Dodging A Bullet (Spike's Ordeal)
August 13, 2012
This post is reposted with permission from Spike O’Neill – see his original post here.
Some of you may have heard of my recent health scare. For those of you who heard and sent along your well wishes, I thank you. For anyone who hasn't, please allow me to share a scary story of ignorance and arrogance that almost cost me big time.
About a month ago, I was carrying my 8 year old daughter on my shoulders. We were leaving a family outing and she was griping about being tired. I didn't have to carry her very far, but when I put her down I noticed a weird ache in my jaw and in both arms, as well as a dull thick ache and a kind of puffiness in my hands. It went away pretty quickly and I blew it off as a pinched nerve or something. But when I felt the same thing a week later after lifting a few boxes in my garage I was a bit more concerned.
I tried again to dismiss the incident, but I have to give it up for my family, who INSISTED that I go see my family doctor just to be sure. I saw my Doc, who had just given me a complete physical a couple months ago, He checked me over, gave me an EKG and suggested a stress test just to be sure. I figured what the hell? Better to be safe than sorry right?
I had no idea how good that advice really was.
I took my stress test 4 days later at Swedish Hospital's Cherry Hill facility. A stress test is just you on a treadmill, wired to a bunch of stuff that measures heart function, pulse and blood pressure. Well, the normal EKG they gave me before the test started went completely sideways a few minutes later when they fired up the speed and incline of the treadmill. That's when they brought in Dr. Peter Demopulos, cardiologist.
Dr. Demopulos said that given the dramatic change to my EKG, and the "textbook" symptoms I was describing (an ache and slight swelling in my neck and arms), he suspected that I might have some blockage in my coronary arteries. He ordered me to take an echocardiogram, that's an ultrasound image of your heart, but the reality was that I was GOING to have an angiogram.
An angiogram is literally a camera that they send through your arteries into your heart, and it's the only way they can get an exact look at what's really going on inside your heart. Dr. D told me right then and there that if he did find the blockage that he suspected, that the standard procedure is to (while they're in there anyway) install a stent in my artery. For anybody who doesn't know, a stent is kind of a stainless steel drinking straw they use to permanently open a blocked artery.
So 9 days later I arrive back at Swedish Cherry Hill for my angiogram, and probably heart stