Dec 9
jessicacg
jessicacg , Posted on SUPPORT NETWORK Blog

Widow Maker at 42

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I successfully finished the CrossFit Open 20.2 workout at the gym and after I did, I hung out for almost an hour, talking to friends I hadn’t seen because I had been away in Arizona. I gathered my things and proceeded to leave as it was almost Noon at this point and I had to to get home to get things done with the kids. I drove home, windows open, probably blasting some type of horrid 80’s love song or Biggie, pulled up to my house, got out of my car, waved to my neighbors and I walked inside.

When I got inside, I took note that the teenagers were still sleeping (insert eye roll emoji). I walked into the kitchen put a new coffee mug under the Keurig machine and proceeded to bring the top down and hit brew. After I did that, that is when everything became fuzzy. All of a sudden, I felt very lethargic and I had one arm on the sink countertop and one arm on the island countertop trying to hold myself up. The next thing I knew, I was slumped over in the arm chair in the living room.

When I came to, not realizing how I got into the arm chair, I was sweating. I mean a sweat like I had never experienced ever in my entire life. I was also freezing and shaking. I was so cold that my nipples hurt. Badly. Again, not realizing what was happening I got up and went to lay down on the couch. When I did this, I started projectile vomiting all over the place. At some point during the sweating and vomiting, I had calmed down a little bit and I honestly thought I had a panic attack. I had not had a panic attack in probably a decade but it could have passed for one at that point for me.

Maybe at that point, 5-10 minutes had passed and I shot up on the couch and now I could not breathe. Not a symptom I had experienced before. I felt a tightness between my boobs that someone was stretching my skin from one side of the room to the other. It also felt like there were one hundred people standing on my chest. Now I am half on the couch and half off the couch and I am able to somehow in a quiet voice say my daughters name and when she came out of her room and saw me, she called 911 and handled the details of the call.

I remember the EMT’s being in my home but I don’t remember a lot of specifics just that they were doing EKG’s and sending the results to the hospital and at some point it was undeniable that I needed to be taken to the emergency room. I remember seeing my son, my daughter and my ex-husband standing in the dining room and I remember being in a lot of pain and I remember being more scared than I have ever been in my entire life.

I was in and out during the ambulance ride to the hospital. I know they put the IV in during this time to give me medicine (Nitro) to help control the pain and they kept having me chew baby aspirin. The pain was unbearable. It is a terrible feeling to not be able to catch your breath.

When we arrived at the emergency room I was greeted with urgency and jokes because I had just finished a CrossFit workout and some of the doctors and nurses found it necessary to not let that opportunity go to waste. I am a good sport and I remember laughing too. At this time, I was more calm because of the medicine and fluids. Nobody had said to me at this point that I was having a heart attack. I had not heard those words so honestly, it was not even a thought in my head because how could that be? How could I possibly be having a heart attack? I am 42 years old.

At some point they had told me they had called the on-call Cardiologist. I remember briefly thinking “That is weird, why would they call a heart doctor? Poor dude it is Sunday and he is probably binge-watching Netflix right now.”

The amazing personnel at the hospital were able to calm me down enough where I started to fall asleep because my body was comfortable. I am not sure how long I was sleeping but I do remember I will never forget what happened next.

I shot up in the bed and started projectile vomiting all over the place and the pain in my chest returned even worse than it was the first time. At this point it seemed like every person that worked in the hospital was tending to me and I was so uncomfortable. The most physically uncomfortable I have ever been. And crying. I couldn’t stop crying just like I can’t stop crying writing this.

I looked to my left and there was a man in normal Sunday clothes with his arms on the bedrails looking at me up and down. I said the best I could, “Who are you?” He said, “I am your Cardiologist and you are having a heart attack, I can’t believe how young you are.”

“You are having a heart attack” are not words one can ever un-hear. It is other level weird. It is hard to describe the level of denial that accompanies hearing that statement.

I said, “Should I say goodbye to my kids?” He said, “You should say something to your kids.”

I am sorry what? Is he kidding me did he just say that.

The next thing I know I was being brought up to the catheter laboratory where I would have a procedure to place a stent. When I came to my right arm was immobilized and to my left there was a huge television screen with images of my heart. I was on a lot of pain medication so I was in and out during this time but do know I was in the cath lab for hours.

The verdict? I had a widow maker heart attack, 100% LAD blockage. All of my other arteries are clear. What? How could this be? I CrossFit 5-6 times a week, clean eat, have lost over 150 lbs, my blood pressure is perfect and so is my cholesterol. So what caused this for me? More to come on that in later posts based on testing I have gone through in the last six weeks.

The details of my ICU stay are undesirable and full of physical and emotional pain but I will say that I have never felt better taken care of by other humans than I did when I was there. Nurses and doctors are amazing people and do not get enough credit for what they do every day.

Over the next two days, I was moved down to what I like to call the gen pop floor. Little more independent, one step closer to home. The first night I was in gen pop, I started having that feeling in my chest again, that someone was standing on my chest and I could not catch my breath. The nurses and techs and doctors tended to me and it was determined I was having another heart attack so I had to go back to the cath lab.

This time, they did the procedure through my groin. I had developed a blood clot around the stent that was just placed so they performed an angioplasty where they had to leave the balloon in my chest for a 24-hour period. I am not sure which was more painful; the 24-hour period following the angioplasty and not being able to move or the actual heart attack. It was unbearable but it could not be done any other way. The procedure was successful and the blood clot is no longer a concern.

After five days in the hospital, I was released to my house with about eleven new medications that are basically keeping me alive, a set of discharge papers with instructions on all of my next steps and a heart more broken than it had ever been.

