"Make Every Day Your Masterpiece" - JW
Friday, May 3rd, 2019, somewhere around 8:30 PM, I had a heart attack. Saturday May 4th, 2019, I had a pseudoaneurysm in an artery in my leg related to the life-saving procedure they performed the night before. I am told I am not old but someone forgot to tell my body.
I went to the ER with crushing chest pain that radiated down both arms and up into my neck and jaw. My breathing was rapid. Just prior to that my partner asked me if I wanted to go to the ER as we sat preparing to watch a movie. He was very worried and wanted me to go. My hesitancy comes from the fact that this happened the week before and the hospital told me everything was fine. I believed them and so episodes that recurred for several days after, I chalked up to indigestion, which was nearly a fatal mistake. This was by far the worst pain I had so far, so I reluctantly agreed to go back
They hooked me up to an EKG and the pain began to get worse, much worse. The look of concern on the techs face did not go unnoticed as he hurried out of the room and soon after the resident doctor stepped in. He looked at the EKG and he looked at me and said the scariest words I ever heard. “Kim, you are presently having a heart attack. A lot of things are going to happen very quickly all around you. I need you to focus on your breathing and let us take care of you”. I turned to the RN who was busy doing something near my head and with tears in my eyes I told him I was scared. He took my hand and said “I know. You are going to be ok. You’re not alone and you’re not going anywhere. Just breathe. We are going to take care of you and you will be just fine”. With that, he quickly dosed me with morphine and nitro and the pain stopped very quickly. My partner came in and I told him what they said and he stayed with me while the world moved around me. There was a life-saving team that operated in perfect precision all around me in a tiny space. There were 2 paramedics, an RN, a resident doctor and a technician. They hurried to put IV’s in both arms, administer drugs, pull blood and prepare me for the heart cath lab. They then rushed me into the Heart Cath Lab where the rest of the life saving team was. I was fortunate to have the head of the Cardiology department on call that night and he performed angioplasty where they go through an artery in your groin with a tiny camera and a small balloon pump so that they can inflate the artery and two metal stents they subsequently implant. The camera travels up from the cath injection site in the groin to look at the arteries supplying blood and oxygen to the heart. They found a 90% blockage in the LAD.
I was told later that they call that type of heart attack, the “widow maker”. A lot of people do not get to walk away from that. The artery they placed two stents in, apparently supplies over 50% of the blood and oxygen to the heart. The LAD is the most important of the 3 main coronary arteries. They couldn’t give me any drugs to help me relax or sleep through it because I had eaten dinner just prior to coming in. It was scary to not have context for the procedure and know what to expect. Thankfully it was not bad and the cardiologist and assistant constantly reassured me. There is a lot of pressure and some fluttering in the chest but other than that they give a lot of nitro during the procedure to keep the blood vessels open and that was enough to keep the chest pain from returning.
After the procedure I was put into ICU where I spent the next 3 nights closely monitored. I would have been able to go to the telemetry ward sooner however, when I was allowed to become mobile, I tore an artery. It’s the strangest thing, I was getting back into bed and there was a discernable pop I felt a split second before excruciating pain at the site where they inserted the heart cath in my groin. I developed a pseudoaneurysm at the site and they immediately put me back on bedrest. The ICU nurse had to hold pressure on the site for 30 minutes and then they kept a 5lb sandbag over the site for 8 hours. I was not allowed to move my leg at all during that entire 8 hours.
My partner spent so much time with me while I was in there. I cannot imagine having to have gone through that without him. I’m young for this type of condition to occur and it took us by complete surprise. Now I have a cardiologist, several medications and a cardiac rehab team that I will be working with. I guess I am sharing this because I don’t want anyone to make the same mistake I almost did. If you feel chest pain, don’t let them tell you it’s nothing. Until your satisfied, you have them do every test they can do. And don’t be fooled into thinking it can’t happen to you because of age or fitness level. Genetics can play a huge part. I’m very lucky. I get to live to talk about it. I’m still processing the emotional part of this, I am grateful for everyone in my life, but especially for Joshua and the amazing life-saving team that took care of me that night. I plan to make every day that I can a Masterpiece. I want to earn the privilege that was given back to me by all those involved in saving my life, each day going forward.