Myocardial Infarction. That’s a fancy name for heart attack. I have had two of these, the most recent on January 28-29, and I OH SO DO NOT want to suffer any more of them, but is that possible? More in a moment, here’s Wikipedia…
“Myocardial infarction (MI) or acute myocardial infarction (AMI), commonly known as a heart attack, occurs when blood flow stops to a part of the heart causing damage to the heart muscle. The most common symptom is chest pain or discomfort which may travel into the shoulder, arm, back, neck, or jaw. Often it is in the center or left side of the chest and lasts for more than a few minutes. The discomfort may occasionally feel like heartburn. Other symptoms may include shortness of breath, nausea, feeling faint, a cold sweat, or feeling tired. About 30% of people have atypical symptoms, with women more likely than men to present atypically. Among those over 75 years old, about 5% have had an MI with little or no history of symptoms. An MI may cause heart failure, an irregular heartbeat, or cardiac arrest.
Most MIs occur due to coronary artery disease. Risk factors include high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, lack of exercise, obesity, high blood cholesterol, poor diet, and excessive alcohol intake, among others. The mechanism of an MI often involves the complete blockage of a coronary artery caused by a rupture of an atherosclerotic plaque. MIs are less commonly caused by coronary artery spasms, which may be due to cocaine, significant emotional stress, and extreme cold, among others. A number of tests are useful to help with diagnosis, including electrocardiograms (ECGs), blood tests, and coronary angiography. An ECG may confirm an ST elevation MI if ST elevation is present. Commonly used blood tests include troponin and less often creatine kinase MB.”
My first heart attack occurred on May 19, 2004. I had the classic symptoms for five days leading up to it but, brain surgeon that I am, I tried to ignore these symptoms, hoping that they would just go away. They did not.
They began on Friday, May 15. As usual, I went out for my daily walk and could get no more than about 1/8 of a mile and I became winded and felt I could not go on. I had slight chest pains and shortness of breath. Back to the house.
Saturday found me at a Perfect Circle concert with my son Luke. I had chest pains walking to the venue and during the concert so I spent much of the time sitting in the concourse and sipping beer while my mind entertained thoughts like news headlines which would read, “Acworth Man Dies of Heart Attack at Rock Concert”.
Sunday I attended a CD/Record show in the ballroom of a nasty hotel in Atlanta. I picked up three or four CD’s, Grateful Dead and Gov’t Mule, I think, and deceived myself about the minor chest pains and shortness of breath I was experiencing. Really?
Monday was uneventful. Tuesday I went to the nearby Stone Age Tattoo parlor to sit for Mike Bargeron as he filled in a great deal of the psychedelic back tatt I was trying to have completed. I was there, hunched over, for around three hours. I got home and, again, made an effort at my walk. I got almost nowhere as the pains returned. It was if something heavy was sitting on my chest.
I crept home, went to the basement to get some files from my car and trudged back up the stairs. I almost fainted and had to grab the railing. I made it to my office, sat down, bent over to place the files on the floor and became very light-headed.
I FINALLY realized this was going nowhere and I picked up the phone to make an appointment with my doctor. The phone attendant asked me what my symptoms were and I told her. She said ,”Sir, you need to hang up the phone and dial 911. This is an emergent situation.” I did.
The person who answered at 911 said that they would be sending out the ambulance. I asked if the fire truck had to come with them. I said I didn’t want them to turn on the siren and make a big fuss in the neighborhood. They replied that they would do their best.
I was embarrassed. Complete stupidity, no?
So, here they all came, no siren, and they loaded me into the ambulance, gave me aspirin and nitroglycerin, hooked me up to an EKG and headed for Kennestone Hospital in Marietta. I was feeling fine and, now, even more embarrassed. I called Melodye and told her where I was headed. She had suggested that I do this as soon as everything started a few days back. Men!
At the emergency room I spent several hours on a gurney, waiting on a room to open up. I watched the whirl of activity in the ER with a bit of trepidation. My thinking was that there is just too much room for human error in a situation like this.
A cardiologist stopped by and told me that there was about a 90% chance I had/was having some type of heart event. I was unusually calm.
I was finally put in ICU and hooked up to a monitor while a blood thinner drip was attached to my arm in the form of an IV. I couldn’t go to sleep very well as I thought there was a possibility that I might not wake up Wednesday morning. I was administered a heart catheterization which showed that I was 99% blocked in my main artery, the Left Anterior Descending artery. The doctor told me they needed to rush me to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta for an angioplasty, as they were not equipped to handle that procedure there in Marietta. That has since changed. More on that later.
Ole Mel climbed into the front seat of the ambulance with the driver and I layed down in the back as the other EMT gave me aspirin and did another EKG, which showed nothing. EKG’s are useless.
