Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Heart Owie

Recently I was admitted to the hospital for an angiogram. This came as a surprise to me in many ways. I have always been involved in sports and athletic endeavors, exercising routinely, not to mention thirty-three years in the military.

So why was I now being operated on for possible heart problems? Simple. Over the last year or so, I’d been feeling increasingly tired for no apparent reason. I even have annual physicals. Even after resting at times, I would still feel tired. It was becoming more difficult to exert myself in the simplest of exercises. I would find myself out of breath, with accompanying chest discomfort.

Because these symptoms were infrequent, I chalked it up to not being in better shape like I was when I was younger. After all, I am 59. It’s tough keeping up with the twenty year olds. I travel quite a bit as part of my military obligation in the naval reserves. This means I’m always in airports. Unless I am pressed for time, I do not use the moving sidewalks or escalators in the airports. I walk from terminal to terminal and gate to gate. I run up the stairs, often skipping steps to achieve a greater aerobic exercise. Add to this my backpack which contains my laptop computer and several books.

I love to play golf, always looking for an opportunity to escape to the links for a round with a friend or two. Often we use golf carts when we play, but I always prefer to walk. So when I went out for a round after work in mid-December I found myself experiencing that chest discomfort again with shortness of breath. As I was walking down the fairway toward my ball, I felt absolutely exhausted! This had never happened to me before. So I picked up my ball and headed for the parking lot. After placing my clubs in the car, I sat down and called my doctor. I told him something was wrong. He asked me to come in.

Once I was in my doctor’s office, they performed an EKG, plus a host of other checks on my body. The EKG results were within normal range, and the doctor could not detect anything abnormal. He told me he wanted me to see a cardiologist in order to eliminate the most dangerous possibilities first. He even called the cardiologist to make the appointment for me while I sat there.

A couple of days later I was sitting in the cardiologist’s office. Once again I was given an EKG. And again, there was nothing indicating a problem. He asked me questions about any past heart problems and family medical history. He then scheduled me for an echo-cardiogram and a nuclear stress test. The echo-cardiogram was really neat!

Then on Wednesday, January 16th, I was scheduled for a nuclear stress test. A solution was injected into my blood stream so that machines could track its course while I was lying still. Later I would be placed on a treadmill in order to raise the heart rate. Then more pictures were taken of the heart in operation. Fascinating!

Later that afternoon back in my office, I received a call from the cardiologist. He had reviewed the results and did not like what he saw. There was definite blockage in at least one of the arteries. He wanted me to come in right away for an angiogram. I asked him what “right away” meant. He said, “Well, it’s Wednesday afternoon. Thursday is out. So Friday afternoon.” I said okay.

So Friday afternoon I checked into Memorial Hospital and waited for the procedure. The nurses and doctors were terrific! The procedure was virtually painless. I was in the operating room for about an hour-and-a-half. I was awake the whole time, simply lying still with my eyes closed. Two stents were inserted into my front heart artery, euphemistically called the “Widow Maker.” I was then informed I would be staying in the hospital over the weekend. On Monday I was to have four more stents inserted in the back heart artery. Blockages were between 75% and 90%.

I was finally released to return home on Tuesday afternoon. I now am on a number of pills to make sure things are okay. I have several more doctor appointments in the weeks ahead. But I feel so much better already!

This past Sunday I attended church and enjoyed the wonderful fellowship and friendship of these folks I love so much. One young mother of a cute, precocious four-year-old told me she was attempting to tell her daughter, Morgan, that Pastor Chuck had a problem with his heart. Not sure her daughter would understand, she told her that Pastor Chuck has “a heart owie.”

I guess that describes it as well as anything – a heart owie. But by the grace of God and some very skilled doctors my heart owie is all better.

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