Heart Attack Stories – Chad Miller- We All Bleed Red.

 

Today I introduce you to Chad Miller.  Survivor at age 39.

 

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had my heart attack on August 3rd, 2012 at the age of 39.  I am a runner who has completed many half and full marathons in my lifetime and was on a 7 mile run at the YMCA after work on a Friday night.  The run was an easy pace one and I was not pushing myself very hard at all.  About half way through my run, I noticed I was sweating more than normal and had pain in my right shoulder.  I am very in tune to my own body and thought both of those were odd. However, I dismissed them as nothing very important and continued running another mile or so.  About a mile later I noticed my pain was increasing greatly in my shoulder and I was short on breath.  I still did not think much of this, but realized that was “just one of those days” where my body was not in the mood for a run and decided to hit the showers.  I was planning on meeting a friend of mine to go see a movie and would get a longer run in later in the weekend instead.   During my shower I realized a few things:  1. I was still sweating heavily 2. I could not catch my breath 3.  My shoulder hurt like hell and was starting to move slightly into the right side of my chest.  Now I was concerned.  My pain was increasing, but I was far from miserable.  I hopped in my car and decided to head toward the theater for the movie. Along the way my pain vastly started to increase.  Something was wrong. Very wrong.  My mind started running the words heart attack in it.  Surely that was not what was happening.  I was a fit, healthy young runner who ate a pretty clean diet.  I stopped at a convenience store and bought a four pack of Bayer aspirin. I chewed them up and drove myself to the ER.

 

Something was wrong, but I was not sure what it was.  When I got the ER I was in pretty bad shape.  I was light headed, sweating and my pain was very uncomfortable. It was6:30 on a Friday and for some reason the waiting room was already packed full with people needing to see a doctor.  The gal told me to take a seat and wait for my name to be called.  I firmly said “No!”.  I am in pain, something is very wrong, the pain is now in my chest and I need to be seen now.  The gal just stared at me clueless. However, another nurse was walking by, heard what I said and immediately took me into the ER.  I was hooked up to an EKG, was told I was having a heart attack and wheeled into another room to be prepped for surgery.  All hell broke loose in the prep room. I had 15+ doctors, nurses and others giving me their full attention. I was stripped naked, needles were inserted my arms, was given pills to swallow, pills to chew up and one gal even began shaving my groin area.  I was asked endless questions mostly dealing with when did I first notice the symptoms.  I can’t say my memory of all of this was the best. I was in shock.  How on earth was this happening to me?  I have friends that eat buckets of friend chicken nightly that have never had a heart attack.  Why is this happening to me?  Surgery was almost a complete blur. I was lucky that a heart doctor was on duty and free within 10 minutes of getting to the ER.  I remember being packed with ice up and down my body.  The surgery was very brief, or at least that’s how I remember it. One stent was put into my left ventricle.  I had just survived the widow maker (with a 93% death rate within the first hour) I was told.

 

I was in the hospital the next several days and there was nothing very remarkable about this time.  My story is probably no different than anybody elses while in the hospital. I was sad, mad, confused, happy to be alive, embarrassed and about any other emotion I could have.   The time between my first symptom while running to surgery was right at one hour we later calculated.  The doctor on call that weekend was a real downer of a guy. He told me I likely had extensive damage and my entire life would now be different. He also said I would never run again.   Needless to say, I was absolutely terrified of everything he told me.

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I spent my days surfing the internet on heart attacks and eventually found the Heart Attack Survivors group that weekend.  I am one of the originals in there. I believe I was like the 55th person to join in the group that is now over 1500 people.  Back in those days, the group was small and we all really got to know each other very well.  My story of being a young athlete with a heart attack was new to the group.  I asked dozens and was also asked dozens of questions.  The group was awesome and I lived on that message board group for several months to follow. 

