June 27th, 2011 10:48 pm |
Well it has been awhile since I have put an entry on my blog. Life has been very interesting over the last year. So why “Scott version 4.0″?
On the Friday before Memorial Day, I had a heart attack. For those that don’t know, this is my 4th attack. That’s right my fourth. I beat the “3 strikes and you’re out” rule. Someone up there wants me around. I know I still have much to contribute to life.
My first three attacks were low on the severity of attacks. The three previous times I had some blockage and I had some stents installed to open up the arteries that were clogged. The doctors said I needed to lose weight, change my diet to control my sugar for my Type II Diabetes and control my sodium for my High Blood Pressure.
Did I do that? Simple answer is no. Sure, I started and within months I was back to my old routine which usually consisted of no breakfast, a very late lunch and then dinner right before bed. Not having breakfast made my body starve and then my body would generate sugars that would bring my blood sugar levels above 200. Ideally you want your blood sugars below 130. As time went on, I’d stop cooking and go bck to a daily schedule of fast food. Wendy’s, McDonalds and Del Taco became regular stops for me. As I look at my breakdown of expenses in 2010, I scared myself on how much money I spent on fast food.
Now when I do cook at home, I’m usually pretty good. I have always watched my sodium in my home cooking. I’m not much of a sweets guy, so my own enemy was usually the sugars my body created from carb overload. Over time my cooking would lose out to “time” and fast food and frozen dinners would take place. Have you ever looked at the nutritional info on the side of most “Lean Cuisines”, “Budget Gourmet” or those frozen pot pies?? Its sodium, sodium, sodium!!
So let’s talk about weight. At my heaviest I was 270+. For years I would fluctuate, but only within a 5-10 pound difference. I can say that probably for the last few years I have hovered at that weight. I had absolutely no exercise routine. I convinced myself that all the walking I was doing at work was enough. Yeah..right. I was too tired to work out. For three months I even hired a personal trainer. Did I do what he said. Sure, for a few weeks, then eventually I completely stopped seeing him altogether.
On the Friday before Memorial Day (May 27) I started my day just like any other day. Got up, skipped breakfast and headed to work. Worked my day and left around 4ish. I got home and took a nap. I got up a few hours later and my chest felt weird. I thought it was heartburn. I had some of those deep fried mac n cheese things from Del Taco before I got home. So, I took a Zantac 150 and an hour later I was still feeling it. I had gotten some sushi and after the 2nd bite I started to feel nauseous. My chest started to tighten and at that point I said this is not heartburn. I started to panic and rushed to the bedroom and looked for my messenger bag. I have had a small bottle of Nitroglycerin pills in the outside pocket. I have NEVER used them. It was probably 3 years old. I took a pill and put it under my tongue. I was also worried that it was no longer potent. There was a bit of a sting under my skin so I knew it was still working. The next thing I did was SO STUPID!
I didn’t want to make a scene in the apartment complex, so I made it into my car and drove myself to the ER at Saddleback Memorial. I parked the car in the lot and walked up to the ER. I walked up to the counter and said I was having chest pains. The dude was so calm and asked me to fill out a form. I couldn’t fill it out. My hands were shaking and I was getting really scared. He saw this and called the nurse. The nurse brought me out back and she asked me what was going on. I took my shirt off and they put 12 leads on me to do an EKG. Next thing I know I’m putting on a gown. My flip flops fall off and I’m asked to disrobe.
Next thing I know this guy walks over and starts barking orders to everyone. Do this and do that. It was making me uncomfortable. I turned to the nurse and she said I was heading to the Cath Lab. The Cath Lab is where they do angioplasties and stent installation. The go in thru and opening in your groin with a lead that follows the main after from the leg to the heart. Here that can see the blockage as I subject to a low level constant x-ray so they can see what’s going on. I asked the nurse who he was and told her I was nervous about the weird karma I was getting off of him. She smirked and said, don’t worry he’s one of the best and he’s not so bad. This was my introduction to Dr. Masters, colleague to my cardiologist Dr. Daniel LaMont. They put me in a conscious sedated state. They want me lucid enough to answer questions along the way. A few minutes into it I told them I was feeling something and then nothing.
I was unconscious.
