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Three days post widowmaker
I am a 40 year old married father of three. It has been a crazy month. My family caught covid 10-26 and we started having symptoms 11-2. I started feeling a lot better for a few days. Thought I was fine then started having chest pains. Thought the chest pains were just more covid. Had pain and tightness all night 11-16 and finally to er at noon on 11-17 and immediately had emergency surgery for widowmaker heart attack.
Feeling much better but get tired really easy and have some shortness of breath when I exert myself. I am so happy to be alive. Trying to eat healthy and get some rest and just relax. Having a hard time relaxing. Seem to get worried about almost anything. I wanted to reach out and see if anybody else has had a similar experience and may have tips for me. Thank you.
AHAASAKatie, November 23, 2020 9:22am EST
Good morning, I am so sorry that your family had to experience all of this! You have been through a great deal and it will take time to rest and recover. I can share the information we have on life after a heart attack with you. How is your family doing after COVID19 and your STEMI ? Please know that we are here to answer any questions we can and to support you all through this time. Best Katie
Jbm2020, November 23, 2020 11:47am EST
James, I am so sorry for you and you're family. I am praying for the best for you and your family. When you mention "the widow maker" you've mentioned me. Back on May 31, 2020 I was loading semi-trucks at an Amazon Fulfillment Center. The heart attack hit me without me feeling a thing but I fell on the dock and hit my head. I had to have 4 staples inserted into my skull. I was saved by the grace of God through a young brave tough co worker named Alana. She ran nearly 250 yards to reach me, still breathing, and gave me 30 minutes of life saving C.P.R. If not for her I would be dead now. They transported me to the local nearest hospital with Alana still performing the C.P.R.
Once arriving at the Critical Care Unit, I was met by the emergency medical team of cardio and nuero surgeons. They had to induce me into a coma that lasted 5 days. They placed my into a bath of Ice designed to preserve my organs. I was uncontrollable during most of the time I was under anethesia. I was talking clearly about crazy situations as if I was fighting Faluja fighters and had a machine gun and my buddy, Raj, had been killed, all while I was driving a jeep. One on the nurses heard me as I declared "I was gonna kill every "enemy fighter" and they weren't going to kill me. I have never been in the military, but both my dad and my wife's dad both fought in Korea. I also mentioned I was getting on my horse and going to the Oregon trail. To add to this I had 2 very vivid dreams, one about seeing Tom Petty and his band in an empty drive in theatre, getting ready to practice but the weather was so bad that they ended up driving away and so did I. The other was more personal and would rather not tell you that dream.
My dear wife was so devastated, they had called her and helped her get to the hospital, which was on the other side of town. We are new to this town and have only been here a little over a year. We are both in our mid 50's and have no family or relatives at all. We had recently moved from the North Denver Colorado metropolitan side of the city. It was getting too expensive there and both of us were having a hard time finding jobs. We are both school teachers. My wife teaches K-6 grade and I teach, Instrumental, general and vocal K-12 music. We were blessed to have a very beautiful house we had purchased back in 2009. We sold the house and soon after a few months moved out here to Indiana. I ended up coming out of the Coma and they placed me in a room close to the C.C.U. About a week later they moved me to the 6th floor of the God saving hospital to have about 2 weeks of Speech, Physical and Occupational therapy. I passed the Speech therapy while in inpatiient. I was released from the hospital on the 22nd of June of this year, 2020. My wife had picked me up. The last 2 days of my stay happened to be the feast of The Sacred Heart and then the Feast of The Immaculate Heart of Mary.
I regained all of my memory on the very last day as my wife came to pick me up. I couldn't remember that I had been working full time seasonal work with Amazon from the beginning of May. I have 4 weekly pay stubs to prove this! The tough part is now that I am out. You say you had the widow maker, well, I am told that means only 30-35 percent of my heart is functioning, which makes it very difficult to get around even the apartment we have now. We have 3 sweet kitties as our little angels of love and I am now ever so grateful but I do relate much more now to the sufferings of our Lord Jesus ****** when he went to the cross and died for my sins. My Cardiologist is excellent and has me on 7 different medicines ranging from blood pressure, to cholesterol and Plavix as well as Aspirin daily. Some of the medications I take at night as well. I am very weak. I am praying the Lord well strengthen me day by day. I trust my Lord now more than ever.
