Sunday, March 30, 2008

Heart Attack - 3/23/08

I'm doing incredibly well one week after my heart attack. It was a major one - a STEMI - the worst of their kind and, I am told, an immediate killer ~50% of the time. My cardiologist tells me that the remaining 50% of the time it is very often a permanent crippler. There was a 100% blockage in the Left Anterior Descending Artery - one of three major heart arteries.

My cardiologist tells us it was a little interesting because the blockage was just after a Y in the system and the catheter wanted to go the easy route. But that went ok, the stent was installed and my life was given back to me. I have come through with negligible heart damage, most certainly due to my awareness of what was happening, our quick trip to the hospital, the incredible care and the speed at which it was given through Beaumont Hospital, a “cardiac center of excellence.”

I will be off work three weeks (minimum, but I do not expect any delay in my return to work) and that’s fine because I do tire easily and I would like the chance to ease back into a full schedule. Some things will have to change, of course – I kept a horrendous schedule pre-heart attack, attending virtually every function that I was asked to. I’m eating well, and not feeling particularly deprived, although Chili’s chicken chipotle is still calling to me. Many of my old bad habits stemmed from being alone this past fifteen months since my husband has been working out of state. Bad on me for giving in to that negativity.

My sister, with a little bit of fear in her (5 years older than I) voice, asked, “How did it feel?” It felt, in a word, awful! I felt as though I had a safe on my chest from the edges of my shoulders and then from mid-chest and up to my upper jaw. I felt fine (as fine as I had felt for perhaps 8-10 months) one moment and then I did not. The pressure went from just barely registering to damn, that hurts, in a moment. And it did not get any better until the wonderful medical team at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak made it so.

In the past three years two of my sisters and one of my first cousins suffered this type of heart attack and immediately died – each was 61 or younger and one of them lived a pretty healthy life. The other two did not – and neither have I. My mother, at my age, suffered the same type of heart attack and was disabled, on oxygen, and with a very limited lifestyle from then on. I’m determined that I will not.

My change in diet began immediately, of course, and that is going very well. My biggest adjustment is the sodium intake (ack! no more potato chips?), but I will be fine with that. More fruits and vegetables, more chicken and fish, less garbage in general. On Friday I began walking – I made it all the way down to the corner and back – yay! I will extend that by as much as I can as often as I can, without pushing it so hard I end up in trouble. I intend to cooperate with being enrolled in cardiac rehab, which is, as I understand it, not a program for the weak and wimpy. Whatever it is, I’m all for it because the alternative just plain doesn’t work for me.

I had been walking with a cane – my left knee had been targeted for replacement, in fact, but somehow there has been a change in it – maybe increased circulation – I have no idea but I am going to address this with my cardiologist. In any case, I am walking cane-free and having very little pain. I tire easily, but I am doing so well it simply amazes me.

My husband is going back to Texas this evening – it is sad for me. We’re best friends, and we have each other’s backs in everything. He is the smartest, funniest man I know and I love him deeply. Five years together hasn’t been nearly enough and I am going to work to make it a minimum of 25.

One thing - heart attacks kill more women every year than does breast cancer (and I am a 17 year survivor of that!) and there are lots of reasons for that. Please take a moment to read this and then spread the word - to your mothers, sisters, wives, girlfriends and if you're a woman, "take it to heart" yourself. There is lots of good information here as well.

Support and encourage those you know who have suffered a heart attack and they will feel as I do - very gratified to have wonderful family and friends - and that will add to their desire to do their best to move forward and live and live and live.