If you live in the Richmond, Virginia area, the Information in This Article May Help You Live Far Longer!
The following is the outcome of a true story that happened in the Richmond, Virginia, area. I am thankful for the men and women at the Chesterfield EMS and the amazing doctors and nurses at Chippenham Hospital, and Virginia Cardiovascular Specialists for saving my life.
Did you know you can be highly fit, physically strong, eat right, look healthy, take supplements, and do all of the right things, yet still have a sudden massive heart attack? Besides being healthy, these same people can have perfect cholesterol and blood pressure, never taking medication of any kind. It happens every day. The type of heart attack these people suffer from is deadly serious, with a survival rate of only 12% when they occur outside of a hospital or medical facility. The reason I know this is because I am one of the 12%.
Did I have any signs? None that I recall until the day of the events, of which I remember little. Yes, I said events. I had four massive heart attacks that day. The first occurred in the rescue squad van. The next three were in intensive care and the cath lab.
I was only 62 at the time, with no history of heart attacks in my family other than my grandfather, who passed away in his 80s shoveling snow in Michigan. No one else on my father's or mother's side had heart issues. Yet, such heart attacks usually occur because of a genetic condition.
I am writing about this subject because of a quote I ran across the other day. It made me stop and think again about what led up to that day on April 24th when I had just returned from a quick 40-minute 12-mile bike ride.
"A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools." Spanish Proverb
I believe there is a lot of truth in this quote; however, I question if it is always valid. Perhaps it is when you dig a little deeper.
Whenever I work out, I record my stats, such as time, pace, and heart rate. Everything looked normal during the ride, but as I pulled into the driveway, well, I don't recall much after that. Jane, my wife, said I came in and sat on the floor, saying I felt bad. If she had not been there and called 911 within a few minutes, I would have died for sure. The rescue squad folks said my heart stopped within minutes of going into the van. I literally had only minutes to spare!
It was touch and go for a few days, with the doctors and Jane worrying if I would survive and if I had suffered brain damage. She said she knew I was okay when I finally gained some consciousness many days later and gave her a thumbs up. I had so many wires, IV lines, and tubes in and on my body, it was the only way I could communicate. Little did I know I would be in intensive care for 55 days and lose 50 pounds.
Taking care of your health and looking for signs
The reason the old Spanish proverb bothered me so much was that I always carefully watched my health. I tried to eat right, exercised like a fiend by running, lifting, biking and swimming. I did a ton of races, along with many sprint triathlons. Those 50 pounds I lost were almost totally muscle as my waist size decreased only one inch! I lost so much muscle I could not walk and had to have rehab to gain enough strength to take a few steps using a walker.
It took a few months after the event to regain enough strength to get rid of the cane I used to steady myself.
What caused the events?
While getting pneumonia in the hospital that turned into ARDS greatly complicated my hospital stay, I have only recently found what may be the reason for the heart attacks.
Mike, a good friend of mine who happens to be a doctor, had an interesting thought about a possible reason I had the widow makers. He knew I had been diagnosed with sleep apnea and have a BiPAP machine I use every night. He posited that maybe the sleep apnea had something to do with creating the damage in the artery going into my heart.
By the way, the BiPAP machine, which is similar to a CPAP, is nothing to fear. Jane says it is so quiet she barely notices it.
What Mike said made perfect sense. I completely missed it until he suggested it as a possibility. That's why he's a doctor, and I am not. I now wonder if I had acted much earlier if I could have prevented the heart attacks.
Jane complained for years about my snoring. I doubted it was that bad. After all, I never heard myself snore! Unfortunately, I had never discussed it with my doctor. Even though Jane suggested I speak to him about it.
Since the heart attack, I have been far more amenable to discussing such things. My cardiologist suggested I have a sleep study asap which I did. While the study was easy to do, the results were not good. I stopped breathing more than 30 times each hour, creating a great deal of stress on my body, especially my heart. Since all of this started, I have learned that:
"Sleep apnea increases the risk of heart failure by 140% and the risk of coronary heart disease by 30%." Sleep Foundation
You can find the article that contains this quote here: Sleep Apnea and Heart Disease
While I will never know for sure, I suspect Mike gave me the answer I have long sought.
If you have someone in your life that may have sleep apnea, let them know my story. It may convince them to have a sleep study and could lead to saving their life.
Unfortunately, the old Spanish proverb is true, even for me. While I had taken care of my physical health, I could have sought medical help, but I was "A man too busy to take care of his health." I had failed to let my doctor know about Jane's urging for me to say something. How I regret not listening to my wife!
If this article reaches one person who will hear my plea to listen to your spouse's wisdom (yes, it can happen to women too) and see a doctor if you snore a lot, it will make it all worth it. Your spouse and doctor may just save your life. With 34% of men and 17% of women suffering from sleep apnea, it could be you, your spouse, or someone close that needs to get checked out asap!
Do not take your health for granted. Listen to your body. Take advice from your spouse. If you are a man, you don't have to be the tough guy! Stop that nonsense and take care of yourself properly by seeking medical help if you suspect anything at all. Don't take the unnecessary risk I did all those years. How I wish I had listened to Jane and had discussed it with my doctor.
Our time on this earth is too short as it is, so for those you love, take care of your health and stay in their lives a few years longer!
If you are one of the many men and women that saved my life and cared for me during and since that time, I owe you my life and will be forever grateful for each and every one of you! A special thanks to my cardiologist at Virginia Cardiovascular Specialists! Doctor Matthews, you are the best!