Monday, July 8, 2013

Broken Heart

I don't often talk about my parents here in blogland; however, I think now would be a good time to talk about them and to make a public service announcement about heart health. My dad, a former marine, is a strong man. He's a runner. He's fit. He also happens to have a crappy heart. When he was 45 (approx 20 years ago), he went in for a stress test and failed. The plan was for him to go the doctor that following Monday and discuss the next steps for his heart health. Unfortunately, his heart had other plans. That Saturday morning, my dad started to feel a strange fluttering feeling in his chest - not the grab your left arm and hollering out in pain and falling to the ground type of heart attack that you hear of - just a "hmmm, this doesn't feel right" scraping in his chest. They took him in and he had three blockages and ended up getting a triple bypass surgery. A year after this surgery, he ran a half marathon (I'm telling you...bad ass).
Fast forward to when he was 54 years old...he noticed that he was having a difficult time running - getting winded etc. - so back in to the cardiologist we go. SURPRISE! Another triple bypass. Awesome. But first he tried stents (unsuccessfully - and ended with a blood clot in the "widow maker", caught up on the stent). We were assured that this would be the last time that we go this route and no more open chests.
Fast forward to last Monday. My dad is now 65 years old. He woke up last around 7 AM (after sleeping approx 10 hours...essentially unheard of for him) - and wasn't feeling well. He felt some, what he calls "pressure" in his chest. This was a a familiar feeling for him, since he was using this pressure as a barometer of when to slow/stop physical activity for the past several months (without telling any of us). He went on about his morning, breaking down their camp site (my parents often RV camp), driving about 45 minutes home, starting to unpack the car and realized that not only did he not feel better, but he was actually feeling a bit worse. It was then that he told my mom that it was time to go in...PANIC MODE - TIME TO GO WHERE!?! WHAT?!?! It's time to call the squad and get my dad to the emergency room.
Mind you, I live about an hour from my parents. I was planning on helping Mark with some of his classroom set up that morning and ended up driving in to meet my family at the hospital. My dad had a full blown heart attack. His pain was a level 10 out of 10. He was scared. We were scared. It was scary. I'm thankful he spoke up when he did. I'm thankful that they called the ambulance, rather than trying to drive him in. I'm thankful that my dad is still here.
He had a blockage in one of his previous bypasses - it was 99.9% blocked by both narrowing of the artery and another clot. They caught it through a heart cath (note that his EKG and chest x-ray all came back normal and his troponin level was barely elevated when they decided to do the cath) and immediately removed the clot and put in a stent to expand the artery. After a couple of days of recovery - he's home already and getting better each day.

Lessons learned from this:
  • My family may have our bad cholesterol under control; however, our "good cholesterol" isn't good enough. 
  • If you have heart issues in your past, be sure to refill your nitro prescription, after you wash your nitros in the laundry (yep, he washed his nitro and had to rely on the ambulance to bring them to him).
  • If you are feeling pressure, pain anything abnormal in your chest region, doesn't have to be at the site of your heart, doesn't have to be extreme pain - if it feels like something might be likely is - or is at least something that should be mentioned to family members and checked by your physician.
  • Make sure that you spend time with those you love - I had the honor of taking my dad out for lunch about a week prior to his heart attack.
  • If there is a history of heart related issues in your family - go to the cardiologist and get some baseline readings done early on - around the age of 40. 
I love my parents. I love my husband. I love our children. I'm thankful everyone is healthy and happy. 


  1. I'm so glad your dad is well, and even more glad that you practice and teach healthy habits to our kids, hopefully keeping them healthier longer. I hope others listen to your lessons learned, also, and keep themselves healthy and happy! I Love You!

  2. These are all good good lessons and im sorry that your family had to go through this, so many times. My Dad has similar issues and had about 7 heart attacks within one year at age 42. The last one killed him. I was 10. We (mum and six of us) then lived on welfare. Its a common story and yours has only strengthened my resolve to get this weight off. So thanks for sharing Shelby.

    Big Hugs.