Saturday, February 19, 2011

Gratitude ~ and a Public Service Announcement


photo credit ~ dare2dream4ever

This afternoon, while the boys were playing together downstairs, my husband and I had a few quiet moments to ourselves. I was lying down, with my head on his chest listening to the gentle lub~dub of his heart beat, and it was a very sweet sound, indeed.

Today could have easily been the one year anniversary of the day I became a widow. Instead, thankfully, it is the one year anniversary of the day my husband had a cardiac catheterization and stent placement.

When my husband arrived at the ER, pale, sweating, short of breath with pain in his chest, he had been feeling milder forms of these symptoms for at least 12 hours. When we discussed them, my nurse radar went off. Although he insisted he was just tired and was probably getting a bronchial infection, I made a snarky comment. Something to the effect of, "Perhaps you're right, or you could be dying of a heart attack!". Even knowing I was right, I didn't insist he go to a hospital and be seen. In hindsight, I beat myself up over it, often.

As he went to bed that night, he had "only" been feeling intermittent pain in his chest, some shortness of breath after walking, and he was tired. I ran through the checklist with him. No sweating, no pain in his jaw, no pain radiating down his arm. His pulse felt steady, and was an easy 78 beats per minute. He insisted he was fine. He had just practiced with his band, and it was a little bit late. I let it go, but made him promise that if it got worse he would go to the ER, no arguing.

Sometime after midnight, he touched my shoulder. I woke up slightly, and he told me he was going to the hospital. I vaguely remember this, but he was so nonchalant about it, I didn't even fully wake up. So yes, the man drove himself - to the hospitalwhile having a heart attack. (For the record, this is NOT the suggested form of transport during a cardiac emergency. Please call 9-1-1) Thankfully, the hospital is about 5 minutes from our house.

By the time the boys and I woke up in the morning, my husband had been sent by ambulance to another hospital, whisked into a cardiac catheterization lab, had a 90% blockage removed, a stent had been placed and he was resting comfortably in a Cardiac Intensive Care Unit.

So, why didn't he go to he hospital sooner? Why didn't I make him?
  • He was 43 years old 
  • He was in great physical shape 
  • He worked out at the gym 5 nights a week 
  • He had just spent the evening doing normal activity 
  • He appeared to be fine
So here is the public service announcement part of my post. DO NOT IGNORE THE SIGNS OF A HEART ATTACK!! The chest clutching and falling to the floor heart attacks of movies and TV are very rare. More often, it happens like I just described. Subtle, nagging discomfort. things being "not quite right" and they progressively worsen. Precious time is wasted and in the case of heart attack or stroke, waiting too long can result in permanent damage or death.

Do you know what the signs are?
  • Chest discomfort or pain in the upper torso - it is often intermittent. It can feel like pressure, squeezing, or a fullness in your chest. 
  • Pain in the jaw, arms, back, or stomach 
  • Shortness of breath, with or without chest pain. (In my husband's case this was his major symptom, the chest pain didn't become severe until hours later) 
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat 
  • Nausea 
  • Lightheadedness
If you come upon a person who is unresponsive to touch or having irregular breathing, call 9-1-1 and begin CPR.

Every second counts. If you think you, or someone else is having a heart attack or stroke, call 9-1-1 (or your local emergency response number) immediately.

February is American Heart Month. Heart disease has probably already touched you or someone you love. Visit the American Heart Association web page and learn more.

Heart Attack Survivor

Tonight, my husband is out with his band, playing bass, having fun, and rocking out. For that, I am very grateful.