My Novels

Monday, February 07, 2005

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I will "cut to the chase" or, in other words give you the lesson learned in this traumatic event in my life: You eat lots of fast food with high fat content, have a stressful job, but NO genetic history of heart disease in your family? Ever smoked, but quit, and you're male past the age of 45? Chances are very, very high that, you WILL have either a stroke or heart attack brought on by high cholesterol, lack of focused aerobic activity -- and if it happens at the wrong time (i.e. you are alone, asleep, otherwise unable to get help) you will probably die.

Fortunately, DH's heart attack happened at a time when I was with him, and could drive him to the ER. We SHOULD have called an ambulance, but frankly, neither of us were sure he was actually having a heart attack. He had just finished some hard physical labor, and felt a pain between his shoulders, as well as heaviness in his chest. We thought he'd strained a muscle in his back, or that he had indigestion. However, when I made him lie down flat on his back (to help relieve pain if it was muscular) the pain got worse. I then wanted to call an ambulance, but he insisted we go by car.

It was only a ten minute drive to the nearest ER, but I made it in less, I'm sure. And I don't drive well at night, not at all. At any rate, when we got to the ER, I pulled in and he got out. I parked the car, and by the time I got inside the building, DH was already being treated. I did not leave him for the next three hours, since a cardiologist (whom he'd seen a couple of times already for high blood pressure, but who had NOT given him a stress test) was reading the EKG and said he was not having a heart attack at the moment of arrival, but it started as she stood there. So she ordered two "clot-buster" shots, and though DH had had morphine, he was still having pain. When the first clot-buster hit, it brought him some relief; by the time the second clot-buster reached his heart, he got complete relief.

Within the next thirty minutes he was stable, and moved to ICU. When I was SURE he was stable, I drove back home, put away the food/dishes off the table (we'd just sat down to our evening meal) and then called family.

From then until the ordeal was over, several days later, I felt I was in the "twilight zone." I had a disconnect from reality, as if all of the events were happening to someone else. Except when I felt overwhelming anxiety and had panic attacks. The panic attacks were horrible, my heart feeling heavy, tingling in the arms/hands/feet, and almost fainting. I had some Buspar that my family physician had prescribed long ago, and it got me through the week.

DH was taken by ambulance Monday morning to a metropolitan city hospital 50+ miles away. I was in no condition to drive, so my sister and her husband picked me up and stayed that day. My other sister and brother-in-law arrived while we were waiting for DH's dye cath procedure to be finished. After that, the doctor said they'd either do stents or bypass surgery. I have never been so relieved in my life as I was when they said he only needed stents, not a bypass. But he had FIVE stents inserted, and may at some future time need another two.

My sister and I spent a sleepless night there in his hospital room, but he progressed so well we went home around 1:00 the next day. We had to drive out of that hellish interstate system with three lanes of traffic, a nightmare. I honestly don't know how people drive in that kind of traffic every day to work. I would have been dead long ago from stress if I had to do that on a daily basis.

We made it home and I was SO glad to finally, finally get some rest. I returned the next day with my other sister and brother-in-law to pick up DH, and we were both happy to come home, be it ever so humble.

DH will be off work at least two weeks, and has a checkup with the cardiologist then. If he is still doing as well as he has been so far, he'll return to work. He is on five different medications, and seems to be adjusting to them well. Perhaps he may be taken off one or more, if his diet helps.

He is on a low-fat, low-sodium diet -- and ironically, that is how I usually eat anyway, since I've always been very, very weight-health conscious. He never liked following such a diet, and in fact, always chided me about not eating enough. Most of the meals here at home were low-fat, if not low sodium. I never ate out except maybe once a month, but DH ate at fast food places every day of the week. Lots of fat, high salt/sodium content, etc. NOT GOOD.

I suppose what threw us off is that there is NO genetic history in his family, on either side, of heart attacks, or heart disease. So much for genetics! Sometimes it can simply give you a false sense of security -- and permission to eat lousy/unhealthy and not heed the medical warnings about the consequences of a poor diet.

I told DH that from now on, HERE at home he will get the RIGHT kind of diet. What he does when he returns to work is up to him. I can't watch him, check what he eats, though I will try to learn if ANY fast food place has a heart-healthy choice. Other than that, he's on his own. If he wants to die soon, he can ignore the doctor's orders; if he wants to live into his 70s, he'll have to change his diet. And he will also have an opportunity to do therapy -- monitored sustained exercise to see how his heart is doing. He DID get exercise with all the work we've been doing, plus his horses and outside activity. However, that is NOT the same as sustained aerobic exercise, such as biking, swimming, running, which exerts the heart and forces blood to pump. As this journal proves, I've been serious about aerobic exercise all my life, and even moreso in the past five years with daily biking, etc.

I don't know how it will go. Thus far, DH has been good about eating right and not overdoing. I suppose we'll know as time passes. Fortunately the retirement program is now set up so that I will have full benefits if he should die. I just hope he's around long enough to enjoy a retirement -- though according to the new program, it will be at least three years before he can take it.

This is a life-changing experience, but I am feeling much stronger with each day. I've had so much illness myself that it is truly a new experience for DH to be ill instead of myself. I don't mind taking care of him, as long as he is willing and agreeable, which he has been.

Only time will tell...but I'm guardedly optimistic for now.

Oh yeah, and about "fast food," when I was in the hospital we had to eat, of course. We go down to the cafeteria/vendors, and what do we find? Why, there's several "fast food" stalls, everyone chowing down like cows on their cuds. It nearly made me sick to my stomach. At least spare us fast food in a hospital where heart problems are being taken care of which were partly CAUSED by the VERY thing they are offering! Also, there were NO decaff drinks in the machines, and I was literally bouncing off the walls after having to consume several simply to wet my parched mouth.

Here's a recent article on that very topic, and I say hurrah to this hospital!

Hospitals Grapple With Serving Fast Food

January 3, 2005

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Andrew Hudnall stared at his lunch and agonized about whether his doctor might be unhappy with him. The 57-year-old heart patient had just bought a chicken sandwich from McDonald's -- in the food court of the Cleveland Clinic, renowned for its research into heart disease. Even so, he said he agrees with efforts by the clinic's leading doctors to get some fast-food franchises out of the building.

Pizza Hut has already left. Nine others remain, including McDonald's and Subway. At a time when two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese, putting their hearts and arteries at grave risk, health officials and physicians are urging people to be watch their weight and eat healthier.

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