Nov 14
cgleason , Posted on SUPPORT NETWORK Blog

I Always Knew Dad and I Were Very Much Alike

My dad and I were always close.  The day he had his first heart attack at age 45 I was devistated.  But he had an amazing cardiologist who kept him alive for the next 25 years, three heart attacks, and numerous defibrilators.  The day my dad died was the worst day of my life and it took a long time to get over missing him.  He had always been so strong and pulled through each surgery, test and complication.  He was the pillar of our family.  It was just unfathomable that he was gone. 
Then 10 years later, almost to the day that he passed away, I started having trouble breathing.  It's funny because I was always so paranoid that I would have a heart attack just like dad.  He and I are both type A people, run on high at work and crashing at home at the end of the day.  We would take a long time to wind down on vacation, but be wound tight the first day back at work.  I would visit my cardiologist (also dad's cardiologist) at the littlest things.  But when it actually happened I was in complete denial.
It started as trouble breathing.  I had just gotten over a cold, so I thought it was that.  As the day wore on at work it was getting worse, so I went in to see my general dr.  He was unavailable on short notice, but the nurse saw me.  She said she didn't really hear anything in my lungs, but would ask the dr. if I could get an anibiotic since I had had walking pnemonia before and had just recovered from a lengthy cold.  By the time I returned to work that day, it was difficult to walk from my car to the office.  I just couldn't get enough air and had to stop a few time.  I decided to go home and rest.  When I got home I was climbing the stairs to change my clothes and that was the first time I had chest pain.  I thought to myself that I must really have pnemonia for the pain to be that bad.  So I relaxed the rest of the evening. 
During the night I was awakened about every two hours with severe chest pain, but when it passed I would go back to sleep thinking the anibiotics hadn't kicked in yet.  By morning the pain was so bad I asked my husband to take me to the ER because they would have to give me a stronger anibiotic.  It never occurred to me that it could be anything else.  As soon as we entered the ER and they started asking questions, I burst into tears from the pain.  They rushed me in to get a chest exray (because I was telling them it was probably pnemonia) and fortunately because it was also chest pain, they gave me nitro.  The pain began to subside when it came back that my lungs were clear.  Then what on earth could it be?????
They said they were keeping me so that they could rule out other things starting with my heart.  But of course, I thought it couldn't possibly be my heart, this was a breathing problem leading to chest pain.  When my reflux got so bad a few years ago and gave me chest pain shooting through to my back, I thought for sure I was having a heart attack, that was what a heart attack certainly felt like!  So I said ok, just to let them do their thing.
The next morning they scheduled me for a stress test.  I was very nervous since my dad had gone through this many times himself.  Not that I feared the treadmill, but breathing was such a problem, I didn't know if I could do it.  They took me off the nitro and put me on the treadmill.  I wasn't on it 20 seconds when the excruciating pain in my chest hit again and one of the nurses went running to find the doctor.  He immediately took me in to do a Cath. 
After I was back in my room, my husband and I were awaiting the results.  It was a Saturday evening and I told him to go on home since we surely wouldn't hear anything until Monday morning.  Ten minutes after he left the nurse came in and asked where he was, I said "on his way home".  She told me to call him back because I was going into surgery.  Even after all of that, I said "For What!!!"  She said she'd let the surgeon come in and talk to us.  I was in utter disbelief when he said I needed double by-pass to pass three blocked areas in my arteries.  "What??!!"  How could I have missed it after all the worry about having this happen?
Everything after that went well, the surgery, the recovery, the living of life.  My doctors were all exceptional, my husband was wonderful and my neighbors brought food to my house every night for over two weeks. I am so fortunate to have such a wonderful support system!! 
I've now learned that a heart attack can sometimes seem like something else.  My fathers heart attacks were all very straight forward.  Severe chest pain, nausia and arm pain.  But mine was completely different and nothing that I would have imagined.  It's still scary for me to think that I waited so long to go to the hospital. 
I want everyone to know that you should always get checked out, even if you think your pain or uncomfort will go away and must be related to something else.  You could be dealing with something deadly and it can turn on you in an instant.  And if you have a family history, make sure you have a cardiologist do a health baseline.  I did that and I was comforted knowing that they knew me and my history. 