I have no idea how long I was out. This is where things get interesting. I wake up and the nurse is asking me if I’m with her. I look up at her and I’m so confused. I hear a voice from at the foot of the bed and he says “here we go again, get ready…” next thing I hear is someone say CLEAR and I experience one of the most unbelievable amount of pain. I was being defibrillated. My body clenched and I turn my head towards the nurse and I know I have this look of horror on my face. She says she’s sorry but they have to do it I was in the middle of the actual attack. I can taste blood in my mouth and she puts a suction tube in my mouth and tells me to open so she can clear it. Apparently I had bitten my tongue during one of the defibrillations. Then someone says we have to do it again. I look up at the nurse and I said can you tell me when its going to happen and then someone yells CLEAR. I must have been conscious for about 4 of them. Somewhere after that I was unconscious again. All in all, I was told they had to shock me close to a dozen times.
I woke up, again, not knowing how much time had passed. I was in a bed in the ICU. I was somewhat in pain. I tried to move, but it felt like I couldn’t. After a few seconds I was able to move my fingers then my arms. My legs were wrapped in something that felt like some kind of massager. There was some kind of harness around my groin area. This was to make sure I didn’t open the incision they made earlier. The nurse came in and asked me how I was feeling. She introduced herself as Tracy. For the next two days, she was there. She told me what had happened. I had vague flashbacks and remember how many people were standing around me and how many were standing out in the hallway looking in. Most of all, I remember that pain of the electricity. I was really out of it was coming in and out of consciousness. I find out later, that my sisters had been sitting in the ER waiting room and had no idea what was going on behind the ER doors.
Someone must have told them eventually as I got to see them. I still don’t think they know what I had gone thru. My sisters and I have been slowly drifting apart over the years and this experience has really shown me that family ALWAYS matter. My sisters have been with me since day 1. The have been supportive and they have been here to help every step of the way. My parents have been trying to call but of course my phone battery died. They eventually got a hold of my sister and she filled them in. I think they were ready to hop on a plane. I told them not to.
The next few days I would find myself experiencing a sponge bath, having a catheter placed, well… you know and then having it removed. Slowly my strength would come back enough that I then graduated to the Telemetry floor. There I would have a roommate and I would wear a portable EKG transmitter that would be monitored at the nurses station. Gone is the hi-tech ICU room which was private (it was encased in glass…but you know what I mean). I was moved to a room with another heart patient. Bless his heart, but his family would not leave his side. Every friend and relative seem to be streaming into the room at all hours of the day and into the night. It was very difficult for me to rest as I always felt like I was on display. His wife wouldn’t leave and would sleep in the room with us. Don’t get me wrong, they are a very close knit family and I’m glad he is getting all the attention, but really….I need my time to recuperate too. My sisters and the kids would come after work and on the weekends. It got to be pretty lonely there with my view being the curtain that surrounded the bed, the beeps of the monitors and the occasional cute PCT (patient care technicians) that would come to take my blood pressure or needed blood. I would lay there saying to myself how cute he was and then I replace that with “Scott you’re in a hospital and almost died and you’re thinking about how cute he is”? I would chuckle inside and focus. I had four IV lines in my arms. Why couldn’t they draw blood from there? They had to poke me every time and I think they were running out of places. One tech just couldn’t get it right and kept moving the needle under the skin. I got over my fear of needles in like the 5th grade, but this one was making me very uncomfortable. Then there are the techs that come in the middle of the night and with the glow of the lights from the hallway are able to poke and draw blood in the dark!
Oddly in all of this I am thinking about work. I had my sister bring a charger and my iPad. Once I had access to the free hospital-provided WiFi I was connected. I was emailing my good friend Tim and keeping in touch with others. Telling the story was quite difficult and each time I told it I would feel anxiety. I swear that if I didn’t have my iPad I would go insane. I would spend the next few days in telemetry. Those days in telemetry also introduced me to the world of wearing a CPAP mask at night. My primary care doctor insisted that I wear it and he is convinced I suffer from sleep apnea. This mask covers the mouth and nose and it forces air in and out. (Technically mine is a BiPAP unit since it draws air in and out). A CPAP only pushes air – well that’s how I understood it. That mask made me feel so claustrophobic. I felt like I couldn’t get fresh air. In addition this thing made alot of noise and felt like I was Darth Vader. I can’t tell you the number of times I said in my head “Luke, I am your father…”. It was crazy. Then I was getting self conscious about the mask and started to get worried that I was keeping my roommate and his wife awake all night with the sound. That’s right “I” was worried about bothering them. See…I’m always the giving person.
