Last Sunday, we had just finished lunch, and I was practicing writing letters with my son at the kitchen table, when my husband called my name from the couch. I turned to look at him and with watering eyes he could only whisper, “It’s the same pain. I think we have to go to the hospital.“
The clock stopped, and the memory of his massive heart attack on December 7, 2010 started playing on my mind as if I were in a movie theater.
When we arrived at the ER, they took the initial EKG, and moments later, a medical team rushed into the examination room and one of the nurses prepared an IV in a matter of minutes. In silence, my husband and I held hands and took deep breaths like we were fish out of the water. A technician came with a portable X-Ray machine and asked me to wait outside. I removed his gold chain of Christ, kissed him and leaned against the wall outside the room, and cried.
Almost five years ago, with the same chain clenched in my fist and my baby in my womb, I saw the EMS helicopter crew–wearing royal blue overalls and white aviation helmets–run toward the helicopter platform with my husband on a stretcher towards the Baptist Heart Hospital in Downtown Jacksonville.
Forty-five minutes later, the doctor who saved his life told me how lucky my husband was. He explained that he performed an Angioplasty and put one stent in the RCA (Right Coronary Artery) which was 100 percent blocked, and that he needed to put another one in the LAD (Anterior Descending Artery), which was 70 percent blocked, three days later.
Thanks to God, this time the story was written differently. The physician on call came in and told us the EKG, blood work, and thorax X-Ray were not showing signs of a heart attack. But, due to protocol, my hubby had to stay overnight.
Monday morning, after I dropped my son off at preschool my husband called me. I thought he was going to tell me that he was ready to be picked up, but the story had taken a sudden turn. Before being discharged, his cardiologist told him that he preferred to run more tests to be safe, and scheduled a catheterization at two that afternoon.
Sitting in the waiting room of the Cath Lab at Baptist South, I wrote my column Halloween Monsters. Writing is therapeutic for me, especially when I feel I am losing my mind. Half hour later a nurse called my name.
When I reached the recovery room, my husband was fully awake and already cracking jokes with the nurses; he gets funnier under the influence of anesthesia. Unfortunately, the results of the catheterization were not a joke. The doctor found the reason for his chest pains: a smaller artery was blocked almost 80 percent and a new stent was placed. If this isn’t a miracle, I don’t know what is.
I am a person of faith and so is my husband. Although I was alone during these two episodes, I was always in good company. Believe it or not, I felt Jesus’ presence sitting next to me in the ambulance ride five years ago, the same way that I felt his presence while I was writing in the waiting room last week. God gives each person tests in life, but never more than we can bear.
After a week, my husband is already back in the saddle. His physical appearance and healthy life style are contrary to the stereotype of a “cardiac patient,” which puzzles the doctors. Regardless of his discipline, his arteries have a predisposition to build up plaque causing his heart disease. So, what is he to do? The same he has been doing for five years. Take his medicine, watch his diet, and exercise.
Now, I do have a cure, and as silly as it sounds, there is nothing like love and laughter to heal a broken heart. On Wednesday, a day after leaving the hospital, my husband was making fun of my lack of direction while I was driving. He said to me, “I might have 35 stents in a few years, but I am gonna have to put you on a nursing home if you continue to get lost on the same streets!“
My husband learned a valuable lesson after his massive heart attack in 2010: to listen to his heart. Heart disease has several risk factors such as poor diet and sedentary life style. Nonetheless, there is one risk that is not mentioned as often but equally important, and it is family history. My father-in-law had a massive heart attack at the same age my husband suffered his. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
Our hearts set the rhythm of our lives with each beat. So, listen to your heart and try to stay in tune.
Thanks for reading and sharing.