If Facebook life is perfect, our real ones are too right ? Part 1

Given how my day went today it is fitting that I wrote this post a few days ago and now have 2 parts to share with you all.    

Facebook fools us all into thinking others lives are perfect, some people even think my life is always smiles and fun times…..Let’s open that door  and start with……

 

The story behind my most liked Facebook photo ever.  

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When you are not sure where to start, start with what makes the most sense.  Authenticity.

Marathon Weekend 2016 in Disneyworld.  My greatest and most successful moment in my Heart Attack Recovery, finishing the Goofy Challenge.

Great moment, right ?  I will agree, in fact over 200 likes, 2400 views on blog Facebook page, a few shares and many positive encouraging comments.

Yay, yay for me right ?  Sure.  Let’s go with that.  I made it look easy of according to some.

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This is where most of us make a mistake on social media and I am not immune to it.

 Now, I have definitely shared highs and lows and some not so great life posts but most of my Facebook shows more of the great life moments than the struggles.  Authenticity of life is thrown out the window because who wants to show how they are struggling behind the photos?.

Comparison, it’s what we do but we shouldn’t.  I had one message from someone who, while congratulating me also told me seeing my photo collage made them feel inadequate because they could never do what I did.  My response, you can do it but I promise you it is not easy.

Let’s look behind the photo.  Rewind a bit shall we ?

January 2013, Walt Disney World.  I attempted my first Goofy Challenge.  I failed.  I got pulled at mile 22, put on a bus and taken to the finish where they gave me 2 medals which to this day, I still think I did not deserve.  Those medals stay in a box.  My first thought was embarrassment, shame.  I had spent time on social media sharing my excitement for the event upcoming.  How the hell do I now tell people that I was pulled from the course, not fast enough.?  I wanted to be alone, I was ashamed, hurt, crying, angry.  After some time, I shared my failure on Facebook.  That was so fucking hard, so Hard that I turned my phone off right after to avoid any ridicule or mean comments.  None came.  People were encouraging and supportive.  It took a long time to get over that failure.  2013 became one of my worst years overall.  Life sucks a lot sometimes.

 

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My heart after having a Heart Attack. August 11, 2013
My heart after having a Heart Attack. August 11, 2013

Continuing on.  Aug 2013, Hear Attack.  Starting over physically.  I knew exactly what goal I needed to set but I also knew I could not rush it.  So behind my successful photo in 2016, here is what you didn’t see.

  • My first time back on a treadmill where I couldn’t even walk for 8 minutes and had to accept that defeat.
  • The moments when I walked away from those who said, you shouldn’t do this, maybe you just can’t anymore.
  • Injuries that I never spoke of. Spraining my knee twice, slipped discs in my lower back and neck, angina attacks ( thankfully only a couple.)
  • My feet and legs that bruise and swell from running, every single time.
  • The days I awoke in so much physical pain I struggled to just get through the day knowing it would eventually go away.
  • The training miles. When you commit to a marathon you commit a lot of time, time you could spend with family and friends.
  • Sleepless nights where I would go to the gym just to get out of my head.
  • Did I mention daily pain?
  • The training runs that I had to stop because I was vomiting profusely
  • The moments of doubt, so many times I thought “maybe you shouldn’t go for this.” I lacked confidence.
  • The moments of reaching out to people who rejected my pleas to talk, some of whom I no longer speak with.
  • The moments when you are trying to share but others make it about them or compare.
  • Friendships that have suffered because I made myself so focused that I failed at maintaining some important relationships. Some may never recover.
  • The times I stopped training to help others but received not so much as a thank you which made me question my importance to others. Who thought I was worth their time, love.
  • Wanting it so bad, the “win” that I got into some stupid situations that could have cause more injury harm than success.
  • The many times I questioned my own self worth.

 

Soooooo   Close !
Soooooo Close !

 

 

 

 

 

 

WORKOUT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could on and on.  The point here is this.  Behind most every smiling photo or “doctored” Facebook status is someone’s pain, someone’s sacrifice, someone who is looking for a win so bad so that they don’t feel like the loser they think they are. 

