I think I have a problem” I said softly, half hoping my wife
wouldn’t hear; it was 5:20 a.m. and mornings aren’t exactly her
thing. Mine either, but the pain that awakened me at 1:00 a.m. had
only gotten worse. By the time I decided to rouse my wife I was
pretty sure I was having a heart attack.
I was, but at the time I wasn’t certain. I had no
history of heart disease, good blood pressure, and had carried about
190 pounds on my six foot, one inch frame for several years – hardly
svelte but not obese. Aside from the occasional scolding about the
balance of my good and bad cholesterol, I had had no reason to add
heart trouble to my list of worries.
That changed after I told my wife how I felt. If she
has come to full consciousness from a dead sleep more quickly I
don’t remember it. “Why’d you wait so long?” she demanded. “Get
dressed. We’re going to the emergency room.” No room for debate
there, not that I was up to it.
I did scrape up the nerve to ask her to drive rather than wait for
an ambulance to find its way to our rural home. In hindsight, this
was the worst idea I’d had since waiting four hours to mention I was
having a heart attack. About halfway there I told my famously
cautious spouse “I wouldn’t be worried if you were Girl-Child (our
daughter). She drives like this all the time. Slow down, Mario.”
We arrived in one piece (not counting my fractured
nerves) before 6:00 a.m. After a battery of tests I was on a table
by 7:30 a.m. and in my hospital room with two newly-installed stents
by 9:00 a.m. Two days later I was home.
Six weeks later I am more-or-less back to normal. I
take a fistful of medications and had to change my diet, though I’ve
always been pretty easy to feed and happily eat almost anything. I
attend thrice weekly torture sessions thinly disguised as cardiac
rehabilitation, but aside from fatigue I feel pretty good and should
There has even been an unexpected benefit: the
increasingly frequent and debilitating headaches I’ve suffered for
many years have nearly disappeared. It was four weeks after the
heart attack before I had a headache of any note, my first break of
that length in years. After a change in my exercise regimen a week
ago I’ve had no more.
This happy accident baffles my doctors. Specialists of
every description had been unable to offer explanation or relief and
they’re not sure why it stopped now. My cardiologist believes it’s
a coincidence, my general practitioner says the medications or
improved blood flow may be the answer. My guardian angels in
cardiac rehab told me one of the medicines I’m taking is also used
to prevent migraines; I’d been assured my headaches weren’t
migraines but the possibility makes sense.
Here’s my theory: I’ve been praying for relief for
years. I picture God saying “OK, since you keep asking, I’ll take
care of that. While we’re at it let’s do something about all that
rocky road ice cream and the couch potato lifestyle. And a couple
of things about that attitude of yours … ZAP!”
And so it was, and so it is. I have had no fear of
death, even during the worst of it. I’ll go when the Good Lord
takes me but I believe I got off easy for a reason; I’ve been told
that half of all first heart attacks are fatal, which is a real
bummer as symptoms go. I also have an increased appreciation for my
family and friends, who have suffered through this much more than I.
Life is too short to live just for yourself; this
experience puts an exclamation point on it. I’ll miss the ice
cream, but it’s a good trade.