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A Wake Up Call from My Heart

Jack Miller

Wednesday, Jan 9, 2013, 5:30 a.m. Memo to self: Wake up, have a heart attack, panic.

While this is not a memo anyone would write to themselves, it happens even without a reminder. As it is with most people who have it happen. my heart attack should have been expected because I am a perfect candidate: overweight, a sedentary life style, and a penchant to worry too much about small things. On the plus side, I gave up smoking over 40 years ago, and my drinking has shrunk to an occasional beer.  However, my love of things that have added to my weight and expanded my waistline put me in the “Matter of time” category.

This was not my first hurried ride to the emergency room at Bothwell Hospital with chest pains.  In 1995, my first episode resulted in angioplasty, or balloon surgery, and my retirement from the Navy Reserve.

Waking up with pain in both arms, my back and chest that Wednesday morning did not scare me half as much as not being able to breathe. As I sat on my front porch waiting for the pain to subside, the cold air seemed to make my breathing a little easier, but the pain did not stop. The pain in fact did not stop until I was sitting in a room in the emergency room at Bothwell hooked up to a monitor. As the pain eased I began to think I should have stayed home, and allowed the pain to pass; something Dr. Kenneth Azan assured me would not have been a good idea after he looked at my test results.

A short time later, I was in the back of an APSI Ambulance headed to Boone Hospital in Columbia. When I arrived, there was another reminder of how much I had needed to be there rather than still on my front porch. I was not directed to a preparation room, but was taken directly to the cardiac catheterization room, something that surprised not only me, but also the ambulance attendants pushing the gurney.

As a scared patient, I would like to say there should always be a person like the anesthesiologist at Boone in every operating room.  His light-hearted (no pun intended) banter was just what I needed at that scary time.  Dr. Tony Speady came into the room and explained what he was going to do in a manner that was both professional and reassuring.

There is a wonderful amnesia that takes over as the doctors do their work to repair the damage a person like me has done to himself through the years. I was surprised to hear the words, “We are finished,” having never being aware of when the procedure had started.

The next thing I was aware of was waking up in the ICU with a male nurse, who proved to be as good at making me feel everything would be fine as the anesthesiologist had. I soon learned I had received two stints in blood vessels to my heart while I was in limbo. I think the worst part of the first night was being tethered to machines and not being able to get out of bed to go to the bathroom. I knew no one liked urinals and bedpans, and now I know why. Of course there was some pain as the tubes were removed from the vein in my groin at the entry point of the catheterization. It also wasn’t pleasant as Chuck my nurse pressed hard on the site of the incision for the 15 minutes it took for the blood to clot. A large black and blue bruise was still evident more than a week later.

During my stay in the ICU, I had three wonderful nurses, whose smiles and words of encouragement made my stay, while not a treat, at least a positive experience. The same can be said for those who cared for me in my fourth floor room at Boone, and here at Bothwell Hospital. My doctors, starting with Dr. Azan, and ending with Dr. Speady at Boone Hospital, were the always efficient specialists who give a patient confidence and know exactly what you need. I could not have asked for more.

It is now up to me to do everything I can to not have another episode in the future.  Of course, there is the plethora of pills that I must take, and I will soon start cardiac rehab at Bothwell to repair my heart. My weight must be a priority, and those around me will be able to gauge my success.

While the Editor of The Sedalia Democrat, Bob Satnan, along with the other graduates from the first class of “Healthy U” will be my inspiration, I invite everyone else to be my reminders.

There is a bit of irony to this story, as I had Sara Nail with “Healthy U” along with Bob Satnan of the 2012 class, and a young man from the 2013 class as guests of my radio show “Talk Back Tuesday,” the day before my heart attack. The message is clearer now.

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