Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Broken Hearted

It was a typical Friday afternoon in August at Harry K Chevrolet-Buick. I was in the showroom considering the prospect for a couple cars deals that afternoon and whether or not the wind would lend itself to an opportunity to go sailing that evening. Our son, Alex, was coming home for the weekend so we were looking forward to some sailing, perhaps some kayaking, perhaps some smoked mammal flesh and a generally fun weekend.

As I stood in the showroom, I had a feeling like I had eaten something but could not completely swallow it; like it was lodged in the bottom of my esophagus. I was a little lightheaded which I attributed to the fact that I had pretty much skipped breakfast and had only eaten a couple pieces of cheese for lunch.

The light headed feeling was not uncommon if I ate a late lunch. A morning bicycle ride would often tap me out but a few carbs would always snap me right out of it. I had gone on a 15-mile bicycle ride that morning so I thought my blood sugar might be a bit low. With that in mind, I headed to the vending machine for the quick fix of a Planters Peanut Bar.

When the peanut bar didn't have the intended effect, I started to think that perhaps I was dehydrated. I always take a gallon cooler of water to work and drink it through the day and I decided that I hadn't hit the water hard enough yet that day. I took a couple of long pulls on the water and waited for it to work its magic.

But it didn't. My sales manager was in my office and I told him I didn't really feel well. He offered an aspirin. Though I never considered it to be a real possibility, I thought that an aspirin would be a good idea in case I was having some kind of heart issue. He got me one and I took it immediately.

Shortly thereafter, I felt really lightheaded; I thought I was going to the floor for a moment. I was sweaty and my color was not good (so I was told). By now, my wife, Judy, was in my office and I told her that I needed to go to the hospital. She said she would start the car and get it cooled off. I told her not to bother, I needed to get to the hospital.

While on the way to the hospital, my lightheadedness subsided somewhat. I still felt some discomfort in my chest but it felt better as well. But I knew something was wrong.

Within five minutes of arriving at Sanford Chamberlain Hospital, I was hooked up to the EKG and five minutes later, I was diagnosed as being in the process of a heart attack.

Me, a fifty four year old man in excellent health having a heart attack? No way! The look on Judy's face when they said this was complete disbelief. Many mornings in the colder months start with me on my trainer and Judy on the treadmill with Fox News on the TV for 35-45 minutes.

I am a healthy guy. I ride my bicycle 4-5 times a week - if not outside then on my trainer in the basement. I lift weights twice a week. I golf, kayak, hunt and am very active.

We try to eat right. Though we travel some and dine out one or twice a week in the summer, our diet is pretty good. I'm probably 10-12 pounds over my ideal weight but I am conscious of that and am always striving to get there. I don't eat a perfect healthy diet but, again, I am conscious of my diet and try to eat well.

I have a few cocktails on the weekend and a glass of wine with dinner once a week but there are some who would suggest that wine works in the favor of my heart. I would consider myself healthier than most and quite active for my age.

So to say that I was surprised when I had a heart attack on August 7, 2015 at work would be more than an understatement and none of the statements above meant anything as I lay in the hospital at that moment.

Working in my favor was the fact that we were at the hospital within 30 minutes of my initial symptoms. Within minutes they were on the phone with the cardiology folks in Sioux Falls. They gave me some nitroglycerin and injected tPA clot buster. They summoned the airplane from Sioux Falls.

Let me just say right here that I received first class, professional care from everyone at Sanford Chamberlain Hospital. I feel extremely fortunate that those folks were there. Kala Shepherd, CNP, was absolutely terrific. She made great decisions and was in touch with the cardiology department in Sioux Falls immediately.

The King Air fixed wing aircraft from Sioux Falls arrived about 60-75 minutes after the initial diagnosis of "cardio event". I took an ambulance ride to the airport where they loaded me into the Sanford Hospital aircraft. We were on the ground in Sioux Falls forty five minutes later.

While flying to Sioux Falls though, my symptoms started to subside. I no longer felt the discomfort in my chest and was no longer light headed. I figured when I got to Sioux Falls that I would probably have a few tests, a lecture on lifestyle changes, and then have to wait for Judy (who decided to drive with Sarah) to take me home.

I was transferred into an ambulance at the airport. The trip to the hospital was complete with lights and sirens. I told the ambulance guys that I'd probably come to Sioux Falls more often if I could avoid traffic and SF drivers like that all the time.

When I arrived, they were waiting for me in the cath lab like a pack of hyenas with bibs on and forks in both hands! They went right to work on me and in what seemed like 20-30 minutes, they inserted a stent in my right coronary artery (which was 95%) blocked and put a intra-aortic baloon pump in my heart. No other major arteries were blocked.

The stent went in through my right wrist and the pump went in through my right femoral artery. They inserted the pump because my blood pressure was low. They also informed me that the clot buster drug administered in Chamberlain was unsuccessful.

I was in a cardiac care room shortly thereafter. It was about 6:45 pm. My first symptoms occurred shortly after 2:00 pm. It was an unbelievable, life changing sequence of events that happened in less than five hours.

