When we’re children, we never think about our internal organs. Human anatomy is taught to us in the form of voluntary and involuntary muscles, the brain, nerves. We know that there are 206 bones in the skeleton and that there are at least 639 named skeletal muscles. As we grow up, we start paying attention to how our muscles work, how they look and how we look on the outside as our muscles grow. We think about our bodies as workhorses. We never think about what’s going on inside. We fill our bodies with fuel that may or may not be the best. We eat fried foods, we eat vegetables, fruits, red meat, white meat, fish, shellfish, whatever strikes our fancy.
Suddenly, we’re adults, and we have to contend with the need to be more mindful of our diets. We may learn that we have high cholesterol levels, diabetes or other life-threatening conditions. Obesity is also in the hunt to take over some of us. We don’t think of that as younger adults. We enjoy life and spend our time partying, playing a cosmic game of Risk.
Fast forward to being “middle-aged.” Now we have more time to consider the implication of our previous unhealthy lifestyles. At every physical checkup, blood is drawn and tested. You feel like a lab rat. You have your blood tested for A1C levels, for cholesterol, for normal functioning. Your doctor tells you to change your habits, your diet. You may or may not be put on medication. Advice to exercise may also be given. Failure to comply may or may not cause complications.
My husband of twenty-six years was reasonably careful with his diet, but it wasn’t enough, and at the end of August, he complained of feeling weak and nauseous when we were out at dinner. I wasn’t sure if it was a bad meal, but when he put his head down on the table and didn’t respond to me for a couple of seconds, I was more than slightly concerned. He was disoriented when he sat back up. He knew where he was but not that he’d had an ‘episode.’ We waited for a little while before we left. He was feeling “woozy” so I stuck to his side until we got to the car. He dozed off as I drove him home. He was able to get out of the car and into bed without any issue.
The next day, he was still feeling weak, so I took him to an urgent care visit. That doctor checked him over but didn’t run any stress tests or anything. He did recommend that he go to our GP as soon as possible. My husband made an appointment and got in after work one day that week.
At that visit, he was referred to a cardiologist and got an appointment for the next week. I went with him and am very glad that I did. The doctor listened to all the symptoms we described and said, “you need to go to this hospital…NOW.” He told us that it sounded like he had a heart attack or some sort of episode. I was told to drive because he wasn’t willing to risk the chance that something could happen on the way there. He was admitted through ER–it was meant to be temporary, but the bloodwork they ran screamed “worry!” to the doctors.
They took him up that afternoon to the Cardiac Cath lab floor. He was prepped and made ready for an angioplasty. I stayed in his room and waited for the hour or so it took for them to explore his arteries and veins. When he came back to his room, he was the proud owner of two stints in one artery and advice that he’d have to do it over again.
He spent the rest of September eating better, exercising and trying to recover from his first angioplasty. I hovered over him for a few days after his surgery to make sure he didn’t do stupid things (he didn’t!). He went back to work and resumed life. There was a follow-up appointment with the cardiologist who scheduled another angioplasty for him.
That was at the end of the last week. The appointment was on Friday afternoon. We went to the hospital around 1:00, got him checked in and then we went to the room where he’d wait for the next few hours to be taken back to the lab. They took him back thirty minutes after the time they’d told us. I waited in that room until I got a call from the concierge at the hospital who said he was still in surgery, but that it was going well. They told me that he was going to spend the night but that he hadn’t been assigned a room/bed yet. I went to the nurses’ station, asked about it and was told that I could stay in the room I was waiting in, but that it was not the room he’d sleep in. I stayed there for another 30 minutes until someone came to get me. They took me to the second floor, where my husband’s room was. When I got in there, he was flirting with his nurses. They got him tucked in, got water for him and made sure he had a menu for dinner–he was starved!
His doctor came into the room at 7:30 that evening and showed us pictures of where the newest stints were placed. He now has a grand total of four. This doctor is pretty cool, in my opinion. He explained that he wasn’t willing to put a stent in unless he felt it was absolutely necessary. In my husband’s case, it was.
He’s a lucky man. One artery was blocked in two places-100% and 90%. Those were repaired in September. The two arteries opened up this time around were 80% and 70% blocked. He feels better. He’s been out walking. He walked a mile the day he came home from the hospital.
It’s quite a challenge to see someone you love go through this. I had no idea how dangerous this situation was until we got him to that hospital in September. I’ve always been a champion of heart health but even more so now. I feel lucky that my best friend is still with me.