Tag Archives: heart attack

Guest Post on Rage Against the Minivan Blog

Please check out my guest post on RageAgainsttheMinivan.com

Thank you to an old high school friend, Kristen Howerton, for selecting my post to share with her readers.

Photobucket

What I Want You To Know About Having A Heart Attack

 Let me know what title you’d like for a follow up guest post to this, so I can begin working on another submission for the What I Want You To Know series on Kristen’s blog.

More Test Results

I received the results of my 3rd heart echo.  It did not show any fluid around my heart, which the cardiologist was looking for since I’m still getting winded.  My ejection fraction has increased from 40-44% to 45-49%!!!  My cardiology team is ecstatic that my heart function has improved.  Normal range (according to my cardiac nurse) is 55-60+.  While I can’t believe it has ONLY increased 5% with all the changes I’ve made and all the cardiac rehab I’ve gone through, the cardiologist thinks this increase is huge…especially considering it was 15-20% after my heart attack.  Also, due to the damage that my heart has, it isn’t really expected to get back to normal from what I gather from the doctors.  They also say at least we are moving in the positive direction and any increase is great!  As for the results of my bloodwork for BNP and BMP, my BNP level was 114.  The PA (physician assistant) said that 100 or below is the normal range, but 114 was a good number for me.  They don’t start to really worry until the level gets to 300 or greater.  Within my BMP, my glucose was 99, which is good, so I shouldn’t be considered pre-diabetic anymore since the last my glucose was measured was in the hospital during all of my drama.

The kicker on this one is that I received a letter from my insurance company saying they will not cover the blood test for BNP because it is determined to be “experimental, investigational or unproven for the diagnosis” submitted with the claim, which is Coronary Atherosclerosis of Native Coronary Artery.  Of course, I think this is ridiculous.  Thank goodness it was only blood work, but I have NO CLUE what my bill will be!!!  If it is a small amount (like under $50) then I don’t have a huge problem with that; but if it’s a large amount, then I will have to appeal their decision, which is allowed.  It also says that health care professionals in my insurance network generally can’t bill me for services if they know they are not covered (yet necessary) and they tell me that in advance and I agree to it in writing.  No one advised me of such, so I’m wondering if I will get billed.  Maybe I will take it up with my doctor first if I do receive a bill.  Speaking of…I’m still waiting on a refund from the GI Surgeon for paying for my outpatient procedure in advance when everything was switched to in-patient/hospital stay.

On another positive note, my doctor did say that I can now ride roller coasters and start jogging (I asked about both!).  The jogging part is what excites me the most because it’s the only thing that will help me lose weight (I can’t believe I’m not losing weight with all of the changes over the past 3 months).  My doctor ordered another heart test, which I’m having done this week.  It will be a nuclear stress test while exercising.  He said it will help answer all of our questions as to why I’m getting winded when I go up stairs and why I’m having chest pains and tightness.  It will take pictures of my heart at rest and under stress to show how my heart is responding. Once the results are back from that, cardiac rehab will let me start jogging (based on the results) so they can monitor me before I start jogging on my own.  Ironically, my dad, who now sees my cardiologist, is going for a nuclear stress test (non-exercising) at the same time on the same day but at a different hospital.  Cardiac rehab told me that “no news is good news” when I’m waiting on results of the stress test.  The unfortunate thing about this stress test is it has a $200 co-pay.  Luckily, it’s happening on pay day.  Otherwise, not sure how I’d be paying.  Medical bills are adding up, and it’s taking a huge toll on my finances and budgeting.  Having a heart attack is expensive, people!

2 Weeks Post-MI.

MI stands for Myocardial Infarction (scientific name for Heart Attack), so you may hear medical staff refer to it as “MI”.  

I had my first appointment today with the Heart Clinic.  It wasn’t with any of the doctors who saved my life; this was with nurses from the Clinic to follow up and gather all of my information/medical history. This first appointment took a while, but they said it was because they needed to gather so much information at the initial appointment.  Everyone was extremely nice and only had great things to say about the cardiologists that worked on me in the hospital.  

