Blog: Blinding Heart
I never expected at age 43 I would be sitting on a gurney in the local ER being told I was having a Heart attack.
That was the last thing I ever expected.
..NO kidding, you don’t say.
I honestly thought I’d win the lottery first before I ever considered a heart attack.
Did I get a shock…and I’m not talking with the cardioverter paddles either.
Thank goodness too!
I mean how ironic could it all been?
Read on you’ll find out…or maybe better yet instead of the word ironic how about just plain weird? Lucky?
Yep that’s the word…weird and a lot of Luck!
Works for me!
We had just laid my husband’s cousin to rest earlier that day. I hadn’t been feeling the best for almost a week.
I noticed an ache in my left shoulder on the previous Saturday and Sunday.
By Tuesday my elbow to my hand was numb. Then by Wednesday night I couldn’t sleep. I got in the bathtub where it felt like I had someone standing on my shoulder blade with a 3 inch stiletto heel.
Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!
Thursday morning when I woke up I had a squeezing pinching feeling in my chest that ran from the center of my chest all around and down under my breast to my armpit.
Yeah baby, I sure did.
I finally decided to check out some facts on my symptoms.
I looked up the signs of sweating, nausea, sharp shooting pain in the left arm, shoulder, and hand plus let’s not forget the pinching sensation I had in my chest.
1. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/911-Warnings-Signs-of-a-Heart- Attack_UCM_305346_SubHomePage.jsp
I had heard before that some of my symptoms would mimic a heart attack but I also heard that women’s heart attack symptoms were different from a man’s. So I’ll admit I still didn’t think it was a heart attack.
Yep they are!
So to confirm this I went to AHA American Heart Associations website to check it out for myself.
What I found out was that yes women and men do have different heart attack symptoms but they also have some similar ones
Okay now looking at the list and even when I look over it now I thought and still think “Wow!” you were pretty darn lucky you survived this.
Darn right I am!
Actually I’m totally and pretty dam lucky I survived the whole thing.
I could have been stupid and ignored the whole symptoms…and by the way it’s pretty typical of what women do.
Apparently women wait until the very last minute to seek treatment and by that time its almost too late.
Luckily for me it wasn’t.
Give it that most women are the caregivers of the family. They think its nothing. They think their invincible.
But we’re not!
After all, if we aren’t here then who’ll do it?
Okay so I hope I’ve made my point.
My experience in our local ER was a scary situation in it of itself.
OMG! Wait till you hear the rest…
I serously had my doubts.
First after realizing from the AHA page of signs and symptoms
That I was probably having a heart attack we jump in the car instead of calling an ambulance.
Big -big mistake!
Mistake, really? How so?
Emergency squads are trained to treat immediately for a heart attack and have an EKG and nitro. Plus they can get you into the hospital quicker.
When we got to the ER there was no one at the front desk.
We had to wait for a nurse to come from whatever place she was at. We went into a triage room. Here she proceeded to ask me questions about insurance, medications, address, etc. etc. etc. Even after I first told her I was having chest pain. I don’t know if it was because I look so young or that it was because I walked into the ER on my own that she didn’t take me seriously.
Yep! Yep! Yep!
That’s right. She even walked out of the triage room to go help someone else. Then she came back in asked me some more questions and then finally took me back to an exam room. I got to the hospital at about 5:36 pm and got into an exam room just before 6 pm.
Oh wait it gets better…
I didn’t get taken back in a wheelchair or anything but was asked to follow her.
Yes, you get it now.
I walked on my own back to the exam room. The pain was pretty intense by then. It felt like someone was pinching my skin all down around the breast.
It didn’t feel good at all.
I was asked to sit up on the gurney by a new nurse who then proceeded to ask me some questions. Like name, birthday, and oh yeah she even gave me a memory test.
A memory test. Still not sure why but I was asked to repeat three words after five minutes of talking with her. I still remember the words
Apple, table and nickle.
Here might be the reason why:
Okay so I passed with flying colors. I remembered the three words.
I just kept asking myself when am I going to see a doctor?
He arrives. The ER Doctor then asks me some questions and finally does a quick exam. After a minute or two of chatting with me he sends in the machine to do an EKG.
An EKG. Those are the little machines they wheel in and attach all those fun sticky pads on you to get a reading of your heart.
Check out more on it here:
Okay…so I’ve gotten the EKG finally but how long did that take? In all reality not long for the test at all but to get to this point was a different story.
Keep reading and you’ll understand why time is of the essence here…
Time? What time is it?
