You Gotta Have Heart
A Funny Thing Happened ... while walking down my driveway Monday morning (January 2, 2006) to get the newspaper. I had a heart attack. (Hmmmm. That's another compelling reason to cancel my subscription.)
Last Thursday, I began to experience neck and shoulder pains. I brushed it off as the typical aches of old age and treated it with the usual suspects - Advil, Vicodin, etc.
Early Monday, the pain in my shoulders began to move down my arms and I felt tightness in my chest and was slightly winded. I knew what the signs were but I am such a macho moron that I wouldn't let my wife call 911. Instead, I arm-twisted her into driving me over to the new Legacy Salmon Creek Hospital. I wanted to walk into the hospital on my own legs - a very stupid idea, by the way. Don't try this at home, folks.
The ER docs at Legacy confirmed that I had a myocardial infarction and got me stabilized with oxygen, nitroglycerin, morphine and other stuff. Then, since Legacy doesn't yet have a Cardiac Care Unit (we didn't know that), they shipped me off to the other Vancouver Hospital - Southwest Medical Center. The ambulance driver was our former neighbor - a cool guy and a Harley owner. He is now the head paramedic at his employer and, when he heard that the call was for me, he insisted on "driving the bus".
I had a fun ambulance ride. I enjoyed looking out the back window and seeing all those cars pulled over on the shoulder - just for me - and hearing the occasional ear-splitting WHOOOP-WHOOOP directed at the unseeing idiots hogging the left lane of the freeway. The WHOOOP-WHOOOP was loud enough that some of these left-lane morons probably suffered their own myocardial infarctions. (This may be an excellent way for ambulance companies to maintain a steady flow of new customers.)
I also experienced a lot of rapid rolling down hospital corridors on gurneys while watching the overhead fluorescents whiz by (just like in the movies), was given some very amazing and relaxing drugs and several doses of bland hospital food. I also had great medical care at every step.
The cardiac team did an angioplasty on my lower heart (posterior descending artery) which was completely blocked and put in Taxus stents. I was in the Critical Cardiac Care unit on Monday and part of Tuesday. I then was moved to the regular cardiac care section and was discharged at 7:00 am Wednesday - only two days after my heart attack. Another miracle of modern medicine.
It is great to be home. I will be taking it easy for a while. I now have the two stents in me - I think of them as My Twin Glasspacks:
My '39 Plymouth coupe has twin Glasspacks. Now I do, too!
A friend asked if I had "that new keyhole heart surgery." I had to inform him that an angioplasty is generally performed by snaking a wire through an incision in the groin. He couldn't seem to get his head around this concept. Well, neither can I but that's how it's done. "Take off your pants and I will make your heart feel better" is something you expect to hear in a Marseilles brothel rather than in an operating theater. But, I have it on good authority that, at the brothel, they don't shave you first. Technology - it's both strange and wonderful.
I'm feeling reasonably good but I'm tired from drugs and lack of sleep. And I have a lot of bruises - blood thinner related. I also have the usual aches and pains from too much laying down on strange, uncomfortable beds.
I am now motivated to get into a formal, consistent exercise program and begin eating healthier. My wife will keep me in line. She has said so - and she means it. Good. It's exactly what I need. (posted 1/4/06)
Update - May 9, 2006: I had a second angioplasty last week and now have a total of seven stents. Thanks to technology, medical miracles are an everyday occurrence. Here's a before-and-after look at my heart, showing arterial blood flow:
What a difference!
Two More Stents: In May 2008, I spent part of a week in the hospital with more heart trouble. I'm recovering from the surgery ... but slowly. No pep.
Getting old is hell; you just don't bounce back the way you used to. I now have nine - count 'em - nine stents in my heart. (posted 5/20/08)
You Can't Keep A Good Man - Or A Bad Burrito - Down: In late March, Gerard Van der Luen of the very active blog, American Digest had cataract surgery. You'd never have known it, because the frequency of his posts never seemed to diminish. American Digest is a daily read for me and I wish Gerard a speedy and full recovery.
In related news, I recently had some work done on my heart. I think of myself as a generally good-hearted guy with a bum ticker. I had four more stents (Boston Scientific brand) installed at and near the junction of the left coronary artery and circumflex artery. The surgery was deemed somewhat risky but I needed it and had great confidence in my new cardiologist, Dr. Jane T. Luu.
It was a day-surgery - in at 6:00 am, out at 3:15 pm - and I am recovering at home. The arterial stents were inserted surgically via my right wrist. It was much less invasive than the groin-inserted arterial stents which I had done in 2006 and 2008. Those required a hospital stay and the recovery seemed slower. I now have a total of 13 arterial stents …. but who's counting?!
I felt kinda rocky the first night but felt much better the following day. I am somewhat activity-restricted for the next week or two and my energy levels are a little lower than normal. As I write this, my heart feels good. And my blood is now flowing much more freely through my arteries:
In 2017, I visited another cardiologist, who ran tests and told me that my lower heart muscle was weak and that nothing could be done for my heart.
My wife got a new cardiologist early this year - Dr. Luu - and I asked if this doctor would take me as a patient. She did, ran EKGs and an echocardiogram and reported that my heart muscles were just fine and were pumping efficiently. The problem was coronary artery blockage and that she could help with that. And she did. See, it pays to get a second opinion.
I thank God, modern medicine and Dr. Luu. For what it's worth, coronary artery disease is embedded in my family history. (posted 4/20/21, permalink)
Heart Update: Last Wednesday (10/13/21), I had an angiogram and subsequent angioplasty, to relieve some recently developed angina symptoms. I got home the same day but was under the weather for a few days afterward. I'm feeling fine now.
The covid protocols at the hospital were illogical and annoying. I had a scheduled covid test on Monday, but I had to deal with four separate minor functionaries, including one ignorant and useless martinet, before I could see the technician who did the actual test. When I arrived at the hospital alone - no family members allowed - I had to go through the same useless procedure. I had been told to bring nothing but photo ID but one of the clerks wanted me to present a credit card for payment. "Too bad. As instructed, I have no money. Send me a bill in the mail."
I hope this Wuhan flu nonsense ends at some point. (posted 10/19/21, permalink)
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