I came in with a list of questions (as usual), but I hardly slept the night before because this appointment was like Christmas to me!  I couldn’t wait for this follow-up so I could ask questions that I hadn’t yet asked and talk about side effects, prognosis, etc.  They had a lot of questions for me, too.  First, they needed to get my medical history, then my family’s medical history (mainly my dad’s and my Uncle Edward’s).  Due to my strong family history of heart disease, the clinic will be watching me closely so I don’t have another MI.  My dad had a quadruple by-pass (it was an emergency open heart surgery when he went in for a routine appointment) when he was about 53.  He is still alive.  My Uncle (dad’s older brother by 2 years) had a quadruple by-pass (emergency open heart surgery when he was in surgery for stomach cancer).  He had also suffered a heart attack during the surgery for his stomach, which is how they caught his problem.  He was about 43.  He survived but went on to have another minor heart attack a few years later and then a massive heart attack, which killed him, when he was 60. I believe all of my dad’s siblings and both parents have had open heart surgery (multiple bypasses).  Only one Uncle is left (everyone else succumbed to ailments other than heart failure), and as a result of hearing of my “episode” and the symptoms I had leading up to it, decided to pay his doctor a visit the next week because he was having similar symptoms.  Turns out, he has a blockage (not an emergency) and will be getting another stent placed next week.  

I digress…so back to my Heart Clinic visit…

I mentioned to the nurses that I had what I thought were heart palpitations 2 days ago, along with a low blood pressure reading (80 something over 50 something).  They said that I should have contacted them right away so they could assess the problem.  I told them that I also have anxiety and wasn’t sure if it was actual palpitations or the fluttery anxious feeling I get when I’m stressed or nervous (nervous about my health!).  They said that palpitations could be brought on by low blood pressure and if it happens again to drink a lot of water (however, I cannot drink more than 2 liters of liquid in a 24 hour period) and to call them.  What I didn’t realize, and much to my RELIEF, is that the Clinic is 24 hours – rather, they have a night nurse.  So I can call at any time, day or night, and a nurse can assist me…unless I’m having a known emergency and then I should call 911.  They would rather treat me as an outpatient rather than put me in the hospital again.  I now need to program these #s into my phone.

They suggested that I could purchase a sphygmomanometer (fancy word for blood pressure cuff) online that could sync to my iPhone.  They also suggested that I get my current one calibrated (I’m using my dad’s) at the fire department as the readings seem to be low.  How exciting!

I also addressed the allergic reaction to my statin.  Last week, I broke out with a rash all over my torso.  I’ve never had a rash before.  I was told to stop taking my statin and to take Benadryl until my appointment today.  The rash has cleared up.  Although the nurses today didn’t really think the statin caused me to break out, they have changed my medicine to Crestor* (from Atorvastatin).  

During the appointment, the nurses were looking through my hospital records and discussed my ultrasound results with me.  The ejection fraction of my heart the night of my heart attack was about 15-20%…it should be at least 50%.  However, they were missing the results of the 2nd ultrasound that I had 3 days later.  Those results showed the ejection fraction to be about 45%, which shows my heart is healing and getting stronger; but it is still not strong enough.  The nurse had to call my Cardiologist to get this info, and my Cardiologist asked to say hello to me on the phone!  So the nurse handed her cell phone to me so I could speak with my Cardiologist!  What great and personalized service!  He did remind me that he saved my life and had it not been for him, I would not be alive.  I am forever grateful!!  He said he would like to see me next week in his office and he’d like for me to have a follow up with the nurses in 3 weeks.  This is great!  I want to see my doctors as much as possible so we can learn from each other, and so they can take every step to get me healthy again and track my heart’s progress.  

I asked about exercise to see what I can and can’t do and what I am capable of doing safely.  They recommended that I walk for 30 mins everyday.  Of course, I can build up to that with 10 mins a day to start.  They would like to see me gain my independence back.  And on that note, I moved back to my home today (was staying with my parents after the hospital).  