It has only been six weeks since my heart attack. I will write more posts about what has happened since then but so far, this six weeks has included another four-day stay in the ICU, a doctors appointment almost every day and a complete and utter level of emotional pain I am unsure how to navigate through.

7 Comments
  • AHAASAKatie
    AHAASAKatie,

    Thank you so much for sharing this! Best Katie

  • BarryW
    BarryW,

    As a fellow athlete I was shocked as well with my diagnosis. I was diagnosed with a heart defect in 2010 that eventually required open-heart surgery six months ago. My LAD was also blocked as it tunneled through the wall of my heart. My surgeon tried to ablate the heart to releve the LAD, but it was tunneled to deep into the heart. Instead he performed a double by-pass to reroute past the LAD. Recovery has been slow, but steady. Know this Katie, you are not alone. Your training and hard work in the gym will get your through this. Don't look for progress each day, rather measure progress week to week. I look forward to more updates from you. We are here for you.

  • Accuivy
    Accuivy,

    Jessica,

    I hope you’re doing better.  My story is very similar and very recent.  Starting a few weeks ago I started feeling intermittent “chest pains” I assumed were from a long history of reflux.  So after a gastro doc told me he wouln’t treat me until I saw a cardio doc, the cardiologist scheduled me for a heart cath.

    I was convinced I would prove them wrong and it was simply reflux pains.  However, two days ago when I came in, the heart cath showed I had severe blockages in all four arteries.  One was 100% the other three arteries are all blocked at least 80%.

    I’m 46, and all I keep hearing from people is, “..and you’re so young,” which doesn’t really do anything to help me feel better.  I still have to go back and have the other three arteries stented in a couple of weeks so it’s ongoing.

    Just married a year ago, I’m scared out of my mind as this was not even the furthest from my mind; having heart disease...maybe not making it until 50.

    But, there is a lot of information out there the docs don’t know or share.  Read up on the role of Vitamin K2.  I have learned about how aged garlic and the bergamot fruit can be more effective than statins.  Obviously, I’m vetting all my ideas and plans by my cardiologist, but I’ve learned you have to ask questions and challenge the doctors.

    Your story and experience has been helpful for me to read.  What I’ve experienced is nothing compared to your journey.

    My thoughts are with you and your family.  I hope you feel and get better.  

    Aaron

  • ao1264
    ao1264,

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I am interested in hearing more about your emotional pain. My friend recently had a heart attack and stents and it has only been a few days from the attack, but he seems very irrittable. I wonder if it's depression showing itself as anger. 

    Wishing you the best going forward.

  • LindaHA42
    LindaHA42,

    Hi Jessica and other Survivors, 

    Thank you for sharing your story. I was hoping you might share us with an update as I've recently experienced a widow maker at 42 a month ago. I haven't been able to complete any cardio rehab with everything being shut down. I stayed in ICU for 2 days and was surprised they wanted to send me home so fast with BP all over the place. But they said I would be more safe at home then in the hospital. It's hard managing recovery with all the physical & emotional things that go with surviving a heart attack but to also live in a world that's not normal at all is making this 2x as hard. I appreciate any words of advice that may help with insight of what to expect or I should be aiming for? Hope your recovery is going well! 
    Linda

  • MirNasir75
    MirNasir75,

    Hi. Wow! what a story. Thanks for sharing. Im 45, an athlete, non smoker and all the other vitals within range. suffered a heart attack about 8 weeks ago. Two stents. RCA and RAMUS, latter being a rare artery that only 20% of the population has. 

    anyway, what i wanted to highlight here is that the mental side of recovery is far more important and far more difficult than the physical and thats where all your focus should be. With all the advanced meds and post cardiac care available around us, physcially we will be alright. The batte is in the mind, which unfortunately is between you and you. How does one win that battle?!

    speaking from personal experience, i can tell you one thing for sure. Without an element of Faith, the mental battle will be lost eventually. What works for me is doing things to calm my mind and my soul. Medidation being right up there as numero uno. Praying and having faith that if the big guy upstairs wanted me dead, i'd be dead 8 weeks ago. But we're not! so there's gotta be a reason. you gotta find that reason and i can assure once you do, its all up hill from there. 

    i have been training my mind and sould for the last 8 weeks to march in that direction. its not easy, but i am getting there, a day at a time, 

    in the end, my fellow survivors, like the author Eckhart Tolle says in his book "The Power of Now", lets just focus on the NOW the past is past, and the future hasnt happened yet.  

    Cheers 

  • Unique23rec
    Unique23rec,

    So much of your story rings true for me, as do the other stories here. Thanks for posting. I thought of myself as a resonably athletic, healthy, slim, vegetarian-for-50+ years type of person. So how could I possibly have a heart problem?

    One quintuple bypass operation later, I have my answer. All that stuff doesn't seem to matter when it comes to clogged arteries. The surgeon's post-op write-up said, "he was prepared for surgery in a somehwat urgent manner." Indeed! It turns out that I was just hours away from a heart attack but lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. I'd gone in for a simple stent but the doctors quickly decided that I needed to get The Works. Which happened the next morning, a Saturday, a day these procedures aren't normally done. So lucky me.

    But, yes, it's so hard to explain to others what's going on in my brain and in my body. Some days I'm full of energy and happy to communicate with people (at social distance, of course) but other days find me sluggish and grumpy. And there doesn't seem to any rhyme or reason to it -- except that going to cardiac rehab always raises my spirits.

    I live in the West, and this has been an impossibly smoke-filled summer, so getting out and walking / hiking is tough. When the air monitors say 'Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups', I have to remind myself that I am part of that group! Still not my self-image, but something I have to accept. 

    Cheers

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