The post that wasn’t……Trained Well. What Are You Afraid Of ?

Before you read the actual blog post below, there is something I must say.

I wrote the following a few days before I ran my Half Marathon.  I did not post this because although I wanted to believe the words, a part of me was still too scared to share what was going through my head.  These words got into my head after I wrote this so, I decided not to post.

Until tonight.

Why is it that we all are afraid to admit what scares us ?  Even when we feel confident outwardly we still don’t share.  So, my friends, I was sacred, scared enough not to share.  I can’t let continuous fear hold me back, so here it goes… Read on, if you wish.

 

TRAINED WELL……WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF ?

If you have trained well, what are you afraid of ?

This question was posed the other day in a conversation when I was discussing my upcoming Half Marathon as well as my training the last few months.

I have put a lot of time into my training, truthfully, it has almost been to the point of obsession.  I have never felt more focused in training than I have the last few months.  I want to have my best run ever.

So, what am I afraid of ?

Well, for starters, I have run 5 previous Half Marathons.  I was training for my 6 th when my Heart Attack Occurred.  OK, well it didn’t happen while running but it happened a few weeks before my big race.

I know exactly what it takes to run 22 kms, 13.1 miles.  I know the toll it can take on the body. I know how hard it can be mentally.  The internal battles with every step.  I know how the elements of weather can change and affect a persons body.

 

My First Half Marathon- Jan 2012 in Disneyworld.
My First Half Marathon- Jan 2012 in Disneyworld.

I am now doing this race knowing all of this and being aware that I have Heart Disease, that I am running with a 70 % blockage that was never surgically fixed. Let that sink in a bit.  Not to mention the various other 70’s and 50’s you can see in the pics below.

It is like being told before you start something that you are already have a disadvantage. This is a a disadvantage that you must overcome and no one around you would know. 

That part will never leave my head.

HEART 018

This is the farthest distance I will have run consistently in 2 years.  My highest training mileage was 15 kms in the controlled environment of the Gym.  Kinda protected I’d say, wouldn’t you ?

To be clear, I do not fear death.

I fear the headaches.  I have been battling a small concussion for a few weeks now which has limited some running and other activities.  They have subsided for the most part.

I do fear that as prepared as I am, that my heart could shut me down.  Not another Heart Attack.  I fear not being able to finish the race that I have been so dedicated to training for.

2MILES

I mean, if my heart races too hard or the heat makes it too hard on my heart that I will have to pull out of the race. I will pull out.

It plays in my head that maybe I am not trained enough or that my heart may not quite be up to the challenge.

I fear my lack of emotion since my Heart Attack.

I fear the effect of my medications,

Let me explain.  

Most of my training was has been at night, 12-16 hours after I have taken my medication, a couple hours before I take my night time meds.

I take medication that does suppress my heart rate and my blood pressure.  I will have to take these within about an hour or two before my race.  So what is the effect ?

I have trained my heart rate to be at a consistent 145- 150 beats per minute at night while running. Given that I am taking my meds so close to race time, it will seem like more work and most likely my heart rate during the race won’t exceed 125-130.  I have done exercise on meds before but it has been a while, so, I truthfully don’t know how hard this could end up being.

My biggest fear ultimately is that I will let these thoughts get to me at some point during those 22 km.  I am so afraid that I will allow these fears to overtake the strengths I know I have and ultimately make me give up out of fear.

So why write about this ? Because tonight and until I cross that finish line I am giving a big F YOU  to these thoughts.  Why ? Because I have let them control me the last few weeks. and I am taking control back, for me, for my goal.

So, to answer the question.

 Today I fear nothing because I know I can do this.  I have already beaten many challenges in the last 20 months and I will finish this race.

I will finish because I am strong, I am healthy, I am confident and I am trained as best I can.  Let’s not forget… I am also…..

Pretty. Damn. Awesome.

IPHONE JUNE 14 581
My First 10 K – 9 Months after my Heart Attack.

Mini

 

 

7 DAYS

7 Days from now I will run my first Half Marathon Post Heart Attack.

calendar_week_on_2_pages-MonThruSun

7 Days from now I will put my training and hard work to the test.

7 Days from now, I will be 100% focused.

7 Days from now I will equipped and prepared.

7 Days from now I will face fear head on.

7 Days from now I will beat my fear.

7 Days from now I will take the first step to more races.

7 Days from now I will encourage others as I run.

7 Days from now I will have fun.

7 Days from now I will dance on the course.

7 Days from now I will feel physical pain.

7 Days from now I will beat that pain.

7 Days from now I will feel joy.

7 days from now I will embrace that joy.

7 days from now I will run, walk, crawl if I have to.

7 days from now I will finish the race, even if it’s in last place.

7 Days from now…..Simply….I WILL.

 

Mini.

Dear Universe, Thank You.

 

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Dear Universe,

 Thank you.  On  April 23, 2014 I took a chance and asked you to help me.  I allowed myself to be vulnerable and put something publicly out into the world.

As you know Universe, I was struggling in the area of employment.  I had a 3 month goal in my head.

As you know Universe, you had other plans.  You made me wait, be patient, you had me make a few errors and re asses my worth and what I thought I should be doing vs what I should be open to.

As you know Universe, it took 10 months and a few adventures along the way, even re visiting an old “stomping ground” in July.  Little did I know that would be the start of my turning point.  You knew.

Thank you Universe for being patient with me. 