 

I met with the surgeon who put the stent in a week after my heart attack.  I had spent the last week of my life being convinced I was greatly damaged based on conversations with the doctor on call that weekend.  My surgeon (a true heart doctor cardiologist) assured me that was all incorrect.  He said my heart attack had been a mild one.  I had very minimal plaque in my heart and my heart attack was caused by a small fatty deposit rupture. His exact words were “your heart was kind of a fluke”,  He said I would need testing to confirm it, but he expected no permanent damage.  He also said it was his opinion that it would be unlikely I would have another heart attack until I was much older.  I later did a number of tests EKG, Echocardiogram, stress test etc to confirm that was all correct.  I have an ejection fraction rate of 60 and ended up with no damage at all from my heart attack. 

 

All the news I received after my heart attack was good news. However, for the next 2-3 months I went into true depression.  I cried almost constantly and convinced myself I was going to die soon and would never see my daughters grow up.  Every minor twinge of pain in my body had me convinced I was going to have another heart attack.  I went to cardio rehab and I was the youngest person there by 30+ years. It was not uncommon for me to cry while walking on the treadmill at rehab.  Physically I was fine, but mentally I was crumbling.  Looking back, I should have been on antidepressants during this stretch probably.  Then one night I watched my favorite movie of all time Shawshank Redemption for like the 50th time again.  The phrase “get busy living or get busy dying” stuck in my head the next few days. What the hell was wrong with me?  I was wasting my life away and had been given a second chance at life. To put it simply,  I was wasting my second chance God had given me.  

Suddenly I was embarrassed with my behavior.  It was time to get my shit together again.  I was almost done with cardio rehab and went in the next day and announced I was running that day on the treadmill after they had already hooked me up to the sensors for my walk on the treadmill.  The nurses looked at my panicked and told me the hospital does not allow running for cardio rehab patients. I ignored them and started cranking up the speed. It was time to go for a one mile run.   I will admit I was freaking terrified during that run.  The nurses ran off to get a doctor and the doctor and nurses all watched a bunch of monitors feeding information from the sensors hooked up to me during that mile.  I took a relaxed pace, but I ran and they could not do a thing in the world to stop me.   At the end of my mile they said all was good and I was now graduated from rehab.  I expected them to be mad, but they laughed and said I was now the first person in the hospitals history to run while in cardio rehab. 

My doctor had already given me the all clear to run again and off I went in the weeks that followed. .  For the next week I did several 1 milers.  The following week I did 1.5 milers. I soon ran a 5k. Shortly after I ran a 10k. And then 163 days after my heart attack,  I finished a half marathon.  I have finished a pile of half marathons since my heart attack, but am not longer sure I have the desire to do a full again. Maybe someday.   

HAPPY 2 YEAR HEARTAVERSARY TO ME !

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August 11, 2015.  This day,  I celebrated  me and 2 years of life post heart attack.  I wanted to be alone this day because it is my day, for me.

So how do I share a day so personal to me ? A day in which I think about the previous year and my growth.  I also begin to think about how I envision the coming year.

So what did I do ?

I started this day by visiting the beach court where I had my Heart Attack.  I sat alone for a while in thought….surrounded by kids playing at a day camp around me.  I smiled as these kids played tag, threw dodgeballs at each other and had sand fights.  Then it came to me…..sorta.  Seeing all of this around me gave me a Happy Heart 🙂

Now, before I continue…..I used the hastag #happyheart for the day but #happyheart is not my original idea.  For this, I give credit to my heart sister Sarah Klena from http://heartattackat31.blogspot.ca/.  She created T shirts this year to raise money for American Heart Association.  Ultimately that hashtag was created by her and I will give credit where it is due.  I think about #happyheart a lot since Sarah first brought it forward.

So, after I took the photo below, I posted it to Facebook and asked my friends to share with me their stories that made gave them a #happyheart.  I would read these at the end of my day when I returned to social media.

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Now, I will get back to this in a moment.

My Heataversary is like my New Years minus any drinking and kissing someone at midnight ( unless someone wants to join me in a kiss. )

The rest of my day was driving through Southern Alberta and stopping to take in the scenery.  I wanted badly to just be alone.  Alone to be with my thoughts and to go about my day with only having to worry about where or what I would do next.  There was no direct plan other than to drive and take photos.