The next 26 hours were miserable as I had to lie flat on my back because of the pump in my heart. Not only could I not sleep on my back, but the pump in my heart gave me a weird sensation that distracted my sleep. It was like my stomach was continuously gurgling. By Saturday morning, I was exhausted.

Saturday mid-morning, the nurses brought in a fan and rolled me on my side (slightly) and I was able to sleep for a couple hours. I felt a lot better after that.

They took the pump out about 2:00 pm on Saturday. Because they perforate the femoral artery to insert the pump, it is important to ensure that the artery does not bleed. To do this, pressure has to be applied to the wound; a lot of pressure. The device they used for this has a strap that goes around the waist and can apply as much pressure directly to the wound as needed. I received a good amount of pressure for a couple hours and by the time they changed to a lesser pressure device, I was in pain.

About 8:00 pm on Saturday evening, I was able to get up and walk around (after the catheter came out - YIKES!!!). That is the point at which I started feeling better. I went for a walk around the hall a few times. I slept well Saturday evening.

On Sunday I was very active. I walked 2 miles in the hall. I think I looked like a caged lion to the nursing staff. I don't think it was a common occurrence for the cardio patients to be that active. The underlying strength of my heart proved to be a real advantage throughout this entire ordeal.

I had many calls and visits from friends on Sunday. I was reminded how fortunate I am to have a wonderful wife, two great daughters and two great sons. Judy and I are so lucky to have so many wonderful friends both far and near!

I knew I would get discharged on Monday. So after seeing the cardio rehab specialist, the customer service rep, the doctor's CNP, the doctor and what seemed like a dozen others, I got to leave at about 1:30 pm on Monday.

I had plans to take a golf trip (annual trip with friends) the following week and had been "taking the temperature" of each person I saw whether they thought that was still possible. Everyone I had asked thought I would be able to go but when the doctor told me I just needed to "listen to my body" if I went, I was elated.

So what's next? The cardio rehab lady suggested that my greatest risk factors were stress and family history. My Dad had a quadruple bypass in 1988 and had numerous stents put in after that. I always attributed his condition to his poor management of diabetes and complete lack of exercise. Apparently he had some genes working against him that are now working against me.

We all have stress and we all handle it in different ways. Having 40 employees and three businesses might add a bit more stress to my life than some others, but I need to learn to deal with it better. I will be focused on doing that.

But what I learned (was reminded of!) most directly is that EVERY day is a gift. We should not take it for granted and we should enjoy it and make the most of it.

So the next time you see me, remind me of that! And I will probably remind you right back!


Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing your story. When I heard the news, my reaction was WOW... he bikes, he's in good shape.... Glad you are on a rapid mend. Cliff

Unknown said...

Praise God you are on the mend! Thanks for sharing your story. Kory Christianson

phil said...

Doug glad to hear that you're back on your feet. I was very surprised to hear that you had a heart attack, because of how fit you've always been. But i guess we can't escape our genes. Our thoughts and prayers are with you, Judy and the family. GET WELL!!!!

Paul Kust said...

Be well my friend. We have way too much fun in us to quit now. Slow and steady! God Bless you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Doug,glad to hear you're safe, grateful, and tnakful for every day. Me too! Peace. Matt H.

Unknown said...

My kids & I will be praying for you, your family and your continued good health. Good story Doug.
May God continue to watch & bless you.
Chris Korth

mollykwilliams said...

Doug, thank you for sharing your story as you are very influential in a lot of people's lives and knowing what you have gone through is sure to make others more mindful of their health, paying attention to their bodies, and most importantly valuing every single moment. Your friends in KC are thrilled that you are recovering nicely and will be around a loooong looong time! (Hi to Judy too)

Unknown said...

God Bless you Doug.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Allow rigorous honesty in all that I think say and do.
Grant in me lord a clean heart, a continual cleansing as I invite Jesus into a fertile most holy sacred place (my heart) for us to commune, plant your seeds, allow the roots to grow deep and broad. Reside in me Jesus, make my body your temple, sold, deeded, bought, remove any unwanted squatters from your property, heal me.
I find peace and serenity in my acceptance to his plan and not mine. I cannot control what others think, say and do. I can only control what I think say and do.
You're a good man brother Doug.
I'll call you soon.


Unknown said...

Well written Doug. You must have gone to an excellent high school. Make wise use of this warning. The swift don't always win the race, time and unforseen occurance befall us all. Don't forget your spiritual needs. Tending to them brings real happiness. Stick around awhile!

Unknown said...

Even this Phi Psi is glad you made it through this medical event, and know now to listen to your body. Put on some "Chicago" and relax my friend. Creighton U prayers about.
Best regards, Paul Miller

Chevcarman said...

Doug, just read your account of what happened that fateful day. Wow,, so happy you are better and will continue to be so... Happy Holidays and I will always remind you how lucky we are and how we need to enjoy life every day. Brian and Carey Hamilton