In the Suburbs: Heeding the body's wake-up call
Two weeks ago, barely a day before our 48th wedding anniversary, I was finishing my weekly column when my wife called called to me that we were going to the hospital. She thought something was very wrong: she was having extreme pressure in her chest and pains in her back.
I was moving more slowly than I should have and regretted it later.
By the time we walked out to the car, she had gotten sick three times and was waffling about whether to call an ambulance. "Let's just get the hell out of here," I said, bundling her into the car and driving like crazy to Bridgeport Hospital. Thankfully, it's only about 12 minutes from our home.
As we pulled into emergency entrance, I flagged down a young man with a wheelchair, blurted out something like "suspected heart attack." The guy whisked my wife inside immediately.
Within 45 minutes -- after a team worked on her in the emergency cardiac unit -- she was on the table for an angioplasty.
My head was still swimming when the procedure was over and the surgeon came out to explain what had happened. He had removed a 90-percent blockage in an artery and put in a stent. There was another blockage but not nearly as serious, and he elected to leave it alone.
An electrocardiogram had confirmed my wife had a mild heart attack. She would be resting in the intensive care unit for at least a day but likely would be home for our anniversary.
I was relieved beyond words but numb. How could a simple evening of lying on the couch watching television turn into a mild heart attack? Simple: A blockage has no schedule. When the body has had enough, it reacts.
When I walked into ICU about 12:30 a.m., my wife looked more peaceful than she had in weeks, and the color in her face reflected that there was now lots of good, rich blood coursing through her newly opened artery.
The outcome was a miracle, and her nurse assured us that if we hadn't moved as fast as we did, there could have been a lot of damage to the heart. Time is the key, he assured us.
Ten years ago, I'm not sure my wife would have been so lucky. I remembered with much sadness friends who had missed their body's wake-up calls.
One told his wife he'd be fine in a half hour or so and not to call 911. He was 61 years old and was dead in an hour. Another had seen the cardiologist that day and dismissed his back pain as nothing.
Later that day, he had a massive coronary and has been a vegetable ever since.
Instead, my wife walked out of the hospital on her less than barely two days later and we celebrated our anniversary with a great dinner. She looked radiant and felt wonderful and still does.
But we're still not out of the woods. Just after her routine visit to the cardiologist, she became short of breath while shopping in the mall. That was a real scare for her. Thankfully, the gracious department store folks wheeled her down to our car in the garage. She will be entering a cardiac-rehabilitation program,
Last Friday, my wife's primary care physician sent her immediately to the cardiologist's office, where a physician's assistant explained that the shortness of breath may have been caused by her body adjusting to the new stent.
But taking no chances, cardiologist did a stress test on Wednesday. By today, we should know more about the shortness of breath and whether my wife will be able to walk longer distances or be limited for awhile.
Through this challenge, all of our family, friends and wonderful new neighbors Mark and Patty have been very supportive. Even my 94-year-old dad decided to come out for Labor Day to be sure that my wife was fine. That really meant a lot.
I know there are millions of folks who have gone through this kind of wake-up call and lived to talk about it. But now this has happened to someone I love, and I'm trying to put it in perspective. But we feel so blessed and so grateful to the staff at Bridgeport Hospital.
Steven Gaynes' "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.