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The photos above are from various points along the route I drove and places I stopped. Truth is, I did not think much for the first half the drive, I simply took in the scenery.  Whether it was the vast fields, mountains in the distance or the various Horses, Sheep and Cows along the way.  It was completely breathtaking and relaxing.

Then came the drive home and although earlier I had thought about the direction I hope to go in the coming year, another thoughts came to me.

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You see, I have definitely grown in the last 24 months and come so far but one thing occurred to me.  I still play things too safe and don’t take as many risks as maybe I should.  I still play it safe. So then my mind wandered as to why.

The answer is not as simple as I thought.  I thought I have been taking more chances the last 2 years and yes I have taken a couple BUT I still played it safe by not pushing myself to reach beyond what I think are my limitations and in matters of the heart.  I won’t go into too much detail as this is a little personal for now but I will say this……

I NEED TO STOP BEING SO AFRAID OF NOT BEING QUITE GOOD ENOUGH.

I NEED TO MAKE A MOVE

I NEED TO TAKE HARD STEPS

I NEED TO TRY EVEN MORE

I NEED TO BE OK WITH MAKING MISTAKES

BECAUSE ALL OF THIS MEANS……I AM BEATING MY OWN FEARS.

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The drive home passed quickly with no stops for photos and although I was deep in thought, I was actually happy.  Happy because, if you remember at the beginning of this post I said I wanted to be alone.

Somewhere along that highway I realized I wanted to be with friends, I really wanted to be around people to end my day.  Lucky for me, my team had a dodgeball game that night.  I had planned to skip the game to be alone, I honestly did not want people to see me at all.  I am thankful that I changed my mind.

That game was our first win of the season, it was a fun game and I felt completely in my element being with people I love being around, playing a sport I love.  Playing the sport in which I was playing the day my heart attack occurred.  Kinda like slaying the demon in my head.

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After the game we were invited to a our team mate Jesse’s place for a BBQ and a Beer.  I had declined this invite a few times actually but eventually decided to go.  BEST DECISION !

Ending my day with these amazing people was the perfect ending to a great day.  A day of celebration, reflection and just being one with myself, nature and in the end, my friends.

I am thankful for life, thankful for growth and I am thankful I get another shot at living every single day.

2 Years later I am thankful for my Heart Attack because it was my eye opener and my life line.

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Celebrate life and make someone happy, make them smile because as a quote I read the other day said.

“If you have the power to make someone happy, do it.  The world needs more of that. “

–Don’t know the author.-

Happy Heartaversary to me 🙂   Here is to many more !!

HEART ATTACK SURVIVORS UNITE !

That Moment I met someone who inspires me.  Sarah Klena.

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There are few people I admire or look up to in this world.  Those whom I do are those who have risen above the tough situations in which they have experienced.  Over the coming weeks I am going to acknowledge some of these amazing people.  Each of them has a special place in my Heart for different reasons.

One of those people is my heart sister, fellow Heart Attack Survivor, Sarah Klena from http://heartattackat31.blogspot.com/  .  I met Sarah through her blog and she even wrote a guest post here on my blog in February which I recommend you read.  We have interacted back and forth though Facebook sharing our experiences with each other and getting to know each other.

 I was in Disneyworld a few weeks ago and sent her a message asking if she would like to meet for dinner.  Plans were made.  We met on Dec 3rd at Raglan Road- A great Irish Pub ! ( my favorite place in Downtown Disney !)

To say I was excited would be a HUGE understatement.  Reading her blog shortly after my Heart Attack was so helpful and inspiring for me.  To me, it was meeting a someone who gave me hope in my recovery through reading her experiences on her blog.  She inspires, for what she survived, how she’s recovered and the attitude and honesty she chose to display.  She chose to share her story to help herself and others.

We met around 5:00 pm. I walked into the front door and there she was.  A beaming smile and a welcoming hug.  She looked healthy, beautiful and full of life.  She is also a little taller than me haha.

I was unsure of what to expect or how the night would go.  I will say this, we both can talk… A LOT. 