Most importantly behind the success at the end may just be someone looking for authentic connection, a talk, a hug, someone just to let that person be themselves so that they can pull that mask off, be vulnerable.

Comparing ourselves to others social media life is unfair because it is rare that you will see the authenticity or vulnerability of someone and usually when we do, we cower and say nothing or think, gee that person is just looking for attention.

Comparison is something I see a lot of in the support groups I am a part of and daily on my personal FB page and it can be so sad to see how people beat themselves up outside of Facebook because thier life is not like someone else who posted a great experience or photo.

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One of my goals is to be way more authentic in the coming 6 months.  My one promise is this…..  I will not “out” anyone but I will share stories.  I will talk about what is actually happening and share the wins and the challenges because I believe now that there are no failures, just challenges.

 

 

I have failed or faced challenges leading up to finally completing my first Marathon and as of this writing, I have been challenged once again by having my first Did Not Finish on my second Marathon due to injury. I shared this on social media and although I got support, I know there are many who would not.  Being that vulnerable was scary but worth it.  Sometimes you just have to open up but also listen to those who may need you to step up for them.

Part 2 coming in a couple days.

 

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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.   

From Heart Attack Survivor to Marathon Finisher

Heart Attack Survivor to Marathon Finisher ( Goofy Challenge Finisher)

39.3 MIles ( 63.25 Kms) , 2 Days, 4 Theme Parks.  3 Medals. 1 Moment of RAW Emotion.  

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His name is Mark.  At age 38 , he is now a Marathon Finisher.  It did not come without struggle, committment and hard work.

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Friends are a big part of what makes this whole experience so special ! Left to Right: Diane, Tracy, Cynthia, Nicki !

One week prior to his 36 birthday he suffered and survived a Heart Attack.  Four days later he went into Cardiac Arrest during surgery to place 2 stents in his heart.  Only one was placed due to this event.  He continues to live with another 70 % blockage in the main artery to his heart but this doesn’t stop him from living and trying to reach new limits.

For the next 2 years and 5 months he went through Cardiac Rehab, made a few lifestyle changes, lost 30 lbs and got back to one of his passions.  Running.  Mark will admit that none of it was easy and there were some days of having to push beyond what he thought he was capable of.

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On January 10th, 2016 in the Happiest Place on Earth, Walt Disney World, Mark became an official Marathon Runner and Finisher.  Equally as important he completed the Goofy Challenge which requires a runner to do a Half Marathon (13.1 Miles or 22 Kms.) the day before.  Some would call this crazy, I guess that is why they call it Goofy.

In 2013 he attempted this same challenge and did not finish.  Due to pacing requirements he just wasn’t fast enough to avoid being swept off the course.  Some people say they were closing things early because of extreme heat and humidity.  “ It doesn’t matter the circumstance, I just was not fast enough and that race, unknown to me would set the tone for my year.  I failed but knew I would try again.  I just didn’t think it would take me three years to get back here to do it.”

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All Business !

 

On his Marathon Finish Mark said “This was by far one of my hardest and most proud moments in life.  I cried like a baby knowing I was going to finish a Marathon.  I saw my friend Jennifer, a woman who I respect, admire and love for how encouraging and supportive she has been. I believe around Mile 24.

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Jenn and I ! I love this woman, such an amazing friend !

She gave me some beer.  Yes I drank a beer and it tasted like heaven.  Shortly after I hugged her and went on my way, tears began to fall. “

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The course was not without it’s challenges.  From mile 19-20  he had to fully walk because his heart rate was not recovering as quickly as he had hoped.  It is the only point in the race where he thought that he may have to pull himself as his heart rate seemed to not dip back below 125 beats per minute on rest moments.  Thankfully his heart rate eventually went down enough to keep going on.  “6.2 miles to go, it became harder and I began run/ walk more frequently.”

