rough ride!  And you should see the size of my medical records!!!

My life has been profoundly affected.  I remember a gal at church telling me that God has big plans for me and I ought to be afraid!!!  hahaha!!!

People ask me if I saw the light when I died, I do not remember if I did but I do remember hearing the MOST beautiful music I’ve ever heard, not earthly but heavenly music.  I have no fear of dying, I just don’t want to right now !  I don’t know where I’m going but I want to enjoy my life to the fullest, I’ve learned to be grateful for every day I open my eyes and try to live in the moment.

I did do cardiac rehab after my cardiac arrest…..then I moved to San Diego and have not…..I need to get back in the exercise mode!

3 things most important to me now are :  My family, friends, and spending time with them!

My new dreams are to build my business so that I can help as many people as I can, see the world, do the things on my bucket list…which is growing daily!  Hahah.

I’m not sure I wish to do anything I haven’t tried….I do wish I could still ride roller coasters!

My husband, my whole family has always been my biggest support….I have many friends too.I didn’t lose anyone that was worth keeping around….I was not going to deal with drama or have the life sucked out of me by negative people…so they are gone!’

The things that are said, maybe not funny but ….”its hard to remember that you are sick because you look so good”, “are you sure you’re Melissa Gillett?” as the nurse walks in the room with my chart!  “you’re lying, right? no way have you had HA’s”

If I could go back in life…I would NOT smoke…would listen to my Mom, she was right about everything.  I would also  finish school before marriage!

This is the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced…and I think because it’s always on going, it never goes away but over the years I’ve learned to deal with it better….maybe!

I’m great because I’m made in the imagine of my loving heavenly Father….I’m a daughter of the King!

My advice to others, don’t smoke, learn to do something you love to rid your body of stress, find your passion in life and share it with the world.

Thank you for reading my story,

 

Melissa Gillett

Heart Attack Stories- Heather Remus. 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 Heather Remus.

HEATHER REMUS PIC

 

My name is Heather and when I was only 30 years old I had 3 heart attacks.  I survived and I’m here to spread awareness to all. You don’t have to be old to have a heart attack. 
Here is my story. 

It was August 14,2013

 I got up and went and picked up my fiancées mother and took her to work. I got home was sitting on the couch talking to my fiancée and got a heavy and pressure feeling in my chest that quickly turned to pain. Ashleigh (my other half) asked me if I was ok and I said I don’t know I feel funny.  I got up and headed to the bathroom and felt more pain. I came back to the living room and told her if I didn’t know better I would think I was having a heart attack. My chest hurt, my right arm, jaw and side of my head hurt, my chest was on fire. I had Ashleigh drive me to the ER.

   I told them everything that was going on the did an ekg and chest x-rays told me I had a panic attack gave me a dose of atavan and sent me home.

   That Saturday the same thing happened only the pain was worse. I went back to the ER this time they told me I had acid reflux and carpal tunnel gave me a GI cocktail and again sent me home. I made an appointment to see a primary care physician to follow up. My appointment was Wednesday August 21st. At 2am on the 21st I woke up in excruciating pain in my chest.   Ashleigh was at work, I called her and told her it was happening again.

 Luckily for me our friend had crashed on our couch that night who also happened to be an EMT. Ashleigh tried calling her phone but it didn’t wake her up. I finally gathered the strength to walk to the living room and wake her up. She grabbed my 3 kids and got me to the car and she took me to the ER.

 I told the Dr everything once again and after my 3rd EKG, showing nothing he decided to do blood work. It came back with high levels of traponin.  He came and told me that there was something wrong with my heart but he didn’t know what so they called in a cardiologist and I was going to have a heart cath.  I held it together but I was dying inside, I was scared as hell. I sent a text to my sister and told her what was going on and asked  when it got a bit later if she would call our parents and tell them what was going on. I live in Michigan my family is all in Florida. She said ok.

   About 7:00am rolled around and the cardiologist showed up, they had to call one from another hospital because the one here wasn’t available. He did the cath and told me I had a blockage and he was going to fix it but I had to be transported to another hospital. I still had no idea that a blockage meant a heart attack. He called for them to take me by ambulance. Lights and sirens all the way to Detroit. I have never felt so alone as I did in that rig all the way there. I was taken to the cath lab and came out with a new stent. After the procedure he explained to me what he did and I remember talking to Ashleigh and them telling me I had a heart attack. I couldn’t believe it. She had called my mom who got on the first plane she could. I was only 30. I had 100% occlusion of my LAD caused by a spontaneous coronary artery dissection. I was told by 5 doctors I’m lucky to be alive. I had 3 major heart attacks in a week and was sent home for the first 2.

  I am grateful to be alive. I get to see my kids grow up. Every day is a gift and we are here for a reason. Some days it is hard to deal with. Some days I feel like shit. Some days I’m depressed about it. Everyday I’m scared it will happen again. But every morning I wake up is better than the alternative and I thank God I am alive.

You can view her Facebook Page for Young Heart Attack Awareness by following the link below.

https://m.facebook.com/profile.php?id=783130568411065

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