A Heart Attack is Not a Death Sentence

The odds of me having a heart attack were slim; outside of smoking and the occasional burger from Five Guys I ate relatively well, exercised every day and walked at least four to five miles. Even now, a five weeks after I had my heart attack I can’t wrap my head around the notion that I had congestive heart failure. Not only that but a lung infection, massive swelling of my limbs and more tubes coming out of me than I could count.

But let’s back this up and do a timeline. I started having severe pains between my shoulder blades and brushed it off as my spine being out of alignment from my residual limb. I took some over the counter meds and in a few hours I was back in business. Over the next ten days I started feel short of breath, bloated, a little confused and achy. I did go to the emergency room after the shoulder pain and was told “Everything’s fine, go get some rest”. Now we know that there was a major blunder made. Even ten days after my heart attack my troponin level was 2.45 (the normal value is usually so low that it doesn’t register on a test).

I was admitted to the hospital after passing out in the heart cath lab; I spent the next eleven days in a medically induced coma and another nine days split between the CCU (cardiac care unit) and a regular room. Along the way I ripped my NG feed tube out as well as my breathing vent. Even sedated I am a strong willed person. The cardiologists were amazed that I lived; when they saw me walking down the hall of the CCU with a physical therapist on the sixteenth day they could do nothing but shake their heads. “Even people with two legs don’t get up and start walking around like that”.

I got lucky, extremely lucky. I had some of the most dedicated cardiologists working as a team to get me through this. I had CPR done at least three times as well as being hit with a defibrillator four times (one of which I was awake for); the most frustrating thing was trying to communicate. The clipboard and marker method is maddening because you are writing gibberish but to you it looks like a complete sentence. Likewise, there are some side effects from having a stent implanted. The emotional rollercoaster you go on after a heart attack is no joke; one minute you feel great and are thankful to be alive and the next you are crying.

I’ve only been out of the hospital for nine days but feel so much better than I did when I was first released. I am slowly getting my strength back and able to walk a little more each day. The damage to my heart won’t be known until my next cardiologist appointment at the end of the month but I am remaining optimistic. I still have some issues with my leg swelling but I know that every day I am getting stronger and eventually I will be back to my old self. A heart attack is not a death sentence. Time is the biggest problem you will face. If you were active and were out of the house a lot you need to find ways to occupy your time. For me there were huge chunks of time that were now void. I can’t walk to the grocery store or post office nor can I drive to the gym or walk around the mall and window shop for a couple hours. If you don’t find ways to kill the time while you are recovering I can almost guarantee that you are going to experience massive bouts of depression.

A lot of people pity me; they say that they are sorry and say that life isn’t fair. Everything happens for a reason; I believe in that wholeheartedly. I know that there is a stent in my heart and if I don’t start taking better care of myself and I have another heart attack it will more than likely be fatal. It scares me to think that I had a heart attack and didn’t realize it. I have a ton of hairline fractures from CPR so I am like a cat with a long tail in a room full of rocking chairs when I move the wrong way and have a stabbing pain. I can’t live in fear of having another heart attack but on the same token I can’t sit in a chair and play it safe for the rest of my life either.

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