Thank you Universe for showing me things about myself that helped me regain some confidence.  Confidence in my worth as an employable asset.  As a human being.

Thank you Universe for allowing me to try a few jobs that got my thought process going.  Jobs that didn’t work because I felt constrained.

Thank you Universe for giving me some free time to rest and re charge.  I needed it and I fought it but you made it happen.

Thank you Universe for showing me that asking for help and seeking guidance is absolutely ok and not something to be ashamed of.

Thank you Universe for showing me that the value of my friendships and my ability to stay connected on a human level helping others is karma which can be returned by the right people.

Thank you Universe for testing, challenging and kicking my butt in gear.  I like challenges and you knew that.

Thank you Universe for giving me the strength and ability to realize I can be myself and sell myself in an interview. To just be Mark.

Thank you Universe for making me open to an opportunity that has so far been amazing.

Thank you Universe for presenting me with a job, a place where I finally feel like I fit in and can be utilized through growth and learning that I am finally open to.

Thank you Universe mostly for helping me to see me and putting me on a journey that has just begun. 

Most of all Universe for making me accountable,  thank you for having Faith in me when I was full of self doubt.

In a world where we get beaten down, lose confidence in ourselves, we fail to take a shot when we need it most.  It is scary and you can be judged.  Do it anyway.  The only person you are battling is you.  You are all that matters.  In the end succeed or fail, you gave it a shot.  Don’t give up.  Thank yourself and the Universe when you see the direction in which you may have been blind to before.

 I took it, I made it public.  I made myself accountable to what I asked.  It wasn’t easy but I am here, I am thankful and I have a job I am finally happy with again. 

Thank you Universe for opportunity.

Thank you Universe, I put it out there and you showed me the way.

Sincerely,

Mark.

 

 

 

 

HEART ATTACK STORIES- LISA URBAN DOWLING- 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 Lisa Urban Dowling.

LISA2

 

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

I am Lisa Urban Dowling.  I am currently 48.  I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, but have lived in St. Augustine, FL for the past 25 years

How old were you when you experienced your heart attack?

I was 46

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

I was at home, alone, while my 7 year old daughter spent the week with her dad and his girlfriend.  Since it was a holiday weekend (4th of July), I had asked if I could stop by and see her.  They decided that it would not be a good idea.  I let myself get pretty worked up about the situation.  I then decided that I would paint my great room.  While I was painting, I was talking to a friend of mine.  I all of a sudden felt as if an elephant was standing on my chest.  It was very strange and did not really go away.  I took my blood pressure (I have had high blood pressure previously during times of stress) and it was WAY high!  Like 260/150 high.  I decided that it was a faulty reading, and that I needed blood pressure medicine.  It was a Friday, so I found some old med in my medicine chest.  I had another round of pains two nights later (Sunday). I didn’t have a general practitioner, but I called one and was told that they couldn’t see me until Thursday.   I had pains again on Tuesday, but breathed through them and they seemed to lessen.  On Thursday, I went to the new doctor.  She checked me out, did an ekg in office, saw some abnormalities, called a cardiologist to see me the next day, and sent me to have blood work drawn.  That evening she called and said that I showed heart damage and needed to go straight to the hospital.  My ex grabbed my daughter, his girlfriend took me to the hospital, and I called my parents who lived out of state to come.

LISA3

The next morning, I had a heart cath with attempt to stent.  My LAD is 100% blocked and could not be removed, but my EF is still at 55 – 58.  I have had a Mayo consult, and they agree that I should be medically managed at this point.  It was something called SCAD (Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection) – rare, most common in perimenipausal or post partum women.

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

Not really – some slight hypertension.  I got too worked up, Elephant on chest.

How did this affect your life?  Physically/ Personally? 

I was so tired on the medication, but being a single mom, I really didn’t take much time off.  I did cardiac rehab.  My cholesterol and everything is fine.  I watch what I eat, try to eat Mediterranean and try to stay active.  I also let a lot of things go so that I don’t stress.

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

I am a little less type A.  I also live very in the moment, especially spending time with my daughter.

Stents/ Zipper or Defib ?  What is your situation?

None for now.  Part of my heart is dead – the distal apex.  But dead is dead, so not much that can be done.  Will need defib in future if it gives off faulty signals.

What do you fear now ?

Not being here for my daughter.

lisa4

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

My daughter, spending time with my family, leaving a positive impact on others.

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

I did and it was helpful.  The weight gain (caused by menopause or medication)

What are your new dreams ?

I want to work at becoming a life coach so that I can help others more.  (I taught high school and middle school English for 20 years, and now work as a service and sales rep for a great family owned photography company).

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

I want to travel more! Paris, Hawaii…

Who was there for you?

My family.  The friends I told.  My ex and his girlfriend.

LISA DOWLING PIC

Did you lose many people after ?

Several high school acquaintances have died due to heart attacks since mine.  

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

Not really.  I seem so healthy that it is a shock to most.

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

I wouldn’t!  I have lived a great life and made a difference to many, which is how I measure.

What do you want more of in life ?

Peace, fun, time with my daughter, travel, love.

lisa5

What makes you great ?

My positive, upbeat, helpful spirit.

What advice would you give to a healthy person?

Love your kids, spend time with your loved ones.

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

 

RACHEL TURNER1

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.

rachel 5

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.

rachel 3

 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.

rachel2

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. 

rachel 4

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 .

 

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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. 

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 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.

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 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.

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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- 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- 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

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