It Almost Kicked Me!October 25, 2012. I had been getting worse instead of better and based on a bout a few years before, I thought I had caught pneumonia. All of the symptoms were there except fever... aches and pains, couldn't sleep laying down, couldn't stay awake sitting up, couldn't walk across the room without stopping to catch my breath. Had to stop and rest going to and from the mailbox; I even had to stop to catch my breath in order to take a shower. When we went to bed on the 25th, I told my wife that if I was not better the following day, I wanted her to take me to the doctor so I could get some antibiotics and a shot of cortizone to "kick this thing before it kicked me".
The following morning, I really wasn't any worse, but I wasn't any better either. By that afternoon, I was feeling worse. So, off to the local walk-in clinic we went. We knew the doctor as we have gone to the same place for colds, the flu, sore throats, etc., for a long time. After telling him what was going on, he ordered the standard stuff... blood work, chest x-rays, EKG, etc. A few minutes after all of this, the nurse came in and said, "he wants us to do an echo cardiagram". I thought it was pretty odd but just assumed that the insurance company would allow it, so they wanted one. Shortly after that, the doctor came back in and said, "The good news is you do not have pneumonia. The bad news is you are going into heart failure and we have called an ambulance to take you to the hospital right now." I felt totally in shock. I replied that I needed to talk to my wife first to which he said a PA is talking to her right now, then she will be allowed to come back here with you and wait. When she came in, I saw that she was as much in shock as I was. So, off to the hospital we went.
The next few days were a complete blur, but on Sunday, the cardiologist came in and informed me that my heart had 100% blockage on one side and 99% blockage on the other and my ejection fraction was at 5%. I was barely alive and desparately needed surgery that they only provided in the downtown hospital. So, another ambulance ride. I met the surgeon who was to lead my open-heart surgery, a very nice Australian. He opened our conversation by telling me that we really shouldn't be having this conversation because I should not be alive. He explained how the left side of my heart had stopped working and that if I did not do what he wanted to do, I would be lucky to make it home. My by-pass surgery was the next morning, Halloween Day of 2012.
Fast-forward to today, a little over 3 1/2 years later, my ejection fraction is at 50% (the average person is 50-55%) and my cardiologist says he wishes his blood test results were as good as mine. I have put on a little too much weight as I have learned to love food again after being a non-smoker for the first time in 30 years. I walk anywhere from 4 to 10 miles per day, depending on how much time I have. I meditate. I take breaks. I stop for lunch instead of eating at my desk. I have learned that most foods are okay in moderation and do no harm as long as you don't go crazy with them. Most importantly, I am alive and I live. We travel more now than we have in years; I play golf; I go fishing; I ride four-wheelers; I ride zip-lines; I do most anything I want. I know I am not the only one who has had open heart surgery and survived. Had I not (finally) listened to my body, however, I could have very easily been a statistic. And I am grateful. Man-O-Man, am I ever grateful.