Oh let’s see, I’ve been there at least 45 minutes.
So I get all hooked up to the EKG with all those fun sticky little tabs and the EKG tech suddenly jumps up and runs out the room.
My exact thoughts. After no more than 30 seconds, well maybe a whole minute but that’s all I’m giving them because right now their time management sucks. So anyway after a minute there must have been at least a half dozen people who came flying in the exam room.
I’m thinking what the hell?
I’m immediately handed a couple of baby aspirins, then I’m given some heparin, and two IVs are stuck into me.
I asked the lady who seemed to be the nurse in charge what was going on and she had the balls to tell me,
“Uh om the doctor will be in soon to tell you what’s going on.
Soon? Really how soon?
By their time keeping standards “soon” could mean next year and by the way they were all in a panic I might not be around those next five minutes.
Yep, that’s what I thought. I even managed to tell the hubby that this wasn’t good. They don’t normally start shoving pills like aspirin and blood thinners and a sedative down your throat for nothing. And let’s not forget about the second IV they’ve just now started.
No sir ee!
So finally the doctor comes in. Calm, cool, and collect.
And he says those words you never ever and I mean never ever want to hear…
“You’re having a heart attack.”
Sorry but that’s what I thought. Then my next thought was I’m 43 and I’m having a heart attack. Right here, right now, a heart attack!
No way not possible!
. Sure I’m a little overweight but I eat lots and lots of veggies, I don’t smoke, I rarely drink, and I do exercise…plus I’m only 43!
A heart attack. Wow!
I didn’t think it was possible. I’ve always lived a very clean life and ate right so when I heard this they’re just lucky I didn’t pass out right then and there.
So next the doctor tells me they are sending me to Akron. Akron has the heart trauma center. They have the experts. They have the doctors who can save lives.
No effing way!
Yep they sure did and I’ve got mine to prove it. I went via ambulance. It was going to be a fast 45 minute ride to Akron city Hospital’s cath lab.
Speed racer get your motor running!
The guys in the ambulance were great. They kept all wheels on the ground and got me there in 119 minutes of the 120 minutes allotted to them just as soon as you walk into an ER and say those four magic words…
“I’m having chest pains.”.
Okay you said something about 120 minutes?
Yep, that’s right I found out later that from the time you walk into an ER with heart symptoms and your diagnosed with having a heart attack that staff needs to get you to the heart trauma center within 120 minutes or less. If they don’t, your life expectancy goes down by 5% for each minute after 120 minutes.
Yes, it’s true. I was told by cardiology staff who coordinates services between hospitals and the cardiac trauma center that this is a national standard set by the AHA and American College of Cardiology, but this particular hospital wants a heart attack sufferer there within 90 minutes.
Hmm? Let’s do the math…
Okay no need for that because we all know the local ER screwed up royally just as soon as I walked through the doors. I was told if I wanted they would give them a slap on the wrists…I should have had an EKG just as soon as I said the words chest pain. They were to bypass everything and do the EKG right then and there and they didn’t. I waited at least 45 minutes before I got one.
Go slap happy on their a$$es.!
Okay, so thanks to
Samaritan Care Ambulance services I make it in one piece and alive to the cath lab at Summa Akron City Hospital
Still wondering to this day why I didn’t go by chopper. Would have love to have flown to Akron via Ohio Life Flight.
The Akron City Hospital
Cardiac cath lab team and the cardiologist were waiting at the door for me when they rushed me in.
My emergency cardiologist was Dr. Khaled Sleik, from NEOC
And a member of the Summa Akron City Hospital cardiology team
I knew I had to be in some serious trouble when they were practically running the gurney to the cath lab and the whole cath lab team was waiting on me.
The cath team were great. They told me they were going to get me all fixed up. I don’t know if it was from the sedative they gave me or I knew I was in a good place but I had an overwhelming sense of relief flood my body.
Oh yeah, I did!
I knew it was bad by the intense talking and quick movements to get ready for the procedure because they hadn’t bothered to have me remove things such as my sunglasses, jewelry, and I was even still holding my phone.
Yep I sure was.
When they did manage to strip me of it and my jeans I was told they were going to do a heart catheterization via the artery in my groin.
Oh, uh , okay…I guess.
In all reality I didn’t know there were any other options for a heart catheterization…but there are.
Yep sure is. They can go through the artery in your wrist.
The procedure is done where they make a slice into your artery via groin or wrist then they fish a scope up the artery so they can take pictures to look at the arteries and heart and get a good idea of the problem.
You can check out the full details of the procedure here below:
Problem? Did you say problem?