The nurses did give me homework until the next appointment; and although I’m not in school, I welcomed this homework with open arms!  I need to track my blood pressure, heart rate, and weight every single day.  This will help them gauge how well my meds are working and how my heart is responding to them.  They will also have a dietitian and a pharmacist meet with me on my next appointment so all of my diet and drug interaction questions can be answered.  For example, the doctor said I cannot eat dairy or fried foods anymore – does that mean forever??  It is so hard being a pescetarian vegan.  I want cheese SO BAD!  But let me take this moment to remind myself that CHEESE may be the reason that I had the heart attack!!

All in all, the visit to the Heart Clinic was great.  I look forward to my next appointment.  

*Crestor – the new statin they’ve prescribed me – is a brand name drug and was going to cost $48 with my insurance!  I paid $66 for all of my cardiac meds combined when I left the hospital!  Thankfully, I searched online and found a coupon from Crestor’s website for a free 30 day trial.  I took this to the pharmacy.  They were not able to process that 30 day free trial (for whatever reason), but they found another coupon for Crestor that brought my co-pay down to $18!  I would hate if I paid $48 for this and find out I am allergic to it, too.  It pays to do a little research, and it’s great to have a pharmacy that is patient with me.  🙂

I went to the fire department tonight hoping to meet a hot firefighter who could calibrate my blood pressure cuff.  Disappointment!!!  I was told that fire stations do not calibrate blood pressure cuffs!!  However, they were super nice and researched it online and called the cuff company to find out how to get it calibrated.  Turns out, it is cheaper for me to just buy a new one.  I will look into the ones that sync up to iPhone.  I wonder if my insurance will pay for it…


I apologize for not making this all so much more inviting and interesting with photos and such, but I just got a new iPhone today, so I will be sure to experiment with the camera function.  

My Story.

On Monday, June 16, I had what I thought was a gall bladder attack.  Two weeks earlier, I was diagnosed as having gall stones, so I scheduled an appointment to have my gall bladder removed.  (This would be my very first surgery ever, and I was so nervous.)  The pain was unbearable.  It started out as severe burning in my chest, like heartburn, and engulfed the entire top half of my body.  I couldn’t find a position that would make the pain go away.  Then I broke out into a sweat and started shaking.  I knew something was not right, and fearing for the worst, I contacted a colleague (I was staying in a local hotel for work) who dialed 911.  Once the paramedics arrived, most of the pain had gone away.  They took my vitals and checked my heart, and they dismissed it as a gall bladder attack.  They gave me the choice to go with them in the ambulance or come to the hospital later if I started feeling bad again.  I chose not to be transported by ambulance, and the paramedics left.  A friend of mine bought some heartburn medicine for me, which I took immediately.  However, the pain came back.  I concentrated really hard to make the pain go away again, and it did…mostly.  I contacted my GI doctor to get seen immediately.  I could hardly walk and couldn’t drive, so another colleague drove me to the doctor’s office.  There, I was prescribed heartburn medicine, pain medicine, and sent for blood work.  I also rescheduled my gall bladder surgery to Friday, June 20 (originally scheduled Wednesday, June 25, due to my work schedule).

The pain medicine seemed to help, and by the next morning, I felt I was okay to go into work and just take it easy most of the day.  That idea was quickly squashed, as another attack came on mid-morning!  This time, the pain was centered to my sternum and had moved to the left.  I also had shortness of breath, and it hurt to breathe deeply.  I immediately contacted my GI doctor who told me that my blood work had come back with elevated levels of WBCs, therefore, I had an infection.  We contacted the GI surgeon to see if he could work me in that day, which he did.  My surgery was scheduled for 4:00pm.  Before leaving for the outpatient facility, the surgeon contacted me and said he didn’t feel right about sending me to the outpatient facility in case something went wrong – since we already knew there was an infection – so he wanted me to be admitted to the hospital instead.  He would do my surgery at 4:00pm and I would spend the night so they could check and make sure all was okay before releasing me the next morning.  This would be my first surgery AND my first hospital stay ever!  I’m really nervous.

