Feb 17
cspikerc , Posted on SUPPORT NETWORK Blog


Hello Everyone,

On 11 Feb 2017 I suffered a heart attack and survived. I am 36 years old and active duty military. I have been around the world and in & out of combat situations, but this is probably the most scared I've ever been. It was Saturday and I was home alone (my wife was at work- she's a military Reservist), I went through my regular morning routine for when she's at drill on the weekends: wake up, make coffee, sit outside with the dogs drinking coffee and have my morning cigarette (I am in the process of quitting- funny how a heart attack will make you change). Afterwards I got in my Jeep that I hadn't driven in a couple of weeks due to onset of Sciatica (I couldn't work the clutch) and saw that a chicken had laid four eggs in my floorboard. So I got out, grabbed the eggs, set them in my front yard and went on to run a few errands. After a couple of hours, I returned home, had another cup of coffee (and cigarette) with the dogs in the back yard. Then we (the dogs and I) went inside and I laid on the couch to watch a movie; this was around noon. About 30 minutes into the movie, the chest pains began- thinking heartburn/indigestion, I got up for a drink of water. Then, knowing that I was home alone, and that noone would come around for another few hours, I went to sit on the front porch to monitor the situation (that way if anything bad did happen, someone in the neighborhood would see) but as soon as I walked out the front door, my vision blurred and both arms lost strength, became numb/tingly and hurt at the same time. I already had 911 dialed on my cell so all I had to do was hit the 'dial' button. I couldn't hold the phone to my ear so I put it on speaker and told the 911 personnel "I need an ambulance at (my address)" repeatedly. I could hear him asking me questions, but couldn't process it so I just kept repeating "I need an ambulance at (my address)."  I ended up in the hospital being told that "your heart has 3 arteries (descending arteries, I learned later), the left and right were 100% occluded (blocked) and the middle was 50% occluded.

Now I don't know what to do. Any advice/insight/help you all may have for a 36 year old heart attack survivor (and his family) would be nice.

*UPDATE* 16 March 2017


Thank you for all the prayers, kind words, and support. It has been just over a month since my heart attack and I am beginning to get follow on care; had my first cardiology appointment last Friday.Unfortunately, it has taken a while for the records to get transferred from the civilian hospital to the military hospital where my follow on care will occur. I still do not have a lot of information- except that another procedure, type unknown, will be needed (because I still have one full blockage and a couple of partials) which is reinvigorating a lot of the negative emotions that accompanied the heart attack.

I have (with the help of my wife and some nutrition/diet classes I've taken) re-evaluated what I eat and am (slowly) starting to eat healthier. It is difficult to change the meal prep/cooking and grocery habits (not to mention expensive- but you can't put a price on life...unless you're an insurance salesman) that have developed. There are plenty of resources and good options out here, even in the middle of the Pacific, but my biggest struggle with changing what I eat seems to be the psychological barriers to change- and throw some stubborness/denial into the mix too.

I have also realized that I still have a lot to learn about what happened- the only info I have gotten so far was while I was in the hospital, still in disbelief and unsure of what to ask or even what I was being told meant.

Again, thank you all for reaching out to me; I will do my best to get into with all of you with any questions that I may have or for help, advice, etc.

  • MAYR
    I m going to write to you because it has taken me a number of years to understand the workings of the heart, arteries, etc. after my heart attack at 47. What I now know is the condition of the endothelium (lining of arteries) is what you MUST protect. No matter what our cholesterol is, and of course you must stop the smoking, you need to do the things like diet, exercise and supplements that will improve those arteries and keep them from being blocked again. You are young enough to get over this. I am 65 and have had no more attacks. Do NOT depend on Statins to do what you need. High cholesterol is like a fever, a warning. You must take the initiative and do healthy things for yourself. Bless you and hope to hear you are doing fine soon! Will share if you need info. Mary
  • Dottieann
    So so sorry Chris...so young...as I have learned age does not matter anymore...for anything not only the heart...so very sorry you had to go through this..I hope things are better for you now...take care of yourself and God bless...I will keep you in my prayers. Dottie
  • Kgump
    Its a total life style change. I had a heart attack at 39. Exercise is good but be careful to not over do it. Sodium is bad along with anything deep fried ect. Keep a good watch on your blood pressure. If you ever notice any swelling in your legs of face get a check up. Swimming is good to do. I thought of it as a second lease on life.
  • Lace
    So sorry Chris God Blessing to you and family
  • purple heart
    purple heart,
    First don't give up hope!! I was only 34 when I had a sudden cardiac arrest! It changed my life forever which caused get sadness!! Give it time and talk to people! I had no one to talk to or understand! I went to cardiac rehab with a bunch of old men! Guess what??? They helped me by sharing their stories! We each go through it differently but we are now connected in the heart club! I am actually in the zipper club since they opened my chest to hook me up to a bi-vad machine to give my heart a rest while waiting for a transplant! My liver and kidneys shut down and I was taken off the bi-bad! As you can tell I survived and not only do I have my own heart I have my liver and kidneys working again! Why I don't know except always remember you are a survivor!!! We both were young like many others so make each day count! Take time to enjoy the little things in life! Remember this is journey with bad days and good days! Just know the bad days will pass. Thing can really get better! We just can not go back to who we were! We can become better!! Love your survivor scars if you have any! Don't let anyone tell you they are gross! I am a female and I am proud of mine! Best wishes ! Sorry for the long winded post!
  • Airplndriver
    Hi Chris, My name is Andy…I can relate to much of what you said. (My story begins this mess, skip to the bottom for my thoughts. I can be a little wordy.) I had a similar experience about a year ago when I was barely 37, March 11th, 2016. I had the same thought that the pain was related to heartburn, as I had just sat down to eat. I tried to lay on the couch to settle my stomach but that had no effect. I moved to the bed but was up shortly after searching for a comfortable place. I finally settled on a place on the dining room floor that seemed to work to alleviate the feelings. A couple minutes later I felt worse and my arms felt like I had been lifting heavy furniture but I hadn’t (in years). My neck and chest felt “weird” and that’s the only real way to describe it. I just happened to be at my parent’s house and my mom was home. I asked her to take me to my doctor but soon asked to go to urgent care or the ER. I attempted to get off the floor but my muscles felt like Jello. When I couldn’t get off the floor, I told her to call 911. Soon thereafter I started to sweat; dry to soaked in 15 seconds. I am a second career nursing student, in my final year and I had no clue what was going on. Luckily, she had been a nurse for 40 years and already knew what was going on and the paramedics were on the way. When they arrived, they hooked up the monitor and got an ECG trace. If I could describe the look on the paramedic’s face, in one word, it would be panic. “Get him on the bus now” is all I heard. Nineteen aspirin, 3 or 4 sprays of nitro and I quickly I arrived at the ER. Twelve people around me, some my classmates, and I was clueless. The cardiologist walked in and said “you are right in the middle of a massive heart attack.” Shortly (5 min), I was on my way to the cardiac cath. lab. A diagnosis of a STEMI w/ 100% occlusion, two stents and 12 pills (every day) later and I was “better.” I do smoke and I could lose a few pounds but I’m not big, I eat relatively healthy and I’m not inactive. On top of those factors, I had been an airline pilot, requiring thorough physicals every 6 months, including an EKG. What happened, and why is all I could think of. I should understand this as a nursing student, I thought and I could even explain it to a patient. But now, it was me that WAS the patient. Anyway, that’s my story and I can tell you that my doctors have looked at everything. We’re still working on medications and I’m happy with that. While I have some risk factors, most