Archive for the ‘medicine’ Category

And with those words from Dr. Collins of Buxmont Cardiology, I officially became a cardiac patient. But let’s rewind…

On Monday, March 12, 2012, I had a new experience… chest pains. At 41, carrying a healthy weight, and eating more or less okay, it was both unexpected and disconcerting. Late that night, after a wonderful neighbor came over at a terrible hour to care for our sleeping children, Erin and I headed on over to Grandview Hospital. After the usual checkups and check-ins, I was a true medical bafflement. Normal (mostly) EKG, no cardiac enzymes, and none of the “classic” symptoms of a heart attack. After 18 hours of poking, prodding, sampling, testing, scanning, and endless questions, we all decided low potassium was the culprit. Drink the nasty powder, retest, send me home with no orders other than “see your doctor” and “follow up with the cardiologist.”

That day, my diet underwent a radical change. And my exercise regimen became more than “play with my kids.” And so the real fun started. I felt better… really better. Except I didn’t feel better when I really got my heart pumping. Then I felt pain. Not crippling pain, but the “I really should slow down a little” pain. I mentioned this to Dr. Collins, who became more curious. I still fit no real profile, but this exercise induced chest pain was worth another look. So he scheduled a stress echo (I had previously passed a non-stress echo with flying colors), and told me to “stop doing that” with the heavier exercise until we had things narrowed down.

“Well… it’s abnormal…” was the unofficial diagnosis. The official one was unstable angina, likely in the left anterior descending artery (LAD). He scheduled me for cardiac catheterization the following Monday morning and gave me a literal handful of pills to take between that Friday afternoon and Monday morning. Oh, and he also gave specific instructions to do nothing that whole weekend.

Monday morning came along and I made the acquaintance of Dr. Nainesh Patel, a cardiac interventionist who came down from Lehigh Valley Hospital. He was, like everyone before him, skeptical of what he would find, given my complete lack of fitting any profile of a cardiac patient. “Huh… you have a blockage” was the unofficial diagnosis a few minutes later. “Can you fix that here?”, asked I.  “Oh yeah… no problem.” Those are good words to hear.  It wasn’t until after the procedure, when they returned me to the prep room that I got the full meaning of “blockage”, when the white board in the room read, “LAD 99% blocked”.  And then it wasn’t… all before 9:00am.

But I’ve gone from someone whose drug of choice is caffeine, and who can probably count the total number of pills taken in a year on one… maybe two hands, to a 41 year old cardiac patient who takes a handful of pills and supplements on a daily basis.

So what are the takeaway lessons?

  1. Apparently, God doesn’t want me dead yet. I had chest pains without a heart attack. I had doctors who ignored the profile and ran (very expensive) tests anyway. I had a 99% blocked “widow maker” and had only twinges of discomfort.
  2. We should listen to our bodies, and tell our doctors what we think they’re saying. I could have dismissed my discomfort as age, lack of regular exercise, or just one of those things. Thankfully, I didn’t. They could have done the same. Thankfully, they didn’t either.
  3. Modern American medicine rocks. Seriously. I’m just over one month post-treatment, and I’m jogging with no pain (other than the burn one gets when jogging, hehe). By all accounts, I should spend many years as a “maintenance” cardiac patient- just check in every few months to make sure nothing “abnormal” is going on again.
  4. Modern American insurance… not so much. Don’t worry Grandview and the good docs… you’ll get paid for your labors… sometime. But I wonder if Aetna doesn’t actually want me dead.
  5. Friends and family are awesome. I won’t embarrass anyone else, but you all know who you are. Thank you.
  6. Kids, even younger ones, handle things better when you just explain what’s going one. Obviously, put it in age appropriate terms, but don’t sugar coat or pretend like nothing is happening.

This is probably not the last post on this topic, but after over a month, it’s time to out myself. Hi, I’m Craig. And I’m a 41 year old cardiac patient. But I’m still here!