Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: New Orleans LA
Re: Tell me about your heart attack!!
Due to my family history of heart disease, I had been having annual checkups by a cardiologist for the past several years. At aged 50, I am the longest living male in my family line for the past 5 generations. I was living in New Orleans when Katrina hit, so my appointments with my cardiologist were put on hold until things settled down. Next thing I know, 3 years go by in a flash without seeing him, so I finally decided to get back in touch for an appointment after experiencing chest pains. I didn't think the pain was cardiac related because it was constant and not getting any worse. In fact, as the days before the appointment arrived, the pain actually lessened quite a bit, so I thought maybe I had emphysema. The day of my appointment finally arrived and did the nuclear stress test, echo cardiogram and EKG. Later that night, my cardiologist called at 8:30pm to tell me I had an arterial blockage and needed an angiogram ASAP. Due to the demand, I had to wait 2 days. The doc explained that if the blockage could be stented, they'll do it then and there. Turns out the blockage was 70% in my LAD artery and long enough to require 2 stents. The procedure was textbook, they kept me overnight in the hospital for observation and sent me home the next day with a prescription for Plavix. My sister, who I was visiting at the time, convinced me to stay another night at her house for safety--she happens to be a cardiac care nurse. Early the next morning on a Saturday, I go to Walmart to get my prescription filled...it was 8:30am and the pharmacy didn't open till 9am. As I turned around to do some other shopping, I started feeling sharp throbbing pains in my chest. I thought to myself, "this doesn't feel right". I called my sister from my cell and told her the situation...she told me we may have to call 911. I said, okay, let's see if I can drive back to the house to see if the pain continues. So, I headed back to the car and the pain subsided which of course was a relief. Once I got on the road the pain returned with much more intensity and knew I wasn't going to make it to the house. I called my sister again, told her I couldn't do it and pulled over into an empty parking lot. She told me to call 911, which I did, and my sister met me there just as the ambulance was arriving at my location. By this time, I felt like someone was stabbing me in the chest with an ice pick, over and over again. I got into the ambulance and as a professional courtesy, they allowed my sister to ride with us so she could help. I asked her, "Is this a heart attack?" She said I was definitely having a "cardiac event". The reason they say that is because there are different types of heart attacks. She gave me chewable aspirin, the pain continued, she gave me a nitro glycerin tablet, the pain continued, she gave me another nitro and the pain continued. Finally, I started to feel the pain fade away, my body relaxed and I felt like I was going to sleep. In my twilight state, I saw a gray spiral, sort of like a whirlpool, so i think to myself--"great, the heart attack is finishing and I'm falling asleep. The next thing I hear is my sister's voice saying "Clear!", and felt the worst shock of my life. I had actually died from cardiac arrest and they brought me back to life with the electric paddles called a defibrillator. So, the throbbing pain returned with a vengeance and would not stop. In the emergency room, they had to shock me 3 more times. They then rushed me to the cath lab to try to reopen the stents and where they had to shock me 3 more times. The reopening of the stents were unsuccessful, so they had to rush me into emergency bypass surgery. They allowed my sister to come into the cath lab to inform me of this and I said "OK, I just don't want to be shocked anymore." So basically, I died seven times and was brought back each time. Believe me, the shocks from the defibrillator was more painful than the heart attack itself. The next thing I knew, I woke up to find my entire family and extended family in my room to see me. They all flew in from 3 states. I had a triple bypass operation that went well, but I would need extra recuperation time due to the beating my heart took with all the shocks. That's only half the story--so I'll wrap it up as quick as I can. Two days later, I became infected by the MRSA bacteria--what they call the "super bug". Once it gets into your bloodstream it could be fatal and it requires the strongest intravenous antibiotic known to man. Then my vital organs started failing. First my kidneys, which required dialysis, then I developed THREE lung embolisms, then my liver started to fail. Once your liver starts failing, it's pretty much over. The doctor informed my parents and sister that I was most likely going to die, so it might be a good idea to get my affairs in order and plan my funeral services. My sister, the cardiac care nurse, was suddenly struck with the idea that I may be eligible for a heart transplant. She discussed this with my cardiologist and he agreed--but the infection had to be cured and I needed to be transferred to another hospital which had the transplant program. My life was hanging on a thread and they weren't sure I would even survive the ambulance ride, but they did it and I made it. Once I was received at the other hospital, they immediately changed my medication and everything took a turn for the better. I started to improve, my organ functions were returning and by then I was conscious, but suffering greatly. It was decided that once the MRSA infection was cleared, I would be put on the transplant list for a new heart. The medical staff gave me the nickname of "The Miracle Man". I spent a total of 60 days in the hospital and I'm still recovering slowly but surely at my sister's house, where she performs nurse duties on me. My most recent tests show that I have improved so much, that my transplant is no longer imminent and I am not yet on the transplant list--not sick enough. Just 2 days ago, I returned from an overnight stay to have an internal defibrillator installed in my chest. It's sort of like a pacemaker, but it provides a small electrical shock to the heart muscle if I have another cardiac arrest. It's basically a life-saving device that does not require a 911 call. As a result of all this, I am now considered to be a sufferer of heart failure and deemed permanently disabled. I was fortunate to have worked for a large company with excellent medical and disability insurance, so I no longer have to work and am receiving enough benefits to be financially comfortable until I'm 65. Once I'm fully recovered from my recent procedure, my travel restrictions will be lifted. When people asked how I'm doing, this is the easiest explanation--my body is like a car that can only run in first gear. You can still operate and make progress--you just have to do it much slower and not push it. Too much strain will cause more damage. I will one day need that transplant, which will be like replacing the engine of a car--but not anytime soon. I consider myself to be extremely blessed.