Don't Keep WalkingOn a hot, sticky July monring, I left my apartment for Central Park. I was going for a short jog before I headed for my dreaded mammography. I wasn't in the mood but if I let my moods dictate my exercise regimen, I would have turned into a couch potato long ago.
I can't say it was my best run, but it wasn't my worse, and I felt fine. That was until I reached the bridal path when a crushing, searing pain came over my left chest, my left shoulder and down my left arm.
I really thought that my muscles were twitching, because of my workout yesterday in the gym. Maybe I twisted my shoulder while I was running and maybe I could walk it off.
So I started to walk towards the entrance to the park but with every step it became more and more difficult. A park attendent rode by in one of those open vehicles. I thought about stopping him and telling him I might be having a heart attack. But then I thought I probably wasn't and they would call an ambulance, creating a lot of drama over a muscle spasm.
But I decided that I would stop at urgent care on my way home. Forget about the mammography. The question was could I make it out of the park, let alone another mile to urgent care?
I told myself that it would be all right if I just kept walking.
When I woke, I was in an ambulance, surrounded by people, busy and concerned. They told me I had a massive heart attack. They gave me aspirin and nitro glycerin. I felt as though I was trapped in a bad dream and everything was surreal.
Evidently after walking a half a mile, I collasped and had a seizure in the grass. A jogger and a biker stopped and called 911. They were kind enough to stay with me, turn me on my side, so I wouldn't choke on my vomit. I have no memory of the two women who saved my life (but later I found out who they were and took them to lunch, which was the least I could do.)
The ambulance took me to Lenox Hill Hospital where I went into cardiac arrest. My main artery was blocked 99% and it took two stents to open it. After the surgery I stayed in ICU for four days.
There is little doubt that God was watching over me because every cardiologists who walked into the room told me how lucky I was. I only survived because of I got help in time.
I have a massive heart attack in Central Prak, which was crowded. Ten days later I would have been at Cape Cod, running alone along the shoreline, early in the morning. If I collapsed there, no one would have seen me or found me in time. I would have been dead by the water. Even if I survived, by the time I reached the nearest hospital, it was doubtful they could have done anythbing for me.
Here's the real scary part. I never had any symptons. I never had indisgestion or chest pains. I was never out of breath, a runner and a gym rat. I did have high cholesterol and ignored the doctor's advice to take medication. My mother had high cholesterol, never took pills and lived to be ninety seven. I always thought I had her genes.
More likely I have my father's genes. He died of a heart attack when he was forty-six. But he was a chain smoker, overweight, never exercised. I thought I was quite healthy. So did my family and friends. Which only goes to show, you never know.
I didn't want to take the pills for cholesterol and now I take five pills a day. They leave me light headed but that's a small price to pay. I watch what I eat, try to limit sugar and saturated fat. I do miss my cupcakes and French fries. And I'm terrified it might happen again, and this time I won't be so lucky.
So what have I learned from this?
If your doctor tells you to take medication, seriously consider it. You may not need it, you may be fine, or you may be playing Russian roulette.
If you feel as though you might be having a heart attack, don't tell yourself you're being silly. Get help right away! I only survived because I was in a place where others called for help. If I had been home alone, I would have sank on my bed.
Support the American Heart Association - a great organization.
And if you're going to have a heart attack, Central Park in the place to be.