A Cardiac Anniversary

Staying heart-healthy is a partnership between your cardiologist and yourself. Patients should follow the guidelines given to them and listen to the advice dispensed.

My wife and I celebrated an anniversary—our second–July 20. Not our wedding anniversary (our 35th will arrive in January), but one that I acquired July 20, 2006, the day of my heart attack.

Upon arising Sunday morning, I received a kiss from my better half, a pat on the back and a “You’re in a much better place than you were two years ago.’” Thankfully, and due in large part to the skilled cardiologists who diagnosed and treated me, I am. My heart seems to be getting stronger. I enjoy my life and my work. I get satisfaction out of the fact I can write and am here to tell about my experience. As I have mentioned before, others have not been so lucky.

I remember I didn’t feel quite myself the night before. I thought, like many, it was indigestion or the like. I should have known better when we took our daily walk and, not even a third into it, I had to go back home because I didn’t feel up to it.

As I was told later by my physician, that could have been the start of what was to happen. A piece of plaque in my left anterior descending artery broke off and my body, thinking it was something it needed to heal, sent blood cells rushing to the area.

Later that evening (and I look at this as interesting at this point), I did a bit of yardwork. I also slept well. Yet, at 8:10AM July 20, 2006, the chest pain and the cold sweat were clues enough. Ninety minutes later, I was in the cardiac cath lab at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Langhorne, PA, with my life in my cardiologist’s hands.

“We’ve stopped the attack, now we’ll see if we can place the stents,’’ said one of the physicians to my wife. As it turned out, I avoided open heart surgery by the space of a few millimeters. About the only thing I remember from that day otherwise is a nurse putting four Plavix pills into my hand, giving me a cup of water and sternly stating, “Take these.”

My first night wasn’t easy. A pump was installed to give my heart rest for 24 hours. Looking back, I’m sure most cardiologists would agree it was a boon to my eventual recovery. By my third day, I was moved out of intensive care and began to feel better. I was encouraged to walk. Cardiac rehabilitation actually began in my hospital bed and I went home on the fifth day.

The amazing part of all this is how I did not realize until much later just what good hands I was in that morning. My interventional cardiologists were in a class by themselves.

“Many wouldn’t have done what your group was able to do that morning,’’ said a physician friend. “When the clot is in the LAD, many will send you right in for bypass surgery and won’t even attempt what was done.

“If anything happens to me like that, I want the same group.” Things, however, have certainly gotten brighter since then. I have learned to enjoy my workouts in the gym—I am on my eighth workout card—and we have fun making tasty heart-healthy meals. I take my medication religiously.

Put it this way: it is an anniversary I would rather have not added to my calendar. Staying heart-healthy is a partnership between your cardiologist and yourself. Patients should follow the guidelines given to them and listen to the advice dispensed. And, chances are, they will be around to celebrate the type of anniversary everyone cherishes.