people do. However, even my doctor is surprised at my age and condition. Right now, it looks like hypercholesterolemia and genetics. Basically, my body makes too much cholesterol and fat for my blood and it likely has a genetic component. There is an explanation for your situation and a solution. My advice is to be patient and not stress about it and I know that’s easier said than done. Work with your provider and get a second opinion if you don’t buy the answers or believe there is more to be done. My cardiologist is a family friend, my dad’s Dr., and one of the top rated in the nation. But he didn’t tell me $%&%. His NP however did, and that was approximately one week ago. There are answers and that means that there are things that can help prevent another heart attack. As a survivor and soon-to-be RN, take your meds. It’s likely the best thing that you can do for yourself and your family. I might sound like an idiot for stating the obvious but missing them can change levels and they become less effective. Make sure the follow up visits are scheduled consistently and ask questions. The docs work for you, even at the VA. This forum is a great resource and provided me with a little piece of mind. Enjoy life and try not to worry too much. This medical stuff happens and I’ve learned that the human body is odd, inconsistent and amazing. It can break but it can also fix itself, even though we might need to help it along a little. Our bodies aren’t 20 anymore but they were apparently still young enough to do some work on their own. Blockage in any artery can kill but the left often has lower rates of survivability…I honestly believe we survive for a reason. Call it a higher power, GOD, a purpose or simply just a body that worked the right way, at the right time, whatever you like. We also have a medical community that’s pretty smart about heart issues. If we use them and take an active role in our own care, it’ll work out. Take some time and enjoy life and family, get used to the idea and find out what is going on inside. Of course, diet and exercise is important as is stress reduction and, it goes without saying, quit smoking. I know that’s not easy as I am trying myself. Make sure the meds are working for you and let the medical people know about new pains, conditions and changes. Make sure you talk to your family because they’re probably worried or scared just as much, or more, than you are. If I can be of any help or you need to vent, I’m always around. I wish you the best of health and a long life! Thanks for sharing, Andy
  • NixNax
    Welcome to club my man! Heart attack at 46. A stent and six different type of drugs and now, down to three drugs. I can tell you it gets better. You might go through some PTSD but that also gets better. Love God, love your family, exercise, eat healthy, and live your life. There are going to be bad days and you might go running to the ER a few time but you'll find out it might just be a reaction from the drugs. Try not to stress much. Find luagh a lot. Stay bless.
  • shirleymom
    I was 57 when I had a massive heart attack the day after Good Friday in 2004. I was told I died twice that day. I had three emergency stents, and six weeks later I received 6 bypasses. That was 13 years ago!!! I am doing well now. Yes, there are problems, ups and downs, but overall I am in pretty good shape. What to do now? Relax. Listen to your doctors and ask them lots of questions. Get to know your limits and make peace with them. I am lucky I have a good pension and good health insurance from my job at a university. I am grateful every day for my life.
  • shirleymom
    By the way, I was married to a Vietnam Vet for over 38 years before he died of agent orange. He was my true support through all my heart stuff. I miss my Marine.
  • cdameron
    I am so sorry you have experienced something that we like to think only happens to older adults. You are a survivor so that makes the situation more hopeful. Maybe your age plays in your favor as far as muscle strength and the ability for the body to recuperate! I know you are trying to stop smoking but it is mandatory that you do that now. I stopped some 35 years ago with what was considered at the time as a high tech accessory... a carrot to chew on when I wanted a cigarette. Not pretty but the best thing I could do to keep myself from turning inside out. I also chewed gum... What really motivated me was my mother's announcement that she had lung disease. I could not expect her to quit unless I did too. That said, it took her another three years but my smoking days were over. I often say she saved my life... still my medical records say I was a smoker... like an accusation I can't defend. No matter what level of heart attack you have had your life has changed. I hope you will attend some kind of rehabilitation and see yourself as an able individual with a heart problem. There are many people on this site that will help you cope if you open yourself to their experience. Life is good because you are a survivor. Thank you for posting your story, that is the first step... catharsis I realized rather quickly after telling my story the first time. Stay with it... Life is good.
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