Saturday, February 9, 2013

My heart attack

The gray box shows the location of my stent.

At this time last week, I was being released from the hospital. I'd had a heart attack - a small one, to be sure, but significant enough to get my attention. The first symptoms occurred last Tuesday when I took a walk around town to enjoy the unseasonably warm weather (at about the time I took these photos). At first, I thought the twinges in my chest were due to the fact that I hadn't taken a long walk in a while. So, like any red-blooded male convinced of his immortality, I ignored them.

But the next day, I noticed the sensations again, whenever I walked or exerted. I found the phenomenon interesting but not alarming. Still in denial, I again ignored the sensations. Just to be safe, though, I mentally reviewed a few criteria to reassure myself: There's no way I could have a heart attack, I thought, because I'm in decent physical shape, I don't smoke, I don't have diabetes, I eat a healthful diet - and I drink red wine regularly for "medicinal purposes." Overall, I was pretty healthy. Or so I thought.

The "wake-up call" was early Thursday morning, when I felt as if a phantom hand was clenching my windpipe at mid-chest and wouldn't let go. I thought I was either having the worst case of heartburn in history or - as I finally conceded - I was having some sort of heart issue.

With that realization, I drove to Lancaster General Hospital for evaluation. Driving in, I really wasn't afraid of dying. I didn't even consider the possibility, because I was too focused on just wanting the pain to end. It wouldn't stop, and I didn't know how I could get through another hour in that condition.

Long story short: I had had a heart attack (fittingly, almost in time for "heart month"). The doctor found a 95% blockage in my right coronary artery. The blockage was quickly opened and a stent inserted. All told, I was in the hospital for two and a half days for tests, surgical procedure, and subsequent observation.

Currently, I'm on a handful of heart medicines I must take daily for the foreseeable future, although I'm still allowed to have a glass or two of pinot a day. My numbers (heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.) are overall pretty good. The doctor thought the blockage occurred fairly recently; my body had sensed a problem and overreacted by trying to fix it. In doing so, the problem was exacerbated, ironic as that sounds.

So, I get to live a while longer, though any remaining illusions of immortality have definitely been destroyed.
Although I had a potentially life-threatening experience and have had to make a few minor lifestyle adjustments, I'm not going to preach to people about how they should exercise more, change their diet, etc. I will simply say that if you haven't had your numbers checked in the last five years, now might be the time to do so. Life has a tendency to sneak up on you.


Anonymous said...

Cole, please take it easy...we need you!

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear your doing good. Yea I'm sure alot of us out there could use this as a wake up call.

Bob Hammer said...

Sorry to hear about your wake-up call. Glad you survived it. A friend of mine, my age, had a 5 way bypass after a heart attack about 3 years ago. That was no fun to see him go thru that but he survived and is still here today. Take care.

Anonymous said...

oh my! Sorry to hear you had a small heart attack, but glad it was small...and the drs took care of it and your "good as new" thank you for sharing your experience! Take care of yourself and thank you for all you do:)

Joe Lintner said...

Thanks Carmen. I will.

Joe Lintner said...

Thanks. Maybe my experience will help someone else.

Joe Lintner said...

Wow, a 5-way bypass. I'm glad your friend survived. My "event" was much less severe. I will definitely take your advice and take care. Thanks.

Joe Lintner said...

Thanks. I'll keep on keepin' on.