This week in the podcast, I talked about my experience this last Christmas with heart disease. More specifically, with someone dying and someone living from having a heart attack. I thought I would elaborate more in this blog post.
This month we are talking about how to be more heart healthy. At the end of the month, I plan to have a fairly large sized informational book about how kidney disease and heart disease can be improved together. You see, most people who have kidney disease don't die from kidney failure – they die from heart failure. If you didn't know that, you might find it quite a surprise. While it's true, I want to do what I can to make sure that you are equipped to do all that you can to be healthier.
Heart Attacks Are A Killer
On December 19th, a close family friend died from a heart attack. He was young, only 29, and was the son of my son's Tae Kwon Do teacher. And his name was Adam. My son spent many nights with him working on forms and learning how to improve his skills at Tae Kwon Do. Adam had a sudden heart attack and was gone. I am sure you can imagine the agony of a father burying his only son. What can you say to someone when that happens? I can assure you that words are indeed not enough. I know that Adam's father will live with a broken heart for the rest of his life. My heart is broken for him, and I hug both my children more closely everyday since.
Heart Attacks Can Be Survived As Well
A few days before Adam's death, my mom called me at work to tell me she felt funny and was calling an ambulance. But let me back up…
My mom moved here to Oklahoma with me about 10 years ago after she had open heart surgery. Her chest wound was infected and she needed to take strong antibiotics and have someone look after her every day. She also had her first heart attack at the tender age of 49. Mom also has diabetes and kidney problems.
She now lives by herself, and on that particular day she *felt* funny and called to talk to my sister to see if she should call an ambulance. You might know how she felt – a little bit like something was wrong but not quite sure. She didn't want to overreact, nor under react. So what to do? My sister talked to her for a few minutes and then called the ambulance for her. Mom's symptoms were typical of a woman having a heart attack – feeling like you have heart burn, difficulty breathing deeply, fatigue – and some pain in her left arm and her neck.
While waiting for the ambulance, my mom called me at work and casually says “so, I wasn't feeling well and I called an ambulance to take me to the ER.” You can imagine how I felt – “You what?” as my heart starts to race and I envision the worst. Needless to say, I didn't get a lot of work done that afternoon waiting to hear about what happened.
When the ambulance arrived, they gave her a couple of aspirins to chew (as is their normal protocol) and took her to a local hospital where her cardiologist works. It just so happens to be near the hospital where I work.
She called me several times and let me know what was going on. Eventually, the labs came back and they determined that she did have a heart attack. She had some blockages that were 90-100% in a couple of arteries and they were able to do a cardiac catheterization that evening. I was not able to see her before she went into the procedure, but as they rolled her out she was awake and feeling great.
She was in the hospital for a couple of days and was able to return to her house. She's going to cardiac rehab to improve her health but she already feels much better.
A Tale Of Two Outcomes
My mom was attentive to her body and raised her hand to say “this doesn't feel right”.
In the podcast this week I talked about the signs of a heart attack for men and for women, I hope that you listen to your heart.
I am more of an “action in the moment and process it later” type person. I realized that evening after mom was safely in her hospital bed and I was on my way home with tears running down my face, that I almost lost her. It could have been a very different Christmas if she had not listened to her body.
It made me realize that we all need to take extra measures to make sure that we stay as healthy as possible. Whether that be taking part in some more exercise or just simply having access to some life-saving medical equipment at home, like a defibrillator, (click here for more information) could help to increase your survival. If my mother hadn't have followed her instincts, life as I know it could be very different.
I sincerely hope that you listen to your body when it gives you messages about things that are not quite right. Tell someone that you are feeling different or “off”. And that you take action when you do. Ignoring something like heart disease or a heart attack does not make it go away. It only gets worse.
Take some actions –
- Go see your doctor and make sure you are up to date on any heart disease labs tests you need and consider getting a heart scan (a calcium score). A heart scan is quick and painless and often costs less than $100.
- Take a long walk – every day. You know what I mean, get some exercise. Do what you can and you will see that over time it improves.
- Stick to your meal plan – whether it's low fat or for diabetes or watching your potassium – make sure you are doing your part to be healthy with what you eat.
Thanks for listening to my story. It's still a little hard to talk about Adam because it's difficult to imagine. But I do want you to know how important it is to pay attention to your body.
Also published on Medium.