A year of change, a year of changes

July 15, 2008. The day my life changed. Not only is July 15th Veronica Haynes birthday, it was a day that started out like any other summer day. My cousin Patsy thinks I dwell on this too much, and I happen to think that’s a fair assessment. I wish I didn’t think about it. I wish this heart attack hadn’t happened at all. But it did, and I dwell on it. Part of the reason is because it was such a shock to me. Never in my 57 years prior had I ever been concerned with my health. I got up every morning, brushed my teeth, and went out in the world being the lousy bastard I’ve always been. But not after July 15, 2008.

But before I tell you about that day, and before I tell you about this past year, I need to tell you a little bit about the prior 57 years. Don’t worry, it won’t take long.

My mom, God rest her soul, raised us 4 kids after my dad passed away from a heart attack at age 39.  I was the youngest of those 4 kids. She was a warrior, and I loved her very much, but one of the things I didn’t like about her was her claims to not feeling good all of the time. I pretty much thought she was hypochondriac.  My poor mother was very shy and had an inferiority complex. If I had a baseball game, or a PTA meeting when I was a kid, she never liked to get out and get in public. She just felt very inferior. I tried to compensate for my Mother.

In an effort to compensate for this, I grew up thinking or believing I was bullet-proof. That wasn’t  healthy to do either.

Up until last year, I had smoked for forty years. Exercise?  I didn’t want to, didn’t think I needed to.  Weight?  That attitude carried me to 215 lbs! I was the classic role model for a heart attack. How stupid I was. In fact, I had a family history of heart problems, I had a heart (functional) murmur, and I still did the smoking crap.

I remember about a week before my heart attack, my chest felt tight. What was actually happening was my one of my arteries was beginning to constrict, or not allowing as much blood to flow through it. Now I’m certainly no doctor, but believe me I’ve done lots of research since that day, I can tell you what happened. I can also tell you if you continue doing what you are doing health wise, it could happen to you too.

The thing I want to stress here is, before July 15, 2008, I never had any health problems. I woke up assuming I was going to feel good just like I always did. How stupid was that thinking?

So my plan for the evening was to watch the home run derby and Josh Hamilton. But my chest began really hurting. I told my friend Kristi who lived with me that my chest was hurting. She suggested I take one of those nitro glycerin pills which had been prescribed for me. And that tells me I had an issue before but I don’t remember what it was.

So I took the pill (and I hate pills anyway), and I remember losing conscience and Kristi said I was looking right at her and couldn’t see her. I just saw stars like someone had knocked me out. When I came too I vomited a bit but my chest felt better. Then the pain began again. This time, I told Kristi we need to go to the hospital.

I feel bad about telling Kristi to take me to the hospital. Looking back on it, we just should have called an ambulance. I feel bad about it because I scared Kristi so bad, she forgot how to get to Arlington Memorial Hospital, and she’s lived in Arlington most of her life. I am sorry I scared Kristi like that.

We got to the hospital and I walked in to the emergency room and curled up in a chair and waited for Kristi to come in and tell them what was going on since I was in lots of pain. I’ll never forget them taking me back and people started moving like a pro football team running a play. Kristi came in with me. A person from Admissions asking me a bunch of questions. I feel bad for being rude but I asked them if they could ask Kristi all of the name rank and serial number questions, I had some pain to deal with.

The team of doctors and nurses were great. The rest of this went in sort of slow motion. The doctor said “well, it looks like you are having a heart attack”  I looked at Kristi and just freaked out.

Kristi and I had lived together for 12 years. One of the strong traits about Kristi is she’s very smart and observant about everything. She knows me like a book. I looked at her in disbelief and she looked back at me with the same disbelief after hearing the doctor announce that. It was an amazing look I will never forget. Kristi has mentioned many times since then she has never seen the look of fear on me until that night. And I was indeed scared.

They rolled me in to the operating room and the medical team was working in unison. They shaved my groin area and put me under. They went in to my heart artery and put a stent in the collapsed artery.

The surgery was over and the start of a year of changes had begun. Forgive me for sounding unappreciative here, but I thought that things were supposed to be “normal” after you go in for surgery. Not so. Not even close. My life had been saved, but changes were coming and there are no guarantees in life. I knew that, I had just never been through a heart attack before.

I got wheeled up to a room and I really was feeling better very quickly. For the first time in no telling how long, part of my heart was getting oxygen again. The good thing is the heart attack was in the smallest part of my heart, and there was minimal damage. Thank God for that. And did I mention that I was supposed to have a job interview that day? Wow.

The staff at Arlington Memorial Hospital are excellent. I was feeling better, and I have this crazy ability to be positive about pretty much anything, and it came time to leave the hospital.

I will always appreciate the care I cot from the good folks at Arlington memorial Hospital. They were so good to me.

I thought at the time that this would do it. I knew I had to quit smoking and I knew I could just drop cigarettes if i had to, and now I had to. Like I said, I smoked for over 40 years and God told me to lay em down. If it comes down to it, living is better than smoking, and if I kept smoking, this transition would mean death much quicker. I put the cigarettes down forever. This was huge for me. I liked smoking. It was part of my make up as a person. It’s what I did to take a break from the problems of life. Some of my best dreams today are dreams of when I smoke. But trust me on this, I haven’t smoked, nor will I ever smoke again. I just can’t take it.

I went back to work at my job in Ennis, and my co-workers were sooooo nice to me. Bless their hearts I miss them.

And here was my last day of driving all the way to Ennis. I had accepted a new job. I had hundreds of emotions right now.