I hope and pray that I don't pass this on to my children, but if I do, I hope that they've learned to never take their health for granted.  It can happen to anyone!
  • thedollhouselady
    THANK YOU FOR SHARING the information you've given is valuable to many including myself. maybe now i'll follow through on tests my cardiologist has ordered. I've been afraid of the test results and possible surgery. frankly it is the anesthesia that scares me.
  • Kegreene
    My situation was very similar, but without the family history of heart disease. Back in January I had bronchitis, and was having problems bouncing back. Everyone said it took a while to recover, so I attributed my breathing problems to that. However, when I couldn't even walk across the parking lot at work to enter my office, I knew something was wrong. I, too, thought it was pneumonia. Wrong! I was diagnosed with heart failure, had to endure thoracentesis twice, having first 500 ml then an entire liter of fluid drawn off my left lung. When I left the hospital after a week, my heart function was only at 15%. I hoped it would improve significantlyrics, but it only came up to 30%, so my doctor recommended a defibrillator. I resisted this for a while, because, after all, I had never had heart problems and should be able to recover from this. I didn't, though, and just had the procedure last week. It's been an emotional journey of denial and acceptance of a new normal, but I am thankful for modern medicine and the options it offers. We women tend to overlook ourselves and minimize things that we would insist our loved ones seek treatment for. Hope others reading this can learn lessons from our experiences. Don't delay seeking treatment, or at least, getting symptoms diagnosed.
  • cdameron
    I am so glad you are doing well. My story is very similar to yours... insert Asthma as my reasoning for breathing problems with it lasting for three months and you have another story of denial. I also went to the Emergency Room, was admitted and was scheduled for a stress test. An astute nurse who had been closely monitoring my blood work over night sounded the alarm and I was rushed to a cath lab for three stents. My father died after a bypass at age 60, my heart attack came at 71... I knew that I was in trouble but couldn't get myself to believe it as I hadn't been ill in 30 years. My message to people is to go to ER especially to women who's symptoms may be different than mens... Not only might women experience heart attacks differently they might also experience recuperation differently. There doesn't seem to be a norm, only time and putting forth the energy to understand and work toward a new lifestyle can cause change. I am so glad you wrote your story... It makes me feel better about mine! Life is good, I did have to retire from teaching but otherwise I am happily living my life.
  • mingo1
    Your story is similar to mine, except I was the one that had the widow maker in 1993 at age 45. I also had no idea of what was happening at my son's soccer game and just passed out. I had no other blocked arteries and the area where the LAD was looked like a severe right turn. They could do nothing about it and soon after I had a defibrillator implanted. I am now close to 69 years old and going strong. Many shocks, but none for over a year. My family and especially my wife were just fantastic and have been for all these years. Sometimes I get scared, but it goes away quickly when I realize the many years I have had and will have. My doctors were also the best and my electrophysiologist is fantastic. I always tell my sons to watch out for any signs as both my grandfather and father had attacks (both died at a young age). Today is my wife's birthday and I thank God for giving me the time to be with the love of my life. I know you will be fine and celebrate many more of your own birthdays. Live strong. Take Care.
  • pteyze
    My situation was similar too. I waited the whole evening,, into the night and part of the next morning thinking this can't be happening. Even with heart disease in my family. I was lucky, they saved me . Taught me , don't second guess yourself
  • maddpax1
    I am glad to hear you are doing well. I had a similar situation. I was on the treadmill when I had mine, so I was in good hands. They stabilized me, and sent me straight to the cath lab. LAD 100% blocked, Right side was 70% blocked. I now have 4 stents, and I am much better. Every little chest pain concerns me, I know how you feel. The cardiologist said that I must be blessed because most people do not survive with V-Tach like I had. I thank the lord everyday that I was saved. I have dropped 23 pounds, now at 168, which I like. I changed my diet, lifestyle, and I exercise each day. Take care of yourself, and if you have ANY chest pains, get it checked out right away. Peace.
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