The Cardiac Kid Strikes Out!

The Cardiac Kid learns the awful truth!

You know that warning that's printed on a box of cigarettes? You know, the one that tells you that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease and birth defects.  Well, it's totally true and hopefully you'll read this and learn what I am learning now...before it's too late.

I had a heart attack.  Look at those words and be scared because I am now in the fight of my life and as anyone who knows me. . . I'm a lover, not a fighter. The heart attack was not what I expected, in fact, I didn't know I had one. Thought it was my usual Walmart panic attack. But as I would soon discover, things were worse than I ever would have thought.

I awoke early for my trip to the Yale Catherization lab, where at about 8am that morning they would be popping a small line into my femoral artery, and going into my heart to check the circulation and check for possible blockages. I was quite nervous. I had not had any chest pain, no radiating pain down my arm, none of the classic symptoms of heart disease. I had two incidents of what I believed were panic attacks. 

I was called into the lab after waiting for only a few moments. They brought me down to a room, with a bed, a curtain and a nurse.  Now, seeing that I was nervous and only thinking of me, I am sorry if I can't remember the nurses' name, but I seem to remember that she told me her dad said she had a "cherry tomato" nose, so  I will call her that. Cherry Tomato. Cherry Tomato was amazing. beyond comforting and beyond caring and she made me feel like I was her only patient that day.  They prepped me and then she wheeled me and the hospital bed to the lab.   We talked a bit, about her life, about my life and then I found myself in the lab. . well, it was pretty much an operating room, with a giant 85inch plasma screen next to the giant, but narrow table I would be on during the procedure.

"What kind of music would you like?"  Cherry Tomato asked.

"Um, some Grateful Dead?"  I said, and within seconds, I was comforted by the strains of "Uncle Johns Band"

"The doctor likes it quiet in here when he's working, so we'll lower it then."  Cherry Tomato informed me.   And soon, I was on the narrow table. The music was now turned off. The screen was right next to me. It was go time.

I will leave out the various things I saw and heard while I was mildly sedated, but I saw my arteries and various other vessels on the giant screen next to me. It all added up to nothing to me, but before you know it, they were done.  I was wheeled into a recovery room where I had to lay on my back not moving with a plug in my femoral artery to prevent me from bleeding out. I was given a remote to call the nurse if need be and to change the channel in case I wanted to watch The View. My wife took the chair next to me and we waited. I would be laying there in that position until 1230pm. . . it was now 930am.   And then, while in my second hour of laying there wondering about my future, thinking about my past, the doctor came in.

"There are three coronary arteries that come off the aorta. One is 100% occluded, the second is 70% blocked and the third is clean.  We will not be putting in a stent or a bypass until we determine the damage to your heart."

Ok, this is the deal. It appears I have a weak heart. They will be soon giving me a test called a PET test that is sort of like a CAT Scan on steroids. It will determine how much damage there is to my heart.  Until that time, my doctor told me to continue with my normal daily routines.

I am scared, I will not lie. I will not try to make a joke about this because there is no humor in it. But, I will tell you this. . . I am right on schedule for a heart disease patient who  just found out about the price he will pay for his slothful ways: I will try to change my life all at once. I could lose 100lbs, but I will still have a weak heart. I have stopped smoking, I have eaten nothing but oatmeal, apples and Crystal Light Cherry Punch. I am worried that I will soon have another's heart beating in my chest. I have started to re-evaluate my life. I have noticed that certain people have totally abandoned me or just not cared. Others have told me to buck up, get healthy and one even told me that this is all so common place in our society. Wendys and McDonalds are calling me, begging me to come back. I am not what you would call a "glass half full" type of person. I recall an old high school friend who's dad dropped dead in the driveway at 49(3 years away for me). I look at my family and wish I could know my future, where I will be or not be, will I just one day drop dead or will I be like George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx who all had numerous heart attacks and kept on going. Or I could be like Dick Cheney. Either way, here is the center of the shrubbery maze:  I will live my life as best I can, I will realize that there is so much more to life than Facebook and the internet. I will realize what the important things in life are and I will get rid of those things and distractions that are no longer important.

Here is a fact:  I've smoked since I was 25, I've had some of the worst eating habits in the world. I ate triple cheeseburgers, I scarfed down bacon and drank gallons of Coke and the end result?  Look, you smoke you get cancer, you smoke and eat bad, you get heart disease.This can't be changed. There is no other way around it. And now. . I will need to fight for my life.  So, now I am leaving you to eat my oatmeal and pray for better days ahead.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Curt April 27, 2012 at 12:04 PM
Stephen, I have been following your journey with interest. I have had a heart condition since 2001. Two years ago, at 50, I realized I should take better care of myself. I started riding a bicycle a few miles a day, eating a little better (more fruit and veggies) no snacking before bed time, redeuced soda to a bare minimum. Today, I have lost 60 pounds, I ride 15 to 20 miles per day, I am off my blood pressure meds, doctors are happy with my healthy lifestyle and if I want to splurge and have a cocktail or a dessert, I do. One step at a time, one day at a time, you can and will do it. I'm happy to help... Curt Andrews
Stephen Sandagata April 27, 2012 at 07:11 PM
thank you Curt for this/ / / I am 46 and have already made major adjustments to my health and diet, I've cut cigarettes(been 6 days) I don't drink alcohol, only water now or crystal light/the snacking has stopped except for things that are heart friendly. . I can't exercise just yet until they determine how bad the damage to my heart is .. . I'm just taking things one day at a time/the good thing is how much better I already feel since stopping cigarettes and all soda and all fast food/thank you for reading my blog and thank you for offering up comforting words


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