It was interesting listening to his story about how he thought his was heartburn too. I would listen to his wife scold him for not going to the doctor more often, then end the scold with a hug and a kiss. they were really worried about him. There was discussion of needing a defibrillator installed in his heart – but they weren’t sure. When I heard the doctors talk to him about that, I started wondering if I was going to need one too? The defibrillator would shock the heart when the heart would have an arrhythmia heartbeat. It would then shock you until the heart was back in normal sinus rhythm. I laid there wondering if that “shock” felt the same as the paddles or if was like putting a 9-volt battery on your tongue. I mean this things run on a lithium battery and it sits just under the skin. To tell you the truth I don’t want to know.
After a week, the doctor releases me to home care. Yay, I get to go home. I get to sleep in my own bed. Note to self, wright a letter to the purchasing department of the hospital. Suggest to them that they should sleep in the beds they buy so they can understand what it feels like after several days. I think they would be surprised to find that they are very uncomfortable and might make a different selection. I say they should get in partnerships with the mattress industry to come up with a mattress that is both comfortable and functional to the bells and whistles of a bed that can be contorted in 18 million ways.
But I digress…
I finally get home with a list of medications that would stretch from here to the moon! I currently take about 22 pills a day. Ugh. I would laugh as the nurses would always ask if I want to take them in little steps or if I could take them all at once. I would laugh inside and make a bad joke in my head then swallow the pills down. I don’t know how pharmaceutical companies think that the human throat can swallow pills the size of dimes – but I manage regardless…
After a nap I get up and go to the restroom, then to the living room and sit on the couch. I’m sitting upright and I start to feel this tingling sensation all over my chest and it starts to spread outward to my arms. I start to panic, I called my sister as she was only a few miles away and told her to get here right away. I’m on the phone with her and my breathing gets shorter and labored. I make it down the stairs and we head back towards the one place I have been dreading. I walk into the ER and explain what is happening. It is now almost EXACTLY one week from when I had the heart attack. I come around and the same nurse is on duty and asked what the hell I was doing there. I told her that I was just discharged several hours ago and that I was having a strange feeling in my chest. There are no rooms. The hospital is literally FULL. The ER was full and they were even doing triage in the hallways. They find an empty triage room and I’m laying there and she asks for the EKG technician. He was working on another patient so she grabs the cart and starts to put the leads on. She looks at it and then walks out the door. She comes back with the tech (who is way cute by the way…) and asks him to look at the readings. He looks, looks at me and then back at the screen. He then starts to check the leads on my body. I’m freaking out as they have this look on their face. He prints it out and heads out the door. A few minutes later, they both get me on a gurney and into a room that is painted with kids’ murals. She said they couldn’t find anything wrong but the attending wants me to stay for several hours for observation. They drew blood to see if my Troponin levels were high. So it turns out that when organs are damaged or in distress the release enzymes into the blood to indicate there is something room. The heart releases “troponin”. At this point, I am very calm. My breathing is normal and I wasn’t having the tingling anymore. A couple of hours later I am being told they want to check me back in for a few days…
WHAT?!?!? They wanted to make sure that it wasn’t anything. The next couple of days I would find myself back in Telemetry but in the East wing. I was in a room with two other patients but the room was large and had a bathroom with a shower. Turns out this was a donated room and was special. They wheeled me to my new room and told me to get comfortable. The PCT that evening was very cute and I was distracted. It is 1:00am at this point. My sisters come in to see how I was doing and they leave. I then notice that the PCT was staying in the room and was at a computer workstation that was parked in front of the 2nd patient. I tried to see if his typing correlated to anything that was happening in the room. The patient would snort and then groan and go back to bed. I would then hear the typing. But then there would be long periods without any noise from the patient and I would still hear typing. The respiratory tech shows up and wheels the CPAP machine next to my bed. “Awww man…really”? I said. He said, yes, doctor’s orders. So I do the joke in my head about being Luke’s father started to fall asleep. Then out of no where this guy comes in and tells the patient next to me that someone is coming to interview him. What?? It’s the middle of the night. Then I’m putting my thinking hat on and maybe this guy did some crime and that why he had someone with him 24/7. The nurse says that it is late and that he might be as coherent as he needs to be.
