Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Heart attack anniversary

March 20th was my 7th year heart attack anniversary. I suppose there are people who get to keep track of their "day I won the lottery" anniversary. All things considered, when the day comes around I'm happy to celebrate it .

Basic facts first....then the funny stuff. On the subway going to Court on a Monday, 3/20/00, I didn't feel well, sluggish and out of breath. When I got to Court I walked from the first to the second floor, felt dizzy, staggered over to a bench and collapsed. My heart was pounding and I was sweating. Naturally I wanted to get up and go, but a court officer sergeant said to me "Listen Buddy, looks like you're having a heart attack, stay right here, we called 911". Until he said that, it had not occurred to me.

They took me to the closest hospital, Mary Immaculate, two blocks from the courthouse. There I received the heart attack protocol from 15 years ago, a clot busting drug called TPA. After two hours, a cardiologist there told me the TPA wasn't working and this was "not a good situation" so they were transferring me to Long Island Jewish, where I would have a "procedure" as soon as I got there. I then went in the fancy ambulance to LIJ, where I had an angioplasty (they thread a thing through your wrist, right into your heart and unblock the blockage) and a stent. I was awake the whole time and watched my heart get unblocked on a screen.

A heart attack is a blockage in one or more arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle. During the three hours I was having a heart attack, a part of my left ventricle (pumping chamber) was damaged. After the procedure I was in the coronary intensive care unit, where I stayed for five days. For three days I had an external pump helping my heart, attached to the heart via a wire through the groin. (Removing this was the most unpleasant part of the ordeal.....think "pulling a garden hose"). That first night I also went into heart failure, which is when your heart doesn't beat strongly enough to pump all the blood and fluid, so it backs up into the lungs. Another bad situation, and despite all the technology available, the immediate treatment was for a nurse to help me cough out the fluid by beating me on the back as I coughed. The nurse also encouraged me to breathe deeply through extreme pain, to increase my blood oxygen. All I ever knew about the nurse was he was Nurse John. I never saw him again, all he did was save my life in the course of his night's shift. Eventually I left the CCU and then spent another two days in the regular hospital, and then back home.

This may sound strange, but quite a few funny things happened during the heart attack saga. Thankfully, while resting at home I made some notes, which have stayed in their file for seven years. I think I am supposed to put these stories on my blog, so tomorrow it will be....


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