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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

No Prior Warning

This is the name of one of the books I was sent home with and not what the following paragraphs are about. Having said this though, both subjects are related.

A little more than three weeks ago (on Sunday, July 07) I unexpectedly suffered a near fatal heart attack in the Credit Valley Hospital Emergency Department about five minutes after walking in.

Earlier that same Sunday morning and afternoon I had driven home from the Montreal area and had not been feeling too well. We had stopped for a break at the Upper Canada Village Store to see if any leftover bread was for sale. As we were walking back to the car, I began feeling a squeezing sensation around my neck and a weird type of indigestion. That quickly passed after I got into the car. I thought no more about it until the discomfort occurred again as we were driving near Kingston. A few minutes later that passed too and I was feeling okay. During the remainder of our journey home the squeezing sensation on my neck and the weird indigestion came and went; I remember it being particularly uncomfortable as I was passing traffic near Cobourg.

After arriving home a few minutes before 4:00 p.m. we unloaded the car and I walked around the back to look at the gazebo that David had brought over and had set up on the deck while we were away. I was planning to sit out there later to relax and to enjoy a cold beer.

All windows were closed and the air conditioning had been turned off while we were away. The air upstairs was stuffy and it felt like it was 90 degrees. After turning on the air conditioning and waiting for the house to slowly cool, I decided to take a shower. About half way through, that squeezing sensation in my neck returned and I was feeling a slight pressure in the center at the very top of my chest below my neck. I left the shower and decided to lie down and rest; I was struggling a bit to breath normally. I thought it was the stuffy air and heat, so I went downstairs where it was a bit cooler. A minute later I was lying on the living room floor where it was cooler. 

Kie obviously thought something was wrong and she began suggesting that I go to the hospital to get checked out. I refused. The last thing I wanted after six hours of highway travel was to sit for hours more in an over-busy hospital emergency department. At Kie's persistence I finally agreed to talk to Telehealth Ontario for their input. After a few minutes of conversation Telehealth advised me to call 911 and get to a hospital as soon as possible. Again I was refusing, insisting that I was okay and definitely not an ambulance patient. 

Entrance to Credit Valley Hospital Emergency
Kie called David and he came over within 5 minutes to drive us to the hospital. As I stepped out of his vehicle at the entrance to Emergency, I told David and Winnie to go home because we would probably be waiting here all night. As David drove away, Kie and I walked into Emergency around 5:00 p.m. and lined up to wait our turn like everyone else.

After explaining my complaint to the triage personnel, I was told to have a seat and wait. Kie and I compliantly sat where we were instructed to wait and I remarked that we were going to be here all evening. About five minutes later I was called to have an ECG. I was astounded that I was called so quickly. Anyway, I was instructed to lie down on the bed and open my shirt. The technician or nurse, I am not certain which, began hooking up wires all over my chest, started the machine and then walked away. I was feeling normal again and Kie was asking about the numbers on the screen. I looked up and mentioned the BPM probably meant heart beats per minute. As I did that I remember saying to Kie that I felt dizzy...

That was all I would remember until I could hear someone calling to me as if to wake me up. I went into cardiac arrest and immediately passed out. I was a dead man dying. What follows is what I was told afterward.

Someone immediately issued the Code Blue and doctors and nurses raced to save my life. A doctor jumped on the bed and started CPR on me while another prepared to shock me with the defibrillator to try and restart my heart. Others were inserting intravenous tubes into my arms to administer medications. I really was dead to the world and saw nothing, heard nothing, felt nothing and was not aware of anything including time.

At some point I awakened from the darkness and heard someone calling my name. I could only faintly see lights and felt as if I was groping my way out of a very different, deep darkness. I was aware that a group of people were standing around me and someone was asking me questions. I was finally asked to take two aspirin and lift my tongue for nitro spray. Someone informed me that I had just suffered a heart attack and they wanted to know how much pain I was in. I was not in any pain at all and said so. They kept asking so I repeated the same answer and mentioned some discomfort. I was also informed that Kie was present and so was David. I don't remember Kie being there but I do remember David saying something to me. Kie told me later that I spoke to her in Indonesian but I cannot recall that part.

As the medical team continued to work on me I was able to hear things going on but I was unable to see properly. I was then informed I was going to be transferred over to the cardiac unit at Trillium. Most of what occurred was nothing more than a blur. Maybe I was drifting in and out of consciousness because someone kept saying, "Stay with us. Stay with us."

I was quickly prepared and loaded into an ambulance for the transfer to Trillium. A doctor and nurse also made the trip over to the hospital as they worked to keep me alive. I recall hearing the ambulance siren and feeling like I was going to fall out of the stretcher as we rounded corners. When I was lingering between life and death in the ambulance, there was nothing I was able do to fight to hang on and stay or, to give up let go and pass away. That choice was completely beyond anything I could do.

Upon arrival at Trillium I was immediately rolled into surgery and the last I can remember was a Doctor Watson telling me that he was going to do an angiogram and angioplasty. The next thing I know I was in the Cardiac Care Unit and Kie, David, Winnie and Tim were standing around. I was able to see normally again. The time was about 7:00 p.m.

In those hours that followed I was informed that one artery had been 100% blocked and had caused my heart to stop. The angioplasty was done to insert a stent and open the blockage. From the outset and afterward I never felt any pain. The new chest pain I was now feeling was from the CPR and resulting bruising, a small price to pay for someone trying to save my life,

If Kie had not been persistent that I go to hospital emergency to get checked then I would never have gone, thinking that nothing was really wrong. Had I gone into cardiac arrest anywhere else that Sunday, I would not be here today.

Day 3: Not dead yet and I'd rather be at home
I never had any warning signs at all except while I was driving home that afternoon and I was not even aware of what those signs were.

A heart attack may not seem like much of anything but they do require quite a bit of time to recover from. Recovery depends entirely upon how much damage has occurred to the heart and arteries. None of that is visible from the outside. Many people can never make a full recovery or return to a reasonably normal life.

I was in two different hospitals for two days each and in both places I was the only CCU heart patient who could get up out of bed and go to the bathroom or sit in the chair without assistance. I felt as if nothing had happened but I was only one of the lucky ones. Luck is not the right word; God's favour was upon me.

I am at home now and recovering quite well although it will take some time; weeks and months the medical experts say. I do have some permanent heart damage, which is to be expected, but I am grateful that I'm able to get around the house and even go outside for short walks normally and without any difficulty. So far my recovery has been uneventful and without sign of relapse but I am always wary that something could happen again without warning. I cannot do anything to prevent that so I don't worry about it.

Fruits and vegetables have never been high on my list of favourites but now I have to eat them several times a day. While in the hospital I was informed that constipation is hard on the heart. That's not the only place constipation can be hard on. Anyway, if I don't make these dietary and other lifestyle changes such as exercise, then most likely I'll end up back in the hospital with another heart attack...or possibly worse.

Day 22: On top of the hill overlooking the other CPR
Again last evening Kie and I went out for a walk to watch trains and we did see a few pass by. Knowing the best times to go there does help. That activity may not sound very exciting but going to watch for trains is an incentive to do walking. Walking every day is also on the top of the list of changes to make.

Life is certainly unpredictable, but I know that God has given me this second chance at life. For this I am truly grateful. Today is day 23 since my heart attack occurred and I can only look at each day since as a bonus.

 The Oddblock Station Agent

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