October 2005.

A heart attack! Who would have guessed? My entire existence was brought into question this month. An artery blocked not letting the blood get to the lower part of my heart. Time stopped. I could her Marcia talking to me but I couldn’t respond. I couldn’t even open my eyes to look at her. The paramedics arrived, got me in the ambulance and away to the hospital we go. They have a great emergency staff at Mission Saint Joseph Hospital. It was like watching a highly disciplined drill team. I was checked, prepped, looked over, and tested in ways I couldn’t imagine. Finally stable, everyone went about other work while I lay on the gurney waiting for the cardiologist. Adrian, my oldest son was with me. Suddenly the wave came back, and Adrian got the nurse assigned to me. She was quick acting, reviewing the EKG, and shooting chemicals in the IV attached to my arm. Stable again, the cardiologist arrived a few minutes later. He pronounced the diagnosis of the emergency team accurate, and confirmed what I knew. A myocardial infarction is what the cardiologist called it. He meant heart attack, same thing.

My symptoms were not like any of the classical things we hear so much about. You know, the severe pain, elephant on your chest, pain in the left arm, I didn’t have any of that.
My first clue, (even though I didn’t get it), came about 2 weeks prior to the attack, and emergency room run. I was leaving my office late in the evening and as I walked toward the parking lot I got an excruciating, sharp pain just below my left shoulder blade, in my back. It lasted only for a couple of seconds, but then continued to feel sore. The next day at work I continued to get the same pain, only not as extreme, at different times in the day. I thought something was wrong with my shoulder. I made an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. The sharp pain finally subsided but there was continued soreness.
The orthopedic surgeon diagnosed the problem as bursitis and gave me a prescription for a joint pain medication.

Two weeks later, on a Saturday morning, I told Marcia, my wife, that I didn’t feel very well, and that I was going to hang out in the garage, clean up a few small projects, nothing major. So that’s what I did. In the evening I was sitting in my loft office, Marcia was downstairs cooking dinner, when suddenly I couldn’t catch my breath. I began to feel nauseous, and was sweating. I got up from my desk and made my way over to the recliner, thinking that I may pass out. Marcia called out, sensing something was wrong. I couldn’t get enough oxygen to answer her. She came upstairs, saw me and called 911. By this time I was sweating buckets, my clothes became soaked. In a very few minutes the first responders arrived, then the paramedics.

My point in telling this tale is, do not always expect the heart attack symptoms to be the things you hear most about. A nurse told me later as we were talking about my event that in her career she has heard people describe all sorts of various symptoms, but one thing is always the same, the sweating. If you have some weird symptoms combined with profuse sweating, call 911. It’s better to be sent back home from the emergency room than to die wondering if you should call.

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