Today marks an ominous anniversary. Five years ago today, I had a heart attack and almost died.
There had been numerous times in my life where I started to glimpse my own mortality. Being a motorcycle rider and racer, close calls are par for the course, but hardly unique. Hiking near thousand foot drop offs, and similar events that could horribly go awry with the ultimate consequence.
But January 3, 2010 will forever live on in my memory.
On Saturday, January 2nd, Barbara and I went for a hike in Sabino Canyon, the “Blacketts Ridge” trail. It is about a mile of easy trail until you get to the trail head, then it is a brutal uphill climb up a rocky, and treacherous path. Something that I had done in as little as 54 minutes (parking lot to the end of the trail).
I felt off, wheezing and struggling. I thought it was just hunger, as I had started dieting a week before with the Christmas shutdown. About 1/2 way up, I tossed in the towel and went back.
After lunch, I felt better, and thought nothing much of it.
Sunday morning, January 3, I went to the Gym as usual. An hour on the elliptical trainer, and I knew something was wrong. I couldn’t get my heart rate above about 110, and i Just felt sluggish. I was convinced I was getting a flu or some related illness. I also recall not being able to work up a good sweat.
After this unsatisfying trip to the gym, I went home and began to shower. BAM. Fully symptomatic, shooting pain down the arms, chest felt like someone was standing on it, having trouble breathing, I stumbled down the hall to my wife’s office and told her I needed to go to the hospital.
I was in agony. The pain was intense, and it wasn’t going away. As I lay writhing on the couch, my wife did the smartest thing she could have done, she called 911. That action alone probably did more to save my life than anything else that day.
The EMT’s put on the EKG electrodes and didn’t see anything (note: they aren’t miracle workers, and don’t always get the right diagnoses, but they were there and that is what is important). My wife insisted that they take me in.
Why is it important to call 911? Well, you get the fast track into the ER. No queue, no check in procedure, you just get triaged right away. Very very important.
Once I get to the hospital, they hook me up to their better machine, and alas, I am indeed having a heart attack. Full blown myocardial infarction. Off to the Catheter Lab for angioplasty and a stent.
Turns out that I had a 100% blockage in the descending node of the right coronary artery (note: if it was the left coronary artery, I wouldn’t have made it to the hospital)
A stent, some not-fun drugs, and a short (3 day) hospital stay and I was back on the path to recovery.
To this day, I take anticoagulants, beta blockers (teh devil in a pill), statins, and an ace inhibitor. I watch (sometimes better than others) my diet, and I try to exercise as much as I can.
Today is 5 years. I hope for another 15 or 20, but regardless, I am thankful to be alive.