To run a Marathon requires commitment, a commitment that most won’t give.  For the last 9 months he trained while most were sleeping.  Midnight and 2 am runs, sometimes he’d go earlier but that was rare. “Some people totally understood and others not so much.”  Opinions began to not matter to me. This was not about other people, it  was all about me.  I was dedicated to finishing, so dedicated that I eventually stopped wearing my Fitbit on those late night runs.  I kinda wanted to ensure I was challenging no one but myself. I was obsessed to say the least.”

The race started around 5:30 am with the first wave of runners set to go.  Mark was in Corral M.  4 corrals up from the last, he knew he had to go hard in the beginning as to not fall behind and risk being swept.  By the time it was his turn to cross the start line, the time was closer to 6:20 am.

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Corral M, I’ve got this !

Off went the fireworks and  it was now time to put all that training to the test.  He was nervous but not afraid, strong , focused but most importantly no matter the result, prepared to ensure he still had fun.  “ I stopped for a few photos with people who had funny signs, looked on in envy of those who had time to stop to take photos with characters but still felt like a kid seeing the Disney characters on the course. I did eventually get my chance at a couple of character photos but that reward would wait until I knew I was going to finish the race.”

The first 13 Miles seemed to be the easiest according to Mark.  13 miles was a distance he was use to as he had run half marathons in the last but only once since his Heart Attack.   As he continued he did experience some knee pain but was able to overcome that by stopping at Medical tents and utilizing bio freeze which numbs the area.  He credits that with allowing him to focus on the race and not the pain.

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The Half Marathon Portion on Saturday Jan 9th as a part of the Goofy Challenge. 66 kms in 2 days 🙂

As the remaining miles went by it seemed like forever, he began to run/ walk more frequently but still maintain a pace that was healthy and that would help him succeed.

How did you feel when you knew you were at the point where you absolutely knew you were safe and were going to finish the race without the fear of being swept ? 

“  That moment is when I got through the ESPN zone, the most boring part of the course.  I left ESPN and shortly encountered Mile 22.  The Mile in which I was swept in 2013,  I saw the buses  that were parked there for those who would not finish this race sometime later.  I gave those buses the two middle fingers, smiled and kept going.  It was such a good feeling to know that I was now safe and the race was now mine to finish.

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At Mile 26. The time is from the official start time. My final Time was 6hrs 47 min, 13 seconds.

 

To finish this story, I will now leave third person and talk as myself. 

As I entered Hollywood Studios my pace slowed, was is my sense of security ?  No, I was tired and wanted to ensure a strong finish.  They say with hard work comes reward.  What was my reward before finishing?  I worked so hard and skipped some character stops that I would have loved to do.  Then I saw Boo from Monsters Inc.  I had to stop for this photo, at least one, for me.  Shortly after  I saw the Genie from Aladdin outside the boardwalk and I was ecstatic that I could have my photo taken with him.  There is a quote in Aladdin that I love . “ But oh, to be free, such a thing would be greater than all the magic and all the treasures in the world.”  This sums up how I felt crossing the finish line.

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Boo and the Genie !

 

I came running around that 26 mile marker and shortly saw that finish line in front of me.  I wanted to stop and admire what was before me but I could not, I knew I had to keep going.  As I got closer I looked into many eyes of those cheering on the runners.  I was bawling like a baby, I could not contain my tears, I forgot what it was like to actually feel emotion until that moment.  My eyes were leaking !!

Just before I reached the finish all I can remember was pushing my arms out to my side in excitement and bringing them back into my body, almost flexing and releasing every emotion I had in me.  Lucky for me the photographers caught that moment.  Here I was, after almost losing my life a couple years before, accomplishing the most physically challenging thing I have ever done in my life.  I smiled, received my Marathon Medal, hugged the volunteer and almost couldn’t let go.  I am pretty sure her shoulder is still soaked from my tears.

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ALL OF THE FEELS !! MY EYES ARE LEAKING !

Jan 10, 2016, I became a Marathoner.  I finished in 6 hrs, 47 minutes and 13 seconds.  I was not fast but I never gave up.  The training for this race began from the moment I stepped back on a treadmill 6 weeks after my heart attack. 

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“If you can Dream It, you can do it.” – Walt Disney

That feeling of finishing was worth all of the late nights,  hard work, blood, pain and listening to those who told me if I trusted them, then they would get me back as close as they could to who I was before.  That day I left it all out there and succeeded.

If anyone tells me they can’t do something, or that I can’t do something they have said it to the wrong person.  Because I will show them what I can do, what they can do….. IF,  they believe.

I may not have what others have in terms of physical capabilities but it’s not about that, it’s about my will power.  I am proud of what I accomplished but I will never settle.  I will always succeed and earn every moment of life.  I am still not a finished product, I am striving each day to always be better than I was the day before.  In my Heart I do not fear, I love as much as I can and am free.

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“ But oh, to be free, such a thing would be greater than all the magic and all the treasures in the world.” – Genie from Aladdin.

 

Mini.

10 ways a Heart Attack at age 35 changed me.

When thinking about the last 2 plus years since my heart attack, I cannot help but run through the ways I have changed.

My heart after having a Heart Attack. August 11, 2013
My heart after having a Heart Attack. August 11, 2013
  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Ya, it is totally a cliché, a book has been written and many people will say they don’t sweat the small stuff.  I don’t anymore.  It is funny to think of the things that use to get to me or that I would worry about.  Now, most times my first thought is,  “ Is this worth worrying about or spending my time and energy on.”  Stress, my friends is something I try so hard to avoid.  The downside to this is that I become impatient with those who try to make small issues bigger than they are.  It does piss people off or I come across as not really caring.  In some situations, I really don’t.  Nowadays, there are things that I do procrastinate on because things can wait and it is not worth the stress and let’s be honest here, I try to have more fun.

 

  1. I prefer to be alone.

Ask anyone who’s known me a long time and they will tell you I always had to be around other people.  This use to be how I got my energy, my zest for life. Mini loves people !  Post Heart Attack, I find in many social situations I get anxious or very awkward and have to leave early.  This is why I never car pool with anyone.  I need my escape.  I spend more hours alone than I think most realize.  I use this time to read more, work on many of my projects and try to sort through my head.  I find it easier to be alone than to be in large groups.  I know I have become socially awkward and I am ok with that.  Being alone allows me to not put myself in an awkward situation or worry about upsetting someone.

 

  1. I have a new normal.

This took me a long time to accept.  I am still figuring out what certain limits are but I accept I am not who I was.  I like who I am now.  So who am I now ?  That’s for another post.  With my new normal, I have had to find new ways to do things I enjoy, accept restrictions and learn which lines I can push. Example, I will never run as fast as I use to but I can run.  I may accept the new normal but I will NEVER give up trying to succeed at what I can.

 

  1. I dream bigger.

I have many big dreams.  Most are of the humanitarian and Heart Disease awareness type.  I have so many dreams I hope to share and work towards in 2016.  Some are way out in left field but I would rather put those dreams out there and get laughed at than keep them to myself like I use to.   There is one dream I once had that I never made my move on now someone else made it famous.  Lesson Learned. So, I may never become famous for a dream I pursue but I really hope one of them leads to creating the life I desire.

 

  1. I actually like myself.

Most of this could be in another post but here is a start.  From 2010 on I actually had a strong dislike of who I was and I had almost zero confidence in myself.  I got good at putting on a show.

I like me J   I am awkward, I am social, I am fun,  I am smart in different ways, I am a good looking guy, creative, determined, flirty, playful, goofy.  I am uniquely and imperfectly ,me.  I am not for everyone but I do like who I am.  This doesn’t mean I don’t have some insecurities but I am more confident than I have ever been.

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  1. Experiences instead of Things.