Morning couldn’t get there fast enough. I woke up to sounds of an irritable elderly man who was irate at the technician. He kept saying he wanted to leave and was this a god damn prison? So the interviewer shows up. He starts asking him about whether or not the patient knows where he is at, who the President is and if he knew his birthday. I have to say he had some difficulty except when he said “that Obama guy…” Then the interview got interesting. He asked if he knew why he was in the hospital. Well it turns out that he had a fire in his house. Seems he came home from the grocery store and put the bag on the stove (I assume it is gas). The kitchen caught on fire. Well I now realize that the interviewer is a psychiatrist. They wanted to know if he was competent enough to be released as his injuries from smoke inhalation was no long needing to keep in the hospital. They needed to make sure he would be ok. But then it get’s better. Apparently sometime the day before he was complaining about wanting to leave and he says something about wanting a gun and wants to get out of prison. I guess gun and let me out don’t mix well and the hospital put him on 24/7 watch. The doctor asked why he wanted a gun and the patient explains it was a figure of speech and that he would never actually shoot a gun. Well after several hours they must have determined he was ok and they released him. There was some drama with his housekeeper/care provider and her daughter. He eventually would leave. We had the room to ourselves now. The third patient in the room was very quiet and would cough now and then. He was a very elderly Chinese man who had some kind of surgery. The whole time I was there, no one came to visit him. He would pull out his cell phone and talk to someone, but never saw anyone but nurses and doctors. This was another moment that I was happy that my sisters and Tim have come to visit me while I was in the hospital. We a few days later the doctor is finally convinced I can go home. A couple of days earlier I was in the hallways walking around making sure I had enough strength and to show off to the staff that “I was ok…”. Unfortunately it would be 2 days later that I got to leave.
I have to say that nurses have the worse job, but I am grateful for each and every one of them. I couldn’t do what they do. I couldn’t put up with reckless and irate patients. I couldn’t deal with those “duties” you know have to be done. You know what I’m talking about. Those nurses are dedicated and genuinely want to help people. It’s interesting you can instantly tell the ones who don’t want to be there and treat the job like its a bother to them. It’s very annoying. Some of the technicians had this attitude and it was a bit off-putting, but overall the staff at Saddleback is one of the best. The cardiac department is one of the best in the nation it seems.
It is now the start of my third week away from the office and I’m getting ready to return. I have been having some dizziness and nausea ever since I got home. I met with my primary as I wanted to confirm these were side effects of my meds and not something more serious. Turns out he says its the meds. He told me I could return on the 18th and that he wanted to see me in three months. He was so casual about it. Ok bye.
Well a week goes by and the 18th comes. I am excited about returning to the office and seeing everyone. I get up that morning, get ready, have breakfast (I have been having a steady diet of Cheerios and low fat milk every day for breakfast). I got showered, dressed and started on my way to work. I was sweating. I couldn’t figure it out. I figured I was just hot. I get to work and start to see everyone. Everyone is welcoming me back and there is a “Welcome back” sign on my desk. The whole time I am just sweating. Friends are noticing and ask and I say that my blood sugars must be off. I have an appointment with my cardiologist today. It’s about 10:15 and I head back to Saddleback to have a followup with my doctor.
He asks how I’m doing and I said I was good, but also explained about the dizziness and nausea along with a couple of other side effects that I won’t go into detail about here. They take my blood pressure and it seems normal, 110/68. We reviewed my meds and made some adjustments and told me he wanted to see me in 3 weeks (not 3 months like my primary) and that he wanted to make sure my heart was doing ok. I hop off the examination table, put on my shirt and walk to the lobby to pay my co-pay. I lean against the counter and tell the nurse that I was feeling dizzy. She asks if I want to sit down and I said that I was ok, it will pass. I’m typing on my iPhone to put my next appointment in and then…
I passed out.
Less than a minute later I open my eyes and I see 4 people looking down at me. I panic thinking that I’m about to be shocked again. The nurse pats my hand and asks me what my name was. My doctor said to get a cuff and get a blood pressure reading. I try to get up but told to stay on the floor. The nurse said she looked up, my eyes rolled up and I went down and also hit my head on the ground. My BP was in the 60s I think she said. They continue to ask how I feel. At this point I actually am feeling better. They continue to ask my name and what day it is and if I know where I was. I guess they were concerned that I might have a concussion from the fall and that I wasn’t mentally impaired. The BP reading continues to be low. The doctor then asked if I had anything to eat this morning and if I did a blood sugar reading. I told him that I had and that it was 173. They were scrambling for a blood sugar kit and they then suspected that I passed out due to low blood sugar. Someone gets some orange juice and I take a few sips from the straw. My feet are now on a chair above my body. They do the readying at it is 163. Well its not blood sugar and then they say don’t give me anymore OJ! At this point the paramedics arrive. Even tho they are next to the hospital, procedure dictates that they had to call the paramedics. OK, I was definitely feeling better as 3 hunky paramedics are all around me. They put in an IV line and start to administer saline. They go thru the questions again: name, where I’m at, my birthday. They are being very attentive and ask how I’m feeling. They get the EKG leads on me and get a reading. The doctor looks at it and says he wants me to go to the ER. Oh no, I said…not again!