I hope this helps you with understanding what a widow maker is. By the way, my lower left ventricle is dead, the Doctors placed a metal mesh stint into it. May God be with you and your family, JBL
KarlR, November 23, 2020 11:52pm EST
You've been through quite the experience, and you're still in the early days as a heart attack survivor. Most of what you're experiencing will level off and normalize in the coming weeks and months (and presumably years ... though I'm not that far into the process myself).
As you may already be aware, the "widowmaker" nickname is given to heart attacks where the blockage is in the largest artery that feeds the heart. As the name suggests, blockages in that artery have a tendency to be fatal. You were unfortunate enough to have a blockage in that artery ... and fortunate enough to survive it.
My heart attack was less serious / severe than yours. My blockage was in the 3rd largest artery that feeds the heart (I think ... possibly the 2nd), and I received very rapid treatment. As a consequence, your path to recovery will be longer and slower than mine (and than many other survivors). But there will be progress. Three days after my heart attack, I was limping around the neighborhood for exercise. Yesterday, I hopped on my bicycle for a 27 mile ride. In the next week, I'll be going for hikes in the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park.
For specific recommendations, I'll start with cardiac rehab ... and almost every other survivor on the boards would do the same. Cardiac rehab allowed me to push my limits without endangering myself. You probably won't be able to progress as fast and far in cardiac rehab as I did. You had a much more severe heart attack. But you will progress. And you can keep progressing even after the rehab ends. It's meant to be a foundation that you can continue to build on.
You're also on the right track by trying to eat better. I've been at this for five months, and I'm still learning more about heart healthy eating. One of the things I've realized is that pre-prepared food is rarely going to be as heart healthy as I'd prefer. My best options will be meals prepared by me or my wife. Since I'd really never had an interest in cooking prior to my heart attack, I've had to develop it as a skill since my heart attack.
For me, the key is to find heart healthy foods / meals to eat. I may not be able to eat all of the things I did before. But as long as I'm constantly eating things I like, I don't feel like I'm depriving myself by eating a heart healthy diet.
On a final note, it's normal to feel anxiety after a heart attack. Based on what others have said, I think that I may feel less anxiety than most heart attack survivors. But even I feel some additional anxiety. Don't beat yourself up for feeling anxious. A lot of of heart attack survivors recommend meditation. (It doesn't work for me personally, but it works well for lots of people.) I've been relying heavily on music and exercise to maintain my mental equilibrium. Once the pandemic is over, I'll also return to some of my favorite mood enhancers ... dancing and yoga.
Find something that works for you.
Good luck. Stay safe.
EMON1, November 24, 2020 10:29pm EST
JamesM,I'm just gonna chime in briefly,and I apologize ahead of time if I seem a bit on the cold side, it's not my intenion. Heart attacks [literally the death of part of the heart muscle] are a very mixed bag of emotions, ALL of which are VERY normal. Anxiety/fear/anger/frustration you name it,all normal and often hard to really understand. Medications,diet, exercise ... lots of changes.But, the reason I'm responding is there seems to be some 'gray areas' both in other responses and your description. [You probably have,but you need to be working w/ a cardiologist, to get a full understanding of medications and life changes you'll be facing]
Just a few things to google : A 'widowmaker' is a blockage of the main LAD heart artery. You said 'emergency surgery', my guess is you had an 'angioplasty', [a catherization of your artery, often with the placement of 'stent(s)'], it's invasive but techically not surgrey. The stents are usually metal or DES. Medications often include a blood clot reducer [such as plavix] & baby aspirin; a beta blocker; a statin; along with perhaps others. All can have side effects, fatigue and shortness of breath are common, but discuss it w/ your doctor. There are options. Again I apologize if you already knew these things.
