On Thursday of last week, as a follow-up to my stop at the Logan hospital on June 11, I was scheduled for a heart stress test at Mid Ohio Cardivascular in Columbus. During that appointment, prior to the test, a tech did an extensive ultrasound examination. Something alarmed her, though she didn't let on at the time. However, there was a significant delay between the end of her exam and the arrival of the tech who was to do the stress test. So much time passed, in fact, that the tech brought in a few magazines for me to read. I suspected nothing. Later, one of the cardiologists came to see me and told me that I had had a heart attack and that there was significant damage to my heart.
My doctor was as shocked as I was. Except for a weakness for pretzels (a really bad thing), I eat healthfully. I exercise one-half hour each day, usually. There is also no family history of heart disease, my cholesterol levels have been good, my blood pressure perfect. Without these factors in my favor, my cardiologist, physician, and cardiac care nurses all emphasized, the heart attack I suffered would have killed me.
On Monday morning, I underwent heart catheterization at the McConnell Center of Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus. I can't compliment enough the staff for the care I received, from the admission folks to the care nurses and to the doctors. They were incredible!
If you've never undergone a heart cath before, it's truly amazing. I remained awake throughout the procedure. The doctor, nurses, and surgical assistants and I spoke together throughout, even spending a lot of time talking about baseball as we were finishing up.
The catheter was inserted via an artery in the groin area, the only place I'm bruised...and that bruise is a doozy! The cath was run up into my heart. The doctor said that the left coronary artery was blocked just below its intersection with the circumflex artery. It was 100% blocked. Dr. Kander told me, "I'm going to try to put a stent through." Fortunately, the blockage formed relatively recently and was soft, making it easier to push the stent through. "We got it, buddy," the doctor said. "Thank You, God!" I said, "and thanks to all of you." "No," Dr. Kander told me, "just thank God."
My family reported that my color was already 100% better than it had been when I emerged from recovery.
The only setback I had that first day was what's known as a vegal episode. That was quickly and thoroughly dealt with.
On Monday night, our son, Phil, stayed with me at Riverside and the nurses were kind enough to move us to a suite where Phil could have a cot. We watched the Reds beat the Phillies. Yeah!
My heart function was significantly diminished by the blockage and subsequent heart attack. There's a number known as Ejection Fraction that measures, basically, the efficiency of the heart. An EF of 35% is considered dangerously low. On entering the hospital, mine was 25%. With medication, diet, and exercise, the goal is to build the heart muscle and get up to something more like 60 to 70% in the next year.
Wally Taylor, one of my seminary professors, suffered from a heart attack in 2002 and was at 18% EF and has done very well since. As part of the follow-up, I will be enrolled in the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Fairfield Medical Center in Lancaster. That may start between two to six weeks from now.
I will come back to work next week, but I will take naps regularly, per my doctor's orders.
I have follow-up appointments with my GP and my heart doc in July.
My guess is that two factors really contributed to my heart attack more than anything else: pretzels (salt is a major contributor to heart problems) and the sustained stress I put on myself. No one is more critical of me and no one has higher expectations of me than I do. In his book, Stress/Unstress, Dr. Keith Sehnert says that sustained stress triggers the fight-or-flight response, which includes the introduction of sugars and fats into the bloodstream.
I need to learn the truth of which my high school classmate, Marceile Tagart Redmon, reminded me the other day: Don't sweat the small stuff; and it's all small stuff. The only truly important things in life are God and the people for whom God died and rose on the cross in Jesus Christ. With God's help (and that of my family, friends, and church), I intend to try to remember that the next time I try to tell myself to get one more task done today. Jesus says, "Let today's troubles be sufficient for today." That's good to remember!