Moments later the ambulance shows up and of course, two cute guys show up with a gurney. They ask if I feel good enough to stand up and I said I thought so. So two of the paramedics extend their arms towards me and I grip their hands as they pull me up. They ask if I’m ok. I get on the gurney and they have me propped up. They wheel me out and all the while I had an audience – the other patients in the lobby. I’m feeling particularly embarrassed at this point. Not to mention embarrassed in front of these hot guys with my shirt wide open. We get to the elevators and they commandeer it saying they had an emergency. We were on the fifth floor and I looked at the elevator and said there is no way the gurney is going to fit. But somehow it does and I’m in an elevator packed of cute guys. I digress again.
They could have wheeled me over to the ER doors, but policy once again dictated I had to be driven in. So they put me in the ambulance. One of the paramedics stays with me and taking vitals. They drive around the block and drive up to the ambulance bay. They wheel me into the ER and rushed into a bay. The nurses come in and start to take over from the paramedics. The beeping starts, the blood is drawn and I’m on a constant BP machine. I would be there for about 4 hours. They even did a CAT scan of my head to make sure I didn’t have a concussion. I asked the tech what the difference was between a CT scan and a CAT scan and he said its the same thing. Back in the ER the ER doc came by to introduce himself and to say that they believe that I may have just blacked out due to my blood pressure being so low. I look up at the monitor and the Systolic is in the mid 80s. Whoa. Meanwhile, my cardiologist shows up and says that my CT scan was clear and that my blood tests were clear. They wanted to wait until my blood pressure was above 100 before they would release me. Eventually it did and I went home.
It is four weeks later and I have been resting and getting my strength back. My cardiologist said he is not recommending my return to work until I have completed cardiac rehab and that my body has made the time to get used to the new meds and blood pressure. He asked why I went back to work and I told him that my primary gave me the OK. He said that he should have made that determination as this was a heart attack. I would later find out that I could be out of work for most of the summer. Cardiac rehab will take about 6 weeks, 3x a week. Once I have gotten the OK from therapy, I then need to have a followup with my cardiologist, do an ECG (sonogram to look at my heart) and a nuclear stress test. The nuclear stress test will allow the doctors to see how much damage was done to my right artery. I was told that the right artery was completely blocked. My two left arteries were completely clear. I asked what that meant and they said that the muscle flap that works the right artery is damaged and probably won’t work anymore. They said I was not a candidate for a bypass and that many people live with just two arteries. He said they were going to treat this with medicine and keep an eye on it. However I had to do my part: lose weight, change of diet, watch the salt and sugar. They said there is no reason I can’t go many, many years with no complications of the blocked artery, but time will tell.
I’m happy to report that as of today I have lost about 40 pounds since that reading of 275 in January. I don’t know how much I was during my stay in the hospital, but since I have been home, I have been losing about a pound a day. My coat size has gone down from a 52 to 48 and pants that I haven’t been able to wear, ever, now fit. I also have shirts that I haven’t been able to wear that now fit. I have a habit of buying clothes off the rack and not try them on. I get them home only to find that I can’t even button them up. For whatever reason I keep them around in the closet and I’m happy to report that I now fit in them. I have to keep going. I”m only able to have enough energy to do about 10-15 minutes worth of walking. I’m taking naps and everyday seems to get better.
I also have some of he best friends around. Shannon made a dish for me so I had something to eat and even bought me groceries. I was touched and teared up when she dropped it off. My sisters have been awesome thru all of this and truly happy I have them in my life.
This is it Scott. No more chances, no more bullshitting. Yes I beat the 3 strikes rule, but if I don’t continue with the life saving things I have to do, I have no one else to blame for the next incident, except for myself.
I still have flashbacks to being shocked on the table and I get scared, but I have to find the strength inside of me to take that fear and turn it into action and something positive. I still find myself laying in bed and sometimes hear my heartbeat and it scares me to hear. I watch a TV show and someone is having a heart attach and it scares the shit out of me. I still remember the automated speaker system call a code blue and hearing nurses in the hallways running towards another patient that is coding. Then there are the funny moments like when weeks later I still finding medical tape adhesive somewhere on my body. Am I scared, fuck yeah. Can I do it, I think so. It will not be easy…
But life isn’t easy, is it…
Health Status, Personal Log