I had two of my friends drive me to the hospital to get checked in.  My breathing was very shallow and labored.  I was weak, didn’t feel well, was in pain, and my eye sight started getting blurry.  Once I was in the surgery prep room, I let all of the doctors and nurses know about my painful and shallow breathing.  All assured me that wasn’t a problem, and I would be feeling better in no time.  I don’t even remember being put to sleep with anesthesia.  The only thing I remember next was waking up after the surgery.

I was in recovery, and I woke up, very groggy, so someone saying my name, “Kim!”  I was then left alone and began to feel excruciating pain in the upper half of both arms.  I also felt nauseous.  I started to moan and groan and shake my arms and call for someone to please help me that I was nauseous and my arms were hurting really bad.  I think I was dozing in and out.  Someone asked me how long I’d had a heart problem.  I went into fighter mode and became very defensive.  I said, “I don’t have a heart problem!”  Someone else asked me if I knew I had a heart problem.  I said, “I don’t have a problem with my heart!  What is going on?”  The next thing I knew, people were all around me.  I heard whispers of “heart condition” but no one ever told me what was wrong.  Then someone started doing an echo of my heart and asking me about my “heart condition”.  Again, I exclaimed that nothing was wrong with my heart.  I remember a Dr. going around and thanking each person individually for staying late to help me.  Then I remember looking up and seeing a priest!  “Why is there a priest?!” I yelled out.  “Is the priest here for me????!!!”  Someone answered that there were normally lots of people around for surgeries.  But that made me mad that there was a priest!  Was I dying?  Did they think I was going to die??  And no one was telling me what was going on?

I remember being taken into another surgery.  I was afraid they might be cracking my chest for open heart surgery.  I asked, “am I going in for another surgery?”  “Yes,” was the reply from someone.  “Am I having 1 or 2 more surgeries?” I asked.  “Hopefully just 1,” someone replied.  “Will I need anesthesia?” I asked.  “No, you only need a local anesthetic for this procedure,” I heard.  And then I was moved to a hard and narrow operating table.  I was able to turn my head enough to see the X-ray monitor that showed everything that was going on!  I remember seeing my artery…with a large plaque that was broken up…and the balloon and stent being pushed through my artery to that area with the plaque.  Unbelievable!  I heard someone say there was a blockage.  I asked what percentage and was told 80%.  And then I started coughing.  I coughed so hard, and I was coughing up fluid…so much fluid!!  I was almost choking and gagging there was so much fluid that was gushing up through my throat from the coughing!!  It tasted so gross.  And the next thing I remember is being in ICU with a Cpap on my face and being yelled at to let it breathe for me.  But I felt suffocated.  Finally, I was able to relax and found my rhythm with this Cpap.  All of my family was there.  Why?  This was a simple gall bladder surgery that went horribly wrong, right?

I learned later that I wasn’t expected to survive throughout the first night.  The damage to my heart was about 50%.  My prognosis was grim.  When I was coughing in the OR, it was pulmonary edema, and my lungs were filling with fluid from heart failure!!  Heart failure?  I had had a heart attack!  My medical record is official – Myocardial Infarction!  What?  I had suffered a massive heart attack in the widow-maker – LAD – a large plaque had burst and collapsed my artery.  The doctors were called in and were at my side working on me within 5-7 minutes.  The cath lab was 2 doors down.  Every minute was critical to saving my life.  I was supposed to be at an outpatient facility!  I wasn’t even supposed to be in the hospital!  The cardiologists did not even practice in the hospital – they were there for a seminar!!  The heart attack was completely independent of the gall bladder surgery, so it would have happened no matter where I was at that time on that day.  Thankfully, all of the stars were aligned, and I was given a second chance at life…

The doctors had lots of questions for me the next day – what were my symptoms, where did it hurt, etc. They say I’m the luckiest person they’ve ever met.  This heart attack normally kills people instantly.  They said that most of my gall bladder symptoms were most likely heart attack symptoms.  Thank goodness I had a bad gall bladder problem to get me to the hospital!

With my new lease on life, I must now live a different way, eat a certain way, and exercise a certain way.  It has been a life-changing event, and I welcome you to follow me on my journey.  xoxo