Oh man and what a problem I had. It turns out that the right artery had three blockages.
Yep, that’s right. Three apparently in the right artery the right branch was blocked 70% but that wasn’t the biggest problem. The left branch of the right artery was blocked 80%. Nope, still not the worst of it. My center branch of the right artery was blocked 100% and that was the reason for all the pain.
Did I mention that you’re completely awake for this procedure?
No? I didn’t?
Sorry about that but you are. I could hear everything. If I could se I’d been able to see it all going on to. Apparently the monitors are right there in front of you so the doctor can watch as he moves the scope towards the heart. So can you imagine what I was thinking when they told me the percentages of blockage???
Another Sh!$t ran through my head. I just wanted to scream and say well get them open. Don’t just sit and watch the screen.
NO I didn’t because in all reality they were carrying on a very important conversation.
And what was that?
They needed to get the one that was 100% blocked open. They have three ways of doing this.
1. Put in a stent
3. Coronary artery bypass grafts
My problem was the fact that I have had diabetes since I was 9…that’s almost 35 years. Diabetes is not a friend to the cardiovascular system. Apparently over the years diabetes can cause your vascular system to narrow. This is one big reason why so many diabetic patients also have CAD (coronary artery disease).
Yeah, what a hell of a way to find out I have coronary artery disease.
So now the problem is that the part of the artery that is 100% blocked is only 1.5 in diameter and the smallest stents that are made are 2.5 in diameter.
It’s too big!
All I can say is that it was a good thing that I had a sedative in me cause all I wanted to do was once again scream…but I kept telling myself there were other options…there had to be, right?
Yes! Yes! Yes!
Dr. Sleik told me that they couldn’t do a coronary artery bypass graft because of where the blockage was at and but mostly because of the narrowing. It was just too small. To high of a risk. So instead he was going to perform an angioplasty. Now the angioplasty wasn’t going to open it up to 100% but the best they were hoping for was to 50%.
The procedure altogether was quick and painless, if you want to forget about the Novocaine shot I got in the groin .
Now that was funky!
Remember how your mouth feels after getting Novocain for a dental procedure? Well just think how weird for a shot in the groin.
Yeah? Yeah? Yeah? See what I mean?
Okay so back to the angioplasty…it’s a quick fix but it’s a dangerous one. Not only do they not want to blow out the artery they are working on but they have to use contrast dye to help see the progress they’ve made with expanding the artery.
Dye? Why’s that so bad?
Well, contrast dye that goes into your vascular system has to get out of your body via the kidneys and kidneys don’t take too kindly to contrast dye.
You could suffer from contrast induced nephropathy.
And for women it could be worse.
So when Dr. Sleik said they had to do it I told them in a panic that I already had stage III chronic kidney disease via diabetic nephropathy. So now my choices he told me was to stop the heart attack with the dye with possibly causing more damage to my kidneys and possibly leaving the hospital on dialysis or to do nothing. I had a 50-50 chance of the contrast induced nephropathy. I was told that since I had two Intravenous lines running since about 6:15 pm and it was now about 6:45 and the fact that they were going to use a very small amount of the contrast dye and keep me on Intravenous fluids for the next three days I had a lesser chance of the kidney function worsening.
Here’s when I said another prayer. I had asked God to let me survive all this and that I come out of this no worse than I had been . It was a quick prayer and I Okayed the procedure.
Phew! Phew! Phew!
Dr. Sleik told me that with the trauma to my heart, I now had some minimal damage and that the two side branches of the right artery he wasn’t able to stent or angioplasty at that time due to the trauma.
Oh Lord what next!
But he did get the center branch of the right artery open to 50%. They were going to change my blood pressure meds and put me on a statin.
Okay that sounds good, right?
But what I later found out that wasn’t the end of the treatment. I had thought I could handle the new drugs even if I had to take a few more. I could do that but what I learned was that I was going to have to come back for another heart catheterization so they could stent those two side branches of the right artery.
O’ Mon Dieu! Yep, that’s right I was going to have to come back in a few months to do this all over again…but I told myself …You’re alive and you’re going to survive this.
I give a lot of credit if not all to the cardiac cath team at Akron City Hospital and all the nurses and other supporting staff who helped to make it possible that at age 43 I survived a heart attack that had 3 branches of the right artery blocked 70%, 100%, and 80%.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
This will be a journey I will have to follow on the cardiac pathway for the rest of my life but at least I can now do it with more energy and more hope.
I’ll continue the journey in another post or two because this is far from over…