Wednesday the 27th at 3:30am, I woke up from a deep sleep feeling really crappy. Both shoulders were aching from God knows what, and that pain was starting to creep down both arms. I pictured the TV ad for Lyrica, in which the lead actress starts rubbing her shoulders and you can see through her skin and all the raw nerves. I thought to myself, “Fibromyalgia? Really?”
Well, this idiot, who clearly watches way too much television kept feeling worse and worse. I broke into a cold sweat to end all cold sweats. It was literally pouring off of my face and body. I woke Jan up and said, “Something’s wrong.” She sat up immediately and asked, “Do I need to call an ambulance?” I nodded yes and then laid down on my side of the bed, barely able to breathe. The pain by then was excruciating. It was particularly vicious on my back between the shoulder blades.
Once the EMTs got me loaded up and strapped in, we took off. I felt really bad for the guy working on me. Every time he tried to get an IV drip going, the needle in the perfect position, the ambulance would hit a bump. He kept apologizing and I kept saying, “No worries.” As bad as he felt about all the punctures in my otherwise perfect skin (HA!), that pain was nothing, a light breeze across my brow by comparison. By the time we pulled into the Emergency entrance of St. David’s | South Austin Medical Center, I still didn’t have an IV going, but I had five beautiful puncture wounds on various parts of my arm. Dr. Levy and his Cath-Lab crew took over from there.
It turns out the Right Coronary Artery, the blood vessel that is the primary blood supply for the heart was blocked, starving my heart of blood and oxygen. My heart was not happy. I remember just saying the word “pain” over and over again. At that point I was feeling it everywhere.
Of course they had me wired from here to Sunday, but they kept me conscious the whole time. At one point, I remember fading to black, only to be shocked…literally, back to blinding light. If you’ve ever been bitten by household current, you have some idea of what that feels like. It is anything but pleasant. I was told later that my legs and head flew up like I was doing a pike dive then flattened out. I don’t remember that, but I remember very clearly saying, “What the fuck?” (Not my normal speech habit, I can assure you.) I also remember the Doctor calmly saying, “Your heart was acting up so we had to shock it a bit.”
At this point I had been in agony for nearly an hour, I had absolutely no clue what they were doing to me and I was thinking, “This is a really crappy way to go.” I heard the Doctor say, “Stand by,” and a moment later, it was like someone flipped a switch. The pain was all instantly gone. It felt so good, it was almost worth all the pain that led up to it. I looked into Rachel’s eyes (she was the RN/Tech assisting Doctor Levy) and said, “That is beautiful!”
Over the next few days, I had some minor issues crop up, like a Pseudo-Aneurism on my Femoral Artery, the entrance point Dr. Levy used to put in the stent. That’s under control now. Because they put me on blood thinners, I now bruise if you just look at me wrong. You should SEE the bruising in my groin area from the Pseudo-Aneurism. On second thought, you should be glad you can’t see it. It is pretty spectacular. Through it all I met an amazing staff at St. David’s. Every nurse and tech took such good care of me.
A word to the wise, my friends: I know that symptoms of a heart attack can often be very different from one person to the next, but I am told that my symptoms are not unusual. I started feeling that achy, "fibromyalgia" (from the TV spot) feeling on the previous Sunday. Of course they weren't as strong as when the MI came into full-swing, but they are definitely uncomfortable and very noticeable. If you start feeling that way, make sure you have a few full-size/full-dose aspirin on hand at all times. (The standard Bayer tablets will do nicely.) My Doctor said that the 'fistful' of aspirin I took right off the bat probably saved my life.
And don't think I haven't realized that my situation was nearly the same as Tom Petty's. The difference was I had someone who didn't hesitate to call for help. If we had waited, that shock the Doctor gave me would never have been given in time and I would be over. I owe everything to my wife, Jan.
I’ve been home a couple of days now and although my turbines are still spinning up, I’m feeling stronger just about every hour.