I have always had a hard time buying things for myself.  Even when I bought my first DSLR Camera I was anxious.  Over the last 2 years  I have focused more on spending my money and time on experiences, dinners with friends, coffees.  My time is valuable.  I would prefer memories with my friends and family than something disposable.  It may be morbid but I want to think that when my time comes and I am 6 feet under that I leave those I care about with good, fun and maybe slightly wild memories of “Mini.”  No one will remember how many things I owned.  After my Heart Attack I questioned how people would remember me.

 

  1. Now I lay me down to sleep.

It is no secret that my sleeping patterns are messed.  Sometimes I go more than 24 hours without sleep, sometimes I nap an hour here and there just to function.  I have no idea how I function most days to be honest.  The thought of not waking up consumes my brain before bed almost  nightly.  I want so bad not to think this way but living with heart disease I am aware of what could happen.  PTSD is a bitch and that is one way it gets me.  Every night I go to bed wondering if the day I had was a good one, did I do something positive?  Did I make at least one person smile ?  Did I smile ?  Did I try to make a difference in this world ?

If I ever should die and not awake when the sun rises, I just hope the day before was a good one.

 

  1. I want Love but I am Guarded.

It is no secret that I have been single for a long time.  No girlfriend in almost 5 years, yep, you read that right, 5 years.  I have dated but can’t seem to keep anyone interested long enough, combine that with the fact I keep myself busy.  Just like most everyone, I have been hurt before but that is NOT why I am guarded.  I am guarded because I want simply to be accepted for me but sharing my health issues has scared some females away.  Can’t blame them because there are always things we as people can and cannot live with when it comes to a partner.  I am an amazing man as soon as someone can see beyond both mine and their imperfections.  I know I need to be a little more open with heart but sometimes it is so damn hard.

 

  1. Random Acts of Kindness.

I give more than most people realize.  I am not one to brag nor share every little Random Act of Kindness I do because I feel that defeats the purpose.  One per week, I do something.  Whether it is buying a coffee for someone, paying for their gas, leaving a random note or simply giving a homeless person a $10 or $20 bill.  I do something.  I want to feel like I have made a difference, even if for only a moment.

 

  1. I care but it sometimes doesn’t come out that way and it sucks.

If you have read this far, then you now get  a HUGE TRUTH.  I say I Love You more than I ever did before and tell people I care as often as I can.  So what is the problem?  I have been told what I say doesn’t seem portrayed that way.  I have a hard time comprehending this.  For example:  There was a woman I liked, I tried to show her but even she said she was not sure, that it didn’t seem that way.  I tried so hard but I just couldn’t get what I was actually feeling outward by action or expression I guess.

I have PTSD, I struggle with understanding emotion and even portraying  certain emotion.  If you are emotional in front of me, like crying or upset, my brain is trying to empathize and understand but I just can’t ever seem to figure it out.  It makes me uncomfortable in the situation and I am trying to think of a way out of that moment.  It’s not that I do not care, it is that I just can’t comprehend why you are upset or even what I am suppose to do.  It is not easy to live with and it keeps me up at night.  I use to be a very empathetic and understanding human and I kinda miss that guy.

So, if you and I are in a situation like above and my face goes red or I slowly distance myself from you or I constantly look away…… please know I care, I just don’t know what to do, guide me or let me escape.

1st Half Marathon Post Heart Attack- What an experience !

My First Half Marathon Post Heart Attack !

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It took me a while to write this.  I had to sort through all my thoughts on this race.

I trained hard, I was dedicated, I pushed when I wanted to give up, kept going to the gym even when I didn’t feel like it.  Every moment leading up to the race was a challenge.  I was as ready as I was going to be.  My mind, my body felt strong.

Now, before I dive into this further please understand I am very proud of finishing the race and no one can take that away from me.  The pride and the finish.

I spent time before the race meeting friends, taking photos and having my photo taken many times thanks to people loving my race shirt ! The Shirt….that is for another post.

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To say I was nervous would be the biggest understatement of the day. 

I was ready to take this race and make it mine.  In my training I had felt amazing, was running an 11:45 min/mile.  I only had a few blips while training but worked through it smartly.

Smart.  That here is the key word my friends.  I trained not for speed, I trained to be smart, healthy and to ensure I was having fun.  Trained not to think too much about my heart attack and what could go wrong.  I felt so amazing !

Then came race day.  Up at the crack of crazy ( 3am) for a start time of 7:00 am.  I never publicly stated I had a goal but in my head I wanted to finish in 2:25.  That is what I trained for.

I won’t detail every kilometre, I promise. 

The course was amazing, flat, scenic.  The weather was cool at the start and quite warm as the race progressed.  The first kilometre and a half I ran with my friend Susan but realized her 9 min per mile pace was too much for me and out of my training zone.  I let her go ahead because I did not want her to stay behind for me.  I really wanted to do the whole race with her but realized she was a lot faster than I was.  Respect the pace, respect the distance is exactly what was going through my head.

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The first 5 KM I felt amazing, was matching my 12 min/ mile pace and just before the 5 km mark I stopped to see my friend Danielle who was waiting kindly for me by the Starbucks in Bridgeland.  It was so good to see my friend Danielle on the course, it gives you a little boost to keep pushing forward.  I took a photo with her and off I went.

Danielle and I :)
Danielle and I 🙂

 

As I ran back across Memorial Drive I was loving the race having fun with other runners and was still keeping a 12 min mile but  that was not to last much longer.

It was slightly before reaching 17th avenue that a little fatigue had started to set in.  This was between kilometre 8 and 9.   

17th Avenue.  What do I say about this part of the course ? It was definitely the worst part of the entire course.  It was 2.5 km of uneven roads, pot holes and a narrowing of the course.  Pedestrians crossed at a few points from the sides of the street.  Just before Kilometre 10 is when my race started to go downhill.

I went to pass 3 runners who were running side by side by side.  As I cut to the right I hit a dip in the road hard, twisted my knee, tried to brace myself from falling right over ( BIG MISTAKE !).  It took about another KM before I started feeling immense pain.  Now in theory this could have absolutely ruined my race but something great came out of it.  The Injury?  A Sprained Knee which I am still battling the pain of a few weeks later.

I MAY JUST BE IN A LITTLE PAIN HERE :(
I MAY JUST BE IN A LITTLE PAIN HERE 🙁

 

As I went to walk to the side once the pain started, I bumped into a young woman, apologized and we laughed.  This woman would be one of 2 that I ran/ walked the rest of the race with.  Her name was Lindsay.  The other girl was Shona.

The rest of the race we paced each other, taking walk breaks and although I admitted being in pain, I downplayed it.  I remember at one point,  Shona had said I was the reason she was running and staying in it.  That was awesome to hear and yes, it motivated my ass to keep going.

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318778_199516843_XLargeMy pace slowed to between 14-16 minutes per mile.  There were far more walk breaks than I had hoped for but I knew pushing harder would have made this injury worse.  So I did what I seem to do best in hard situations.  

I laughed.  I danced.  I chatted with those around me.  I posed as I ran past cameras.  I hugged a random person.  I pretended to be Superman, only, I was missing my Lois Lane.  My Knee was my race kryptonite but it would not wreck my spirit.  I kept repeating encouragement to my run mates as they did with me. This race was still mine.

 

The final kilometre was upon us and yes I continued to run/walk right up until the final corner where I ran, in tons of frickin pain but I ran.  That finish line looked so close and yet so far away.  The three of us kinda split at the end.  I would run into Lindsay again at Bag Check and a few days later on Instragram.

Crossing the finish line.  OH. MY. GOD.  So much awesome that it is hard to put into words.

I Crossed, I Cried ( that is again  for another post), crouched to my knees after crossing, got up and walked up to… and this is where it gets really cool.

 Her name is Sarah Lynn Stephens.  The day before the race she saw me at the packet pick up and told me I would finish and do amazing. Little did I know til later that the girl I got my medal from, who’s shoulder I cried on was the same girl who had encouraged me before the race.  A Girl who’s sister is actually on one of my Dodgeball teams.  Small World.  318778_199763060_XLarge

Seriously such an awesome finish, I would not have changed a thing.

