I Always Knew Dad and I Were Very Much AlikeMy 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!