I was getting ready for a hunting trip with my son. I'd had some heartburn during the week but didn't think anything of it. As I packed for my trip, I included some Rolaids. I didn't clue into the warning signal.
In fact, that morning I felt great when I got up. I went shopping with my wife to get some things for my trip but I got some more heartburn and at one point I was in so much pain I had to pull the car over to the side of the road. Once I got out into the fresh air, I felt a bit better and we carried on with our errands.
The pain came back and this time I was just four steps out of the car and really not feeling good when my wife said, "let's go to the hospital." Instead I went in the house and by that time I was soaking wet with perspiration. She said she we were going to the hospital or she was calling 911. So we went to the hospital.
My wife works with seniors and she had a pretty good idea of what was happening.
When we arrived at the hospital my wife told them that I was having a heart attack. They immediately took me in to an emergency room. They didn't even ask for forms to be filled out at that time. Apparently my son Wes filled them out much later. And, it turned out I was having a heart attack. I said, "well hurry up and fix it, because I'm going hunting tomorrow!"
That was Thursday. I was admitted to the ICU. On Monday I was taken by ambulance for an angiogram and they found 17 blockages – four at 99%. On Wednesday morning I woke up having another heart attack, and on Wednesday afternoon I had a third one. I was lucky – being in hospital I had the anti-clotting drug and as a result, I had no permanent damage to my heart.
For me, the biggest shock was being told I had to have surgery. I was flown by air ambulance to Vancouver that night and was on the operating table the next morning having a quadruple bypass. The pain from the heart attack is something I wouldn't wish on anybody but the surgery was not as bad as I thought it would be.
During my recovery they gave me a pillow to hug to my chest when I coughed or sneezed. That pillow is your lifeline. The pain from a sneeze could drop you to your knees and bring tears to your eyes! You grab the pillow and hang on.
I found that the wound in my leg (where they remove the vein) took longer to heal than my sternum or the incision in my chest.
I went home from the hospital two weeks to the day after my first heart attack. I had to get out of the hospital. I was feeling very weak and I said to my wife, "get me out of here." As soon as I was on my way home, getting back to the mountains, just knowing I was getting on with the rest of my life, I felt stronger.
Every step back to my regular life made me feel stronger. I even went hunting with some friends, where I basically just went along for the ride in the truck – but it made me feel better.
I started cardiac rehab one month later. It was good. It forced me to get moving and walking. I went to rehab twice a week and walked on my own the other days. Cardiac rehab gets you going. On your own – it's so easy to procrastinate.
Six weeks later I returned to work. At first I was pretty tired. I work in a liquor store so I'm on my feet 8 hours a day. It took time to get my stamina back but I'm doing great now.
I was diagnosed 10 years ago as a borderline diabetic. In retrospect I didn't watch that condition closely enough but still I didn't abuse my body like others do (I never smoked) so I had to question, why did it happen to me – and not to the people who don't take care of themselves?
I had been making some changes just prior to my heart attack. I had dropped 20 pounds and cut my cholesterol by half. I was feeling pretty good. In fact, I saw my doctor on the Tuesday and he was pleased with my progress. Then I had the heart attack on Thursday.
The hardest change for me was the change in eating habits. The first six weeks I ate so many salads and I really didn't like it. But I got my mind set on it – I have to do it – and to have smaller portions. I've maintained the weight loss within a few pounds. I also take blood thinners to help keep my arteries clear.
I'm in my early 50s and I know I have to get on with my life and to take care of myself. Generally, I hate going to the doctor and don't do it unless I'm really sick – but the service I got through this whole experience was phenomenal. The cardiac nurses go through a lot and deserve all the coin they get. I have nothing but admiration for them.
My advice as a result of all of this is: