Hello. My name is Greg Curry. I’m 47 now, from West “by God” Virginia.
In June of 2009, at 42 years old, I had a widow maker heart attack.
I had a history of high cholesterol, and was supposed to be taking medication, but I let my prescription run out and never did refill it.
I am 6’1” and at the time about 210 pounds. I didn’t really watch what I ate that much, exercised pretty regularly, used smokeless tobacco, and drank a good bit.
I am married with two girls, and at the time they were 1 and 5 years old.
Unfortunately, most of my story I had to hear from other people. I work at a National Guard base, and we are allotted time during the day to exercise. From what I hear, I was pretty flustered that day, and told people I was going to run before I went home. I normally ran a couple miles a day at work. People said my face was real red and I was agitated, but hell, I’m like that most days at work. Anyway, I pretty much finished my run and stopped to talk to a co worker before running back down to my building. The guy I was talking to said that I didn’t look unusual for a guy that had just finished running on a hot late June day. I guess sometime on the way back down the hill to my building I collapsed.
I was found by the road unresponsive by a contractor that just happened to forget something where he was working and was headed back up to pick it up. Our base has a Fire Dept. with EMTs and they responded in just a minute or so once called. They had to shock me a few times to get my heart started again, and I guess I flat-lined a couple more times on the way to the hospital. I was in a coma for a week and they couldn’t get my heart to beat normally. They had already told my wife to prepare for the worst. The doctorssaid that I probably wouldn’t make it and if I did, I would have severe brain damage.
I know that they were checking the surveillance cameras on base to see how long I was down. One of the doctors decided to try cold therapy. They lowered my body temp trying to shock my heart into beating right. I guess it worked, because my heart started beating right and I woke up. They had to keep me drugged up because I was trying to do all kinds of crazy stuff, tearing the IVs out, yelling at people, all kinds of things before my brain started working right again.
The next steps were to do a heart cath and found the blockages. Luckily, the cardiac nurse was a friend of the family. She said that the options were stents, or bi-pass. She told me if I got stents I would be on blood thinner and other meds, and it was likely that I would be back in for more work in a few more years, so I decided to go with a double bi-pass. Someone somewhere pulled some strings, because the Dr. scheduled to do my open heart was changed, and I got the premier heart surgeon in the region. So they cracked me open, did the surgery, and sent me home a few days later. No evident brain or heart damage, although there is about a four week period that I have no memory of whatsoever.
I did go through cardiac rehab, and I highly recommend it to everyone. If nothing else, it gives you the confidence to push yourself more. I was bound and determine to get back to my old self, so I was probably doing things that I shouldn’t have been doing (I’m stubborn like that). I was off of work for over three months. I tried to slowly go back to doing the same physical things that I did before, and have pretty much succeeded. Today, I run 3 or 4 miles at a time, and the only problem I have is with my knees. Physically, I’m in better shape than I was before the HA. I had to go through a medical board to keep my job, but I did fine.
The one thing that I had to overcome, and cardiac rehab helped with that, is the intense realization of your heart beating. When I started running again, my heart would beat hard, (I’m sure it beat hard before, but I just wasn’t as aware of it) and it would really scare me, but I counted the beats and told myself it was alright. That goes for everything. I am very aware of my heart beat and every little ache or pain that comes from the chest area (those of you who had open heart know there are several aches and pains that have more to do with splitting your chest open than actually with your heart). Also, and I don’t know if it’s just me or it is heart related, but I hate the cold now. I can take the hot weather, but not the cold.
My biggest fear is, not knowing or not remembering what my symptoms or signs were. What if it happens again and I don’t realize it? My wife is constantly worried about me, and if I am 10 minutes late for home, I start getting phone calls. I don’t want to go through all of this and then still die a (relatively) young man.
My family and work and friends were very supportive, so I have no complaints about that. My wife and mother are a little over protective, but I guess that is normal. My dream is to live old enough to be a dirty old man and to see my kids grow up and have families of their own. My philosophy is that God let me live for a purpose, and try not to let Him or my family down.
There is very little in this world that is worth stressing yourself to death over. I had and still do have some issues spiritually like, why me, why did my family have to go through this, but there isn’t anything that can be gained by dwelling on the “Why’s”.
So if you ask me, the best things you can do is stay active, and try to find something that you really enjoy doing. A healthy hobby or activity that not only keeps you active, but helps clear your mind and reduce your stress levels. Also, take advantage of your “second chance” to help others. And never take anything too seriously.