As Serious as a Heart Attack

As Serious as a Heart Attack

As an anchoring thing, I want to write from the outset of this post that my Dad survived, and is recovering well a few days after suffering a heart attack.  What you see above is the pre procedure blockage, and it was 100% blocked. 

I also think it helpful to anyone for future knowledge about yourself or a loved one to share this story in hopes that it can be informative.  But also I am not a cardiologist or a doctor so this should not be taken as medical advice.  I also think it is helpful to debunk the Hollywood portrayal of heart attacks as sometimes mostly fictional. 

Here is something I learned this week, apparently heart attacks are like everything else, they exist on a spectrum of severity, or a scale of some kind.  I personally don't think there is nothing minor about having a heart attack, but there are some cases of people who discover they had a heart attack in their sleep but didn't notice anything and the body cleared out the blockage on its own, but there's a small amount of scar tissue that is discovered later on that a doctor might notice to inform someone that they indeed at one point in the past did suffer a heart attack.  This to me would be considered a level 1.

Hollywood portrays heart attacks in the movies at a level 10 with overacting, its usually someone who is going about their day as things are normal and then suddenly feels pressure on their chest, shakes their arm, clutches their chest and collapses as people are rushing to call an ambulance.   I am sure there are cases like this, for example I have a family member who knows someone who had a heart attack like this and survived open heart surgery and a quadruple bypass.  this is a level 8-10 on my scale.  An emergency situation that is life or death. 

My Dad's heart attack this week was not like the Hollywood version, nor was it like the minor version that goes unnoticed and fixes itself.  It was a progressive situation of severity that started off small and got more serious.

The night before Father's Day my dad awoke in the middle of the night and thought something was wrong, but didn't say anything because he sort of felt better, but he went on the computer to look up the symptoms and some of the symptoms matched a heart attack, but he sort of felt like it was not that big of a deal.  So we enjoyed Father's Day with the family and he was moving around, talking, and enjoying the day as normal.  He thought his asthma was acting up because there were some fires in the area and there is smoke in the air.

Monday morning he felt a little lazy and lethargic, but felt well enough to go to Sam's Club, while at Sam's Club my dad said

"Dylan I think we should go to the emergency room just to make sure this is not more pulmonary embolisms or blood clots, or a heart attack, I do feel electrical energy in my arm, and that's one of the symptoms." 

So we left Sam's Club in Yuba City and I drove an hour to Roseville, and he appeared to be more or less okay, he was in a hell of a lot better shape on that trip then when he had pulmonary embolisms to kick off 2022. 

After several hours of waiting to get his blood work done and having to see over 100 people in the emergency room, the results were not that good.  There is an enzyme in the heart that is supposed to be between 5-10, and on Monday evening my Dad's enzyme was at 400.  They told him he would stay in the hospital and wait for the cardiologist. 

Apparently the ER doctors don't like telling people they are in the middle of having a heart attack.  So my Dad spent the eventing sitting in a chair hooked up to medications and having nurses check on him.  It was the nurses that told my Dad that he was probably in the middle of having a heart attack. I guess the logic of ER doctors is that they shouldn't scare their patients if there is not anything they can do. There was a teaching nurse who checked my dad's numbers early Tuesday morning and the enzyme number had skyrocketed to 7,000 which is not at all good. 

The nurse ended up just calling the cardiology department and got upset at the delay, and an hour or so later a cardiologist was talking to my Dad making him feel better and telling him that they were going to fix the problem.   But it was not fun at 7:30 am Tuesday morning talking to my Dad about extra savings he had in an account that could be used for an unexpected funeral expense.  Also the dyes and medications needed for the angiogram had my Dad feeling all kinds of odd.

By 8:30 am I was talking to a cardiologist who told me he was going to do an angiogram to figure out where the blockage was and if necessary do an angioplasty to open up the artery and stop the heart attack.  The Doctor was extremely nice, very professional, and knew what he was doing. 

At 9:45 I was on my way to the Hospital to deliver a charger and calling my extended family to deliver the news.  While in the car I got a call from the cardiologist letting me know that the procedure went well and there was no complications, he had performed the angiogram to find out where the blockage was, and did an angioplasty at the same time to insert two stents in the artery to open the flow of the blood through the heart again.  One out of every few hundred cases of someone having a complication where the heart attack increases in severity.  I guess my Dad's heart attack was about a 4 to 6 at that point but if something went wrong it could have gotten worse and he might have needed open heart surgery. I'm not a cardiologist so my made up scale could be completely wrong. 

The point being is that the procedure went well, by the time I was down the road a little bit my Dad called and he was in good spirits and said he was feeling great.  I visited in the hospital in the recovery area and he was doing good, the nurses took real good care of him and said he would be there for two days unless his numbers continued to look good then they might release him tomorrow morning. 

The next morning which was Wednesday morning the cardiologist gave him the okay to be released from the hospital and he was back home in time to celebrate his birthday on Thursday. 

The point of this story is that in heart attacks I think timing is everything and is a matter of life or death.  In retrospect we probably should have skipped a Father's Day get together and I should have just taken my Dad to the hospital on Sunday.  

But heart attacks may not just go from nothing to a level 10 in span of a few seconds like we see on T.V. or in the movies (I'm sure for some they do, not every case is like that).  They might be more of a progressive thing, where it might just feel like a slight bit of discomfort in the chest and you write it off as a maybe you are catching a cold or the flu or asthma.  It may not feel like a tremendous amount of pressure on the chest, it very well might be a small amount of pressure that you write off as indigestion or something else that is no big deal.  

You might not have shooting pain down your arm, it could just feel like an electrical nerve thing that happens sometimes to everybody and hardly ever is a hear attack. This could be easily be caused by thinking you slept on your side wrong or something like that.  

But it was the combination of these mild symptoms that got my Dad to the ER Monday afternoon, mostly there to dispel the idea that he was having a heart attack, but in fact he was having one. 

I hope by sharing this story it is informative and may help someone who may be experiencing a heart attack or notice the symptoms as early as possible.  If we were to wait to go to the Hospital any longer he might not have made it to his birthday which was only 72 hours away.  This situation very easily could have gone real bad real fast, but luckily CA and the medical facility at Kaiser in Roseville are filled with top notch professionals who save lives every day.  This is the second time they have saved my Dad's life in 3 years.  And luckily medical technology is constantly improving and in 40 years when I am in my 70's they might have A.I nano bots that go in and clear up a blockage, (that's sci fi, but 40 years from now I'm not sure). The point being is that medical technology is improving every year to make us live longer, which I think is awesome. If my Dad had this heart attack 40 years ago they might have performed open heart surgery and he would have a major scar instead of just a small bruise on his arm from the angiogram/plasty. He also might not have survived if he had this heart attack 40 years ago. 

What you see above is just a few minutes later after the procedure, where the blood is flowing and things are back to normal, and life continues. 

Here is my Dad the day he returned home. 

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