HAPPY 2 YEAR HEARTAVERSARY TO ME !

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

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

So what did I do ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I NEED TO MAKE A MOVE

I NEED TO TAKE HARD STEPS

I NEED TO TRY EVEN MORE

I NEED TO BE OK WITH MAKING MISTAKES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Don’t know the author.-

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

My First Tattoo :) 38 by 38

Fire and Ice Heart- The Heart represents the soul; who someone truly is.  The Fire represents passion, verve, emotion.  The Ice represents logic, confidence, calm. The two together fuse into a combo much stronger than their individual parts.  Synergy.

 This synergy makes up a large of the soul, hence the Heart.

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I have always wanted a tattoo and like most people ( definitely not all)  I wanted something that was “ME”.  So, 37 years of age, it finally happens.  I mean, granted it took a life changing event, recovery and thinking about my own traits.

Oh and I can’t forget… 2 missed appointments and months of sneding random messages of what I was looking for to my artist.

So ummm obviously the tattoo was going to be Heart related considering I had a little heart misfunction almost 2 years ago…..holy crap…2 years !!

The final result is a Fire and Ice Heart described meaning above.  Each part of the description describes me or traits I wish I had or had previously possessed.

She is not complete yet but I am so proud of this tattoo.  I love it more than I can express.  It is a reminder of how far I have come, how far I will go, to never give up.  I love showing it off every chance I get.

My Artist.  I cannot say enough about this woman.  She has patience like no other, I mean she had to deal with me right ?

Her name: Ashla Bee,  she works at Human Kanvas in Airdrie, Alberta.

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I have known this fantastic, talented  woman for close to 10 years. I we worked at the same place and even starred in commercials when we were younger for that company.

There was no doubt in my mind that she was the one who I would ask to take on my tattoo.  I loved seeing her artwork on Facebook and seeing how much she loves what she does.  I knew she would  listen to my craziness and add a little touch of “her” to the design.

Thank you Ashla for making this man so proud to wear your art, for making the experience a lot of fun and for being patient with me 🙂

 

MINI

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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My First 10 K – 9 Months after my Heart Attack.

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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- 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

rachel 6

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.

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