They rushed me into the OR and, almost immediately, began the angioplasty. I was sedated but awake. There was a screen by the table and I, drowsily, observed as the process began. Well, maybe halfway into the procedure I began to sweat profusely, “like a whore in church”, as I told one of the nurses when it was over, and lose consciousness.
It turns out that my 99% went to 100% closed in that main artery, I threw a clot, my blood pressure crashed to almost zero, and I almost met our Lord Jesus Christ face to face. During this time I thought about my grandchild, who was scheduled for birth in November, my family and my Auburn Tigers. I was expecting great things on The Plains. I was not disappointed as they went 13-0 and won it all. You will never convince me that that group was not the best in the country. They were.
I went to CCU for one night and then to a regular room for one more night and I was dismissed on Friday, May 21st.
Everything went splendidly until Thursday, January 28th, 2016.
MI Number Two
On that evening Me and Paul were enjoying a typical Thursday evening together in our den. We had a good dinner, a couple of beverages and all was moving along swimmingly.
I began to have, what I thought, were gas pains, I mean SEVERE gas pains. 8 on a 1 to 10. I really did think it was gas but I had never had it so brutally. Pain radiated into my jaws, arms, fingers and all the way to the top of my skull. I took some prilosec and a nitrostat , which I had NEVER had to take before, drank a few slugs of Diet Pepsi and, eventually, all was well.
Until the next afternoon.
I love to go to matinees by myself on Friday afternoons. If the movie is especially good I’ll take Mel back with me at a later date. About an hour had elapsed when I began to have pains just like the night before. It was then that I knew. I have to call friggin’ 911.
I was weak but made my way to the cashier at the front and asked for an aspirin. I was out in the fresh air and the cool breeze felt good. A manager came out with some Advil and Tylenol. No aspirin. I took a nitro.
It was then that I called 911, much to my chagrin, and the phone attendant kept me on the line talking until the ambulance arrived, with TWO firetrucks no less! Sirens a blarin’. I was embarrassed.
Well, they got me in the ambulance, gave my four baby aspirin and hooked me up to an EKG, which again showed no abnormalities. USELESS!
I called Mellie and gave her the news. that I was on my way to Kennestone Hospital, about 7 minutes away.
It was almost twelve years since Numero Uno, heart attacks deserve caps, and I had never even experienced a twinge since then.
I got checked in pretty darn quickly and they put me in an observation room before too terribly long. I talked to doctors and I talked to nurses, who were so helpful and kind. They, eventually, came to the conclusion that my blood enzymes were positive and slightly elevated. They thought if I had suffered a heart attack that the enzymes would be more highly elevated if an MI had, indeed, taken place.
They debated whether or not to give me a stress test, and if that showed trouble, then do a heart cath. Me, our wonderful pastor, his equally wonderful wife and Paul thought that odd. Look at my history! Look at my family history (stroke, quadruple bypass, leaking aortic valve and an aneurysm)! Daddy had all but the stroke, which befell my mother.
Common sense did prevail and they decided to do a cath… MONDAY MORNING! The doctor said they only do caths on the weekend if it is an emergency. Then what the hell was this?
Fast forward to Monday. After two nights in the new cardiac unit, state-of-the-art, and some good visits and poor food, it was showtime.
If you have seen any of this on Facebook, posted by my goddess Mel, or heard about it at all, you know what happened. I was, again, 99% blocked in the same artery. I do love to live on the edge, I suppose. Peer over into the abyss. Not really but that’s the way it’s gone for me.
Two stents later, one inside the old/clogged one and one more new one, I found myself in recovery.
I DID have a heart attack but there was NO damage. Hallelujah! Same as Numero Uno.
A minor detail. There remains a 40-45% blockage between the stents and the heart. They can only do three at once. That’s got to be dealt with. My follow-up appointment is (now, WAS) Monday, February 15th (2016). We shall see. There are also a couple of other spots, in different arteries, that have a 10-25% blockage. That’s for sissies.
What is the moral of the story? I don’t really know. “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we shall die!” I don’t think so, although it is a tempting option.
I’d say do your best with the light that has been shed on you. All things in moderation, including moderation 😉
When one is faced with a crisis such as this it truly puts things into perspective. In my case, and most of yours as well, I am exceptionally blessed. God has been exceedingly good to me. I have the dearest of family and friends. The prayers and outpouring of love has been ever so humbling.
I enjoy life and I enjoy it to the fullest. Simply put, I love living. My hope is that I have many more years of doing just that. But NONE of us is guaranteed ANYTHING.
I have Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) and it ain’t going nowhere.
Life is so very short. Get your priorities right. Only you can decide what those priorities are.
And this. “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35 NLT
Grace and peace.