I cannot remember what we ordered, I do know we ate pretty healthy and that the food was pretty awesome.

I won’t go into all the details of our conversation but I will say this.  Nothing is more refreshing than speaking with someone who had been through what you have and truthfully, she definitely was far luckier than me to have survived.  Sarah had not ONE but TWO Heart Attacks and survivede at the age of 31.

One thing we both agreed on is that once something like this happens to you at such a young age you almost feel an obligation to help others, get the word out, tell people about what happened, how it can happen, how to prevent it happening.   We both would not want others to experience a Heart Attack, we both have a desire to help others and get the word out.   We are young and never thought this could happen to us.

We talked about the scary moments, being a slight hypochondriac at times, the differing emotions and experiences, the recovery and how amazing life can be.

We spent a lot of time laughing, talking about our lives post Heart Attack, how others reacted, treated us, what they said ( some people say some funny things, trust me !)  She told me of something great about her personal life! ( seriously exciting news but hers to share, not mine.  It is not on her blog yet haha !)  Before we knew it, it was past 9:00 pm and we had lost track of time.  We probably could have spoken for hours, maybe even days more.

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We almost didn’t take a photo !  We asked the server if he would take a photo of us on both our phones, and my camera.  After all, how could we have met and not had a photo together right?  

I could tell you so much more about that night however, the most important part was just being in the moment and meeting a friend that I met through chance and experience. A friend who has inspired me on my journey.  Not that I recommend having a Heart Attack to meet new friends  😉

I will say this about Sarah.  She is humble, has good energy, great attitude, is friendly, funny, engaging, strong, motivated, healthy and has a smile that has presence and light.

I have watched this amazing woman become a huge advocate for women’s heart health in the United States since the time I first sent her an email.

Time to brag about her a bit and share a few of her accomplishments.  She has appeared in the November Issue of Good House Keeping, spoken for Go Red for Women through the American Heart Association and recently appeared on an episode of Doctor Oz- Dec 17, 2013.  You can watch her 2 segments here:  http://www.doctoroz.com/episode/oz-viewers-who-saved-their-own-lives?video_id=3948074010001

And here: http://www.doctoroz.com/episode/oz-viewers-who-saved-their-own-lives?video_id=3948090061001

Thank you Sarah for a great evening and great conversation. Here’s to friendship, good health and kicking Heart Attack’s ass !  Now, I’ll have to get you and Lina up to Canada  haha.

-Mini-

I am Still Here :)

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Hi, remember me ?  Mini, the guy who wrote semi frequently, telling his story of a Heart Attack and a few other little tid bits?  

Well, in case you forgot, I am still around.  I needed a break from a few things badly, very badly.  MY mind was in dissaray and I could not concentrate on quite a few aspects of my life.

I was struggling with editing family photo shoots that I had taken.  It seemed like I was editing poorly and not managing my time well.  I made myself way too busy without a plan on how to manage the good that I was doing.  

I was working somewhere that I felt I could not be successful at even though I thought it had promise when I started, I thought I could do it.  I realized I could reach the objectives set before me.  I just didn’t have it in me.

Personally I struggled with wanting to be around and see people but also wanting to be alone and invisible with no way to be contacted.

I wanted to create time to volunteer more often but just had none.

I wanted time to even just let loose, but time was lost.

I struggled with where to go from here, what to do next how to move forward.

So, I took a break.  I got many photos edited, took some free time to be alone.

I also went to Disneyworld.  I spent time with my good friend Jennifer who lives there.  I needed magic.  Where else can one find some magic ?  The House of the Mouse !

It was exactly what I needed and now I am back and working on direction.  I have plans for the coming months, some goals that , for now, I will keep to myself.

In the coming weeks, I have a few blog posts coming up.  Some great things did happen.

One of the coolest things with which I need to share is that while in Disneyworld, I got to meet Sarah Klena from www.heartattack@31.com for dinner !  I have a post written about this evening her that I will share this week.

That girl is amazing and she is doing so much for Heart Health in the United States.  She inspires me 🙂

Until next time…..with many posts to come…back on track.

Mini

 

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