The Race was fun, tough, but fun.  My Heart felt amazing, not once was I worried about my heart. It was my heart that got me through to the finish.  My body was up to the task at hand and I had fun for the entire 21.1 km.  I made a couple new friends, experienced brief emotion ( again a different post), finished a race and became very proud of what I accomplished even if it wasn’t the goal time I had hoped. 

 

 

 

So what else is there to say?

 

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When you set out to accomplish a goal, No matter how hard you train, how prepared you are…..Sometimes things don’t go as you had hoped or planned.  Sometimes we search and try for one thing but discover another.  There is no reason to be disappointed if you don’t get your time or PR and complete your goal.  Use it to move forward but don’t beat yourself up, be proud of what you did accomplish and look for what made the experience great. 

 

For me, it was two women who made me laugh, crossing the finish line, crying on the shoulder of someone who said they were proud of me and in the end……Kicking Heart Disease’s Ass for yet another day.

-MINI-

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

Not Good at Being Selfish. It’s not YOU, It is ME

Not Good at Being Selfish.

Hello readers.

So, I kind of disappeared again.  I apologize, yet, I don’t all at once.  I don’t expect this to make sense.

 Photo 2015-04-11, 5 33 58 PM (1)

In January I got  lazy and was dealing with personal and job issues. I started to close off a bit.  February I focused on the Heart Attack stories of others, which was amazing and therapeutic.  The beginning of March I overloaded my calendar with appointments, outings and allowed my brain to take over.  I also gained about 12 lbs in those months which made me feel like I was letting myself down and falling into old habits of putting off working out.

What changed ?  I was becoming exhausted and not feeling well.  I realized at one point that between December and March I lost complete focus on the most important person in my life.  Me.  It was beginning to affect my health.  Mentally and Physically.

So, I sat at Denny’s late one night and started to schedule some “me” time. I actually created a calendar, cause I’m cool that way ha ha. A part of writing this blog for me is to be honest, write about what I know and learn as I go.  I didn’t start this out to become a professional writer or get published.  I started this to become a better me and get my thoughts, body and my goals in sync.  I was beginning to fail at this.

I lost sight of what I was doing and where I was going.

I do not do selfish well.  Those who know me well will, I think, agree.  Too often I put the needs and wants of others ahead of myself.  I do enjoy giving of myself but sometimes I just give too much. As an ex girlfriend once said to me….. “ your problem is your care too much.”  She was right.

If you gave me a huge bundle of money, there is a solid chance I would spend on others long before I buy myself something and even then I would analyze my purchase until I was blue in the face.

OK, back to my point. Although the last paragraph kinda states a bit of my point.

 

So me, back to me.  I have spent the last 6 weeks getting back to what was important to me.  Yes, I have written, just not posted.  I have re dedicated myself to the gym.  Focus mainly on cardio.  I have lost 6 of the 12 lbs I gained, my energy has returned…sorta.  I need to work harder on not napping after work.  I am in training for my first Half Marathon post Heart Attack, so there is that as well.

2015-04-21 20.59.31

I don’t do selfish well but in the coming months my goal is to learn to balance my desire to give of myself AND focus on me.  I hate saying no, I struggle with the word, always have.  So, friends if you hear me say no more often than I say yes in the coming months, it is not you, it really is me.  I have to pick and choose my time and how I spend it.

I do have projects on the go that I am excited about.  One very dear to my heart, my annual Dodgeball Tournament to raise money for the Alberta Children’s Hospital is coming up and that will consume a good chunk of my time until June.  So, it’s me, the tournament and occasional gatherings in the coming months.

I have some mental and physical goals to reach this year. Maybe once I reach them the balance can shift again.  My main goal for now is to be better than I was the day before, every day.  Please bear with me but if you can’t handle it then I get it. 

It is me, not you.

 

Mini.

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- Gregory Curry. We All Bleed Red.

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


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


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

 

greg (3)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greg Curry

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