Sooooo, I had had a heart attack, I had changed jobs, and so a new way of life had begun for me and Kristi and our three dogs. My world was sort of topsy-turvy. I think I was doing ok, adapting to changes and all. Then I found a new way to get to work at my new job. I had the pleasure of meeting some great new friends, and here was a way to listen to some great kids that rode the train with me. Megan, Meagan, and Summer.

These girls made me smile, they made me forget about any problems I may have had for a moment. It was refreshing and like a breath of fresh air to listen to their conversations so I could quit thinking about myself.

And I also met Mark, and William, and Chip, many other new friends. Life was ok. I couldn’t run any marathons, but life was ok. I had survived. I had a new job, a new way to get to work, just everything was different now. It was adjustments all the way around.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how important the new people in my life were helping me forget my near disaster. Some great people I believe the good Lord brought into my life just at this moment in time.

Things were hectic but fun for me. I actually thought I would feel this good again forever. I would be wrong.

I didn’t realize or think about this at the time, but changes were just beginning for me. The high cholesterol just didn’t go away. I will soon realize that when you give up smoking, food tastes really, really good. Food = cholestrol = not good. I didn’t know it at the time, but when you have heart problems, things are never “normal” again.

In November, Kristi and I split up.  I actually moved in to my apartment over the Thanksgiving Holidays. So instead of having support and family around to watch the traditional Cowboys game, I was fortunate to have my cousin Patsy invite me over to her home in Dallas to have some sort of Thanksgiving celebrration and to not be alone for this. I’ll always appreciate Patsy and tom for doing this. I certainly didn’t deserve it. Kristi and i were together for a long time. We knew each other pretty well, but it was still a shock to me how well I endured this, all things considered. More changes, more adjustments.

February 2009

 I probably need to mention that by now, some of the medicines that were being prescribed for me, kind of made me goofy. The cholesterol medicines doctors prescribe now are called statin drugs. Wouldn’t you know it’s my luck that so far, these drugs make me super depressed? Lipitor makes me feel like i’ve been in a train wreck. Sore and achey. And it also makes my kidneys hurt. Crestor made me contemplate suicede it was so depressing. At any rate, it’s an on-going process to try and get this damn cholestrol under control! Otherwise, the plaque is gonna build up in my arteries again and I’m gonna have to go through all of this again. I know what you might be wondering, what about my exercise program? I tried it. I was in a cardiac after-care program and failed miserably of trying to workout for 30 minutes and then work 12 hours per day. Couldn’t do it.

So at the end of February, I had more chest pains, and guess what, another trip to the emergency room. (Oh God).

So I had an issue at work where my blood pressure was 160 over 100. They wanted to take me to the hospital then, but I wanted to get home to Arlinton and see my doctor. I went to my doctor’s office with chest pain and they wheeled me right next door to the Arlington Memorial Hospital emergency room. I thought then that this was getting to be a pain in the chest. (get it?)

So it turns out that my doctor said the initial stent that was placed in my artery during my heart attack in July of 2008 had a loos “wire” in the stent that happens in 10% of all stent placements? This made no sense to me, and I never really got an explanation of that. But my doctor was going to do another heart catherder surgery to go up there and see what the problem is/was. Cardiac catheterization, also called coronary angiography, is performed first to identify any blockages.

 The amazing thing about this surgery is I was awake throughout this. It was pretty scary to me. Especially when the doctor kept ordering different sizes of stents that didn’t work. And the angioplasty part hoping the balloons didn’t get blown up enough to pop my artery. I could just imagine the balloons inflating and squeezing all of that plaque buildup in my arteries to open them up.

 

and after

 

 And that was that. I now have 2 stents, and angioplasty. You would think that would take care of it right? Nah, you and I would be wrong to think that. As I write this I feel a few tears come to my eyes. Nah, I still have chest pain. Even yesterday I had pain. I never knew until July 15, 2008 that there were so many different kinds of pain, so many different degrees of pain. I’ve lived with pain for a year now. I’ve lived with fear for a year now.

What’s new? I have to give some credit to my family and friends for keeping me going.

I’ve been very blessed and fortunate to have re-established a relationship with my daughter Karin. She is helping me with my path with God. I love her so much and I thank her so much. She even sent me her own Bible that meant so much to her. Of course Lacey has been here to visit me a few times which I totally appreciate. My ex-wife Darla has become a super friend to me. Even Kristi is more of a friend to me now, than in 12 years of living together. Kristi checks on me and makes sure I’m up and about, and I appreciate that she checks on me. I want to take this time to thank my co-workers.

 They have put up with my rage, my resistance to my medicenes, my frustrations. I love them all. There are times I can be talking to my co-workers and my eyes just get swollen with tears and I have to go in another direction. Thank you all for putting up with my crazy moods. I hate dwelling on my health. I wish I didn’t have to.

I’m so thankful for my job. I know lots of people don’t have jobs right now. I am so thankful for my insurance that comes with my job.

I’m so thankful for a lot of things.

Epilogue

I want to say that this blog has been like a diary to me. I want to thank everyone who reads this. It means so much to me. It’s like my diary. It’s something a person can read, even if I’m not here. See my motivation here? See why I love to write?

If I could catagorize this past year, I would just have to call it a year of change and pain.

Frankly, without sounding like I’m bragging, I think I’ve done a miraculous job with it, but I also know if it weren’t for God, friends, and family, I wouldn’t be here. I don’t know what the immediate future holds. I gave up trying to figure that out a long time ago. All I can finish this with is, just know that feeling good everyday isn’t automatic. Appreciate your friends and family. Eat right. Stop smoking. Exercise. 

Thanks to you for reading my blog.

I love you all.

 

LewP

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