Scared, Sad And Yet Strangely Optimistic
Hello Everyone. My name is Ron, I am 38 years old and I am a heart attack survivor. I have read several posts and books of individuals having their heart attack 50 years and older; however, here I am in my late 30's.
I am married with a 5-year-old son. They are the world to me, and I am scared out of my mind at the thought that I may not be there one day for them. My goal in life, is to focus on a new life style and do what I need to do to achieve that milestone.
Some background information - after high school, undergraduate, and graduate school I began gaining weight. When I was 33, I weighed in at 315lbs. My height is 5'10"; however, I have a medium build which masks my weight and only makes me look chubby. Regardless, I embarked on a mission and for a few years I began to watch my intake and worked out 5 days a week. I managed to lose 47.5 lbs. In February of this year, I began to lose motivation and over the course of the next 8 months I managed to gain 20 lbs. back.
I have a stressful job as a Sr. Director for a SaaS company; however, I have always enjoyed anxiety and stress as this is what has helped fuel me to ensure I am successful in my role. Early this November, my wife and I embarked on the next chapter in our life where we purchased a home. On November 15th, while attending a company dinner I noticed that my heart began to race. My thoughts were that it must be a reaction to a couple of mixed drinks I had earlier - as the night progressed I noticed my heart rate was elevated and when I got home it remained that way and so I decided to lay down. I woke up one time feeling as if my heart was about to jump out of my chest, but I got up, drank some cold water, took an aspirin and went back to bed.
Over the next few days, I found that I would have up and down episodes. These episodes are hard to explain, but they simply felt as if I had high anxiety - and the anxiety was building within the center of my chest. At times, the feeling of the anxiety turned to a "tickle." Yeah, I know what you're saying - a "tickle?" Yes, it felt as if a feather was running across my chest. Again - I thought nothing of it. During a break, I decided to take a walk around the block and as I did this I noticed I was losing my breath as soon as I got out the door! Again - I thought nothing of it and chalked it up to being tired and feeling under the weather. Besides, several employees at work were ill; therefore, I felt that it may be that I was just coming down with something.
It was not until that Saturday (a full 4 days after the initial symptoms) that I began to think it was my heart. But I only did so after receiving word from my primary care doctors staff that my doctor had passed away. I then immediately thought of my grandfather whom I heard had passed away at the age of 33 with a massive heart attack that I began to worry. Throughout the morning, I was feeling better and as I took my son with me to run some errands, on the way back home he fell asleep. As I pulled into the garage, I lifted him and took him into the home. This was a bit of a monumental effort and as soon as I got him through the doors I called my wife over and told her that something was wrong, and that I think it was my heart. I immediately went to the hospital - they took me in right away, my blood pressure was slightly elevated, and my EKG was all normal. They had me sit back outside until a nurse could draw my blood. After an hour wait, I was pulled in, my blood taken and then dismissed back into the lobby. 30 minutes later, the nurse came out and ushered me in, gave me 6 Tylenol pills to chew and the doctor visited with me right away. He said that my troponin levels were elevated to 1.875 and that it appears I may have had a cardiac event - they admitted me into the hospital right away.
A day later I had an Echocardiogram and two days later they performed an Angiogram. The results showed that a small vessel at the end of an artery became 100% blocked. Due to the smallness of the vessel they were unable to clear it. The rest of the heart appeared to be strong, and there was mild plaque buildup (less than 20%) on some other arteries.
My cardiologist confirmed the heart attack and mentioned that it occurred, thankfully, in a less critical part of the heart which caused no further debilitation. This was a warning sign that I must take heed in. They assigned me Lipitor, Lopressor, and Aspirin and said that I will need to change my life style and that I need to lose the weight and get my cholesterol in check. Feeling confident, I acknowledged to my doctor that I am aware of what needs to happen and that I will adapt to ensure I am successful. I asked if what occurred to me will impact the longevity of my life and I was told "no" - that I can live a very long life if I take the proper measures and stay the course of a healthy lifestyle.
After reading several books, and speaking with several doctors, I decided on a Mediterranean diet. I emphasize "diet" as I no longer look at it that way - I am looking at it as a life style. When I exercised in the past I wanted to do it - now, there is a need. There is a difference - and one that I know I will continue to acknowledge to keep me motivated moving forward.
I am scared this has happened to me, I am sad for my family to experience the pain and anxiety of watching someone they love go through this, yet I am strangely optimistic. This is indeed a wakeup call and a second chance at life - and one I am not willing to back down on. If I don’t change my ways, then I am being selfish and I am forgetting my family - especially my son who will need me as he develops and ages. I will be doing this for him.
For anyone else that has had the unfortunate circumstance of experiencing what I experienced please know you have someone that you can reach out to.
Although I am optimistic, I still feel scared. I read about the "silent heart attack" and I read that there is an increased risk of a major heart attack which keeps me up and thinking a lot at times. But, the doctor said that what I have going for me is my age and the fact that the attack occurred in a non-critical area of the heart. But still, I am concerned - and concerned I should be! A heart attack is a heart attack and a little piece of me died that day.
I will greatly appreciate it If anyone else can share a similar experience, and provide advice and/or guidance. If you are around my age and just want to have someone to chat with regarding your experience, feel free to reach-out.
I wish you all heart health.