I strongly suggest you browse older postings which may comfort you with familiar experiences. It's a big deal, it is scary, and everyone finds their own unique timetable and ways to 'deal' with this 'life changer'
Another important number is your EF [ejection fraction], 'normal' is between 55(50)% and 75%. That's how efficient your heart is pumping. Below 45(40)% is considered 'heart failure', your heart works but not as well. That number can improve.
With time, things do get more 'normalized'. Happy Health!
P.S.: Don't obsess, but do your own research, it helps.
vancet, November 28, 2020 4:33am EST
Glad you made it to this very supportive site, James. Still young to get one. I was 43 when I got my widowmaker last year. 3 stents later and almost 18 months later and it's still an adjustment period. You may encounter this as the meds change. It's all part of the journey but as many point out, it gets much better if you follow the advice of your care team.
It's still super early days for you and usually when you get discharged, they give you a nice pamphlet/guide on what to do next. Everyone is different so LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. Don't compare yourselves to others too much and go at your own pace. A widowmaker is serious/deadly hence the name and what they call "time to balloon" (i.e. time to get rid of the blockage) is critical so I hope you made it to the ER very quickly as every minute counts. It took me a good week to gain confidence to walk around for a good length of time as the groin incision was super painful and mine was bruised quite badly. It took almost 3 weeks to get rid of the blotches. You will find that you will bruise more easily and bleed a lot longer before clotting. Your meds will do that. If you experience shortness of breath/anxiety, that is also normal. PTSD is something most Heart attack survivors experience as you get odd sensations in your chest causing one to panic. As soon as you feel ready to exercise mentally and physically, it would be good to get into cardiac rehab asap. It's hard during these covid times but it certainly helped me a lot. And finally, as EMON1 has said, you will need to do your own research and I would suggest start with the resources Katie referenced. You will need to be your own advocate to the care team and it helps to discover and learn what they look for and what you should be watching out for.
It's a lifelong journey at this point to have excellent heart health, so all the best to you and be kind to yourself. The diet change is super hard at first but with patience and time, you will get used to the flavors of natural ingredients and schedule "cheat meals" so you have something to look forward to. I do it **-weekly as long as my blood work is still great.
momofboys2, November 29, 2020 2:12am EST
I just went through the same thing. I'm 39 and had a "widow maker" heart attack on sept 30. Actually 5 days prior I was taken by ambulance to a different hospital for heart attack Symptoms, they dismissed my symptoms (probably because of my age and sex) and sent me home. When I got to the hospital on the 30th I had 100% blockage in my LAD. My heart muscle is now severely damage with less than30% function. I'm in heart failure. It was a very scary time, but I'm very thankful to be alive
YukonDenison, November 30, 2020 11:52am EST
Good Mighty Monday morning! You are convalescing! It's ok to be tired. Please plan for a change to a Mediterranean diet with fresh veggies and fruit. Please think about mild exercise at least twice a day when your doctor approves. Walking is good, even in the house.
I hope you feel much better today! I had a mild heart attack in 2016, with pesky pain one morning: poke, poke, poke! I woke with the pain, kept walking around to ease the pain. Nope! Tried calling the local heart attack line for my hospital. Ring, Ring. I finally called the cardiology clinic nurse who advised me to either come in right away or go to the Emergency Department. Tom drove me in to the ED, which admitted me after a cardiogram. I had showered and eaten breakfast, so admission was for a day of monitoring and next day cardiac catherization. My right coronary artery was clogged with placque. Two stents were added, life-saving stents! The hospitalist reminded me to convalesce, not to leap into my hospital bed and to walk for exercise. The cardiologist referred me to Cardiac Rehabilitation later, which was valuable. With our pandemic, of course, treatment planning is different. I hope you can do the cardiac rehab at hope with either telephone or Zoom or Google whatever contact with cardiac rehabe therapist! There is a manual for the cardiac rehabiltiation program by the American Heart Association: www.heart.org