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The Day I Had My Heart Attack

TonyKTonyK Registered User Posts: 1,134 Senior Member
I'd been extremely good at ignoring personal health issues most of my life. The last time I was hospitalized was 55 years ago and even my wife recently said I was the healthiest person she knew. I got in excellent shape in the Marines and later played basketball, softball, jogged, swam, and coached my kids teams in three sports. I used a push lawnmower, did my own landscaping, and every winter I shoveled and used our snow blower. I was a little overweight, but didn't think it mattered that much. Never went for an annual physical or had various tests done.

And then my wife passed away.

The cause of death was double pneumonia, but cancer really wore down her defenses until she couldn't handle the growing pain all over her body. I organized her calling hours and funeral, handled the enormous paperwork involved with her being a state employee, and looked after my son and grandson. Everything went quickly right up to the day it happened. I don't remember anything about that day. I picked up my grandson and took him to the dentist. Then we went and played miniature golf indoors because it was winter. He was on vacation so I bought him a Happy Meal at McDonald's and drove him home. My daughter told me later that I said I was feeling tired and weak and would go home and take a nap. It was 4:30 PM on a Friday and the start of rush hour. I left her driveway and drove two blocks to the intersection of a busy street.

I had a seizure as my car crossed the busy street. I drove over the sidewalk and onto someone's front yard. The car came to a complete stop as I stopped breathing. An off-duty fireman just happened to be walking close to my car and told me later that he knew I was either having a heart attack, or I was drunk. So he rushed over to my car, but the doors were locked. His buddy was 50 yards away so he ran to him and got a tool to break my car window. The two of them ran back to me, called 911, and dragged me out of the car and began emergency resuscitation on me. The fireman told me he knew I was still alive as each time he told me to breathe he heard me struggle to take a breath. His fast actions are what saved my life.

An ambulance took me to a local hospital, but they transferred me to a regional university hospital that evening. My family was notified and they came to see me in the hospital. My body was packed in ice and my body temperature was less than 40 degrees. They didn't know if I would come out of this or not. When I woke up and learned where I was it was hard to accept it. A cardiac surgeon recommended triple-bypass surgery after I went home to gain strength for three weeks. The six-hour surgery was successful and I went home for a second time. The firemen who saved my life were honored at their annual banquet. I was a guest and got to meet them and thank them, and even made a brief speech to the gathering. One of them was receiving chemotherapy and a fundraiser was held to help him with driving expenses etc. I mailed a sizable check to help him and he thanked me.

So if you know a loved one who may be headed down the same path that I was on, please talk to them. Let them know that warning signs should be taken seriously. I ignored my blood pressure numbers, my family history of heart illnesses, and the need to change my diet. I know now what I should have done. I am alive today because every member of my "team" worked together to insure a successful outcome. Someone may not be as lucky as I was. I'm fortunate that the fireman just happened to move to that street a few days before I drove down it!

Replies to: The Day I Had My Heart Attack

  • abasketabasket Registered User Posts: 19,528 Senior Member
    Tony I am glad you are here to tell us your story. I am so sorry about your wife. Your grandson is lucky to have you still in his life. Sounds like you adore him.

    Was this recent or a while back? We need to hear stories like this as hard as they are to hear. I wish you better health ahead!
  • bookwormbookworm Registered User Posts: 8,809 Senior Member
    Amen to that. Tony, I'm just pleased you survived and can continue to be such a good dad, granddad, and CCer.
  • greenwitchgreenwitch Registered User Posts: 8,646 Senior Member
    My Dad had a "silent heart attack" sometime soon after my Mom died. He needed a pacemaker and a defibrillator for the rest of his life. He had run the NYC marathon 3 times in his '40s and had good blood pressure. After the heart attack, more than half of his heart was scar tissue of some sort. Don't underestimate the effect of grief on your body!

    I'm glad your story had a happy ending, Tony. Very glad about the firefighters and how you have all helped each other. Enjoy every day and take care of yourself, you deserve it!
  • hrh19hrh19 Registered User Posts: 852 Member
    @TonyK - Thank you for sharing your story. Please accept my condolences.

    Your little grandson is blessed to have his grandfather here and able to share time with him.

    Sending you wishes for improved health and a long and happy life ahead.
  • doschicosdoschicos Registered User Posts: 20,383 Senior Member
    edited June 2016
    Thanks so much for sharing your story, @TonyK, and so glad you are here to tell it! It will make us all stop and think and not take our health for granted.

    How wonderful and fortunate that the firemen were there to help you, and in turn, to benefit as well from their good deed.

    Between your wife's passing (my condolences) and your heart attack, that's a lot of stress in a short period of time. Take care and be kind to yourself!
  • dstarkdstark Registered User Posts: 34,241 Senior Member
    edited June 2016
    @TonyK, your story has some similarity to a Cornell professor who wrote his story. He had a heart attack while playing tennis. An ambulance happened to be nearby because of somebody else's emergency. Otherwise, the professor would be dead.

    My dad had a heart attack at age 63. Nobody knew if he was going to survive. He did survive a d lived another 25 happy years.

    After his heart attack, my dad quit smoking. Cut his drinking. Ate better. And his attitude was very positive because he didn't die.

    You were very lucky. What a story! Your story is a wake up call for people our age. Thanks for sharing and I wish you the best!
  • FallGirlFallGirl Registered User Posts: 8,002 Senior Member
    Thank you for sharing your story Tony. I'm so glad the people were there to save you.
  • HImomHImom Registered User Posts: 34,234 Senior Member
    Wow! Thanks for sharing your story. It makes me very glad I was able to find a good cardiologist when I was in Denver and get some much needed testing done.

    I hope you and your grandson have many more happy years together!
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Forum Champion Financial Aid, Forum Champion Alabama Posts: 84,900 Forum Champion
    Condolences on the loss of your beloved wife.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

  • great lakes momgreat lakes mom Registered User Posts: 2,991 Senior Member
    Good for you, posting and telling this story, TonyK! It needs to be heard. I'm so glad you made it through all your medical adventures and are here to tell the tale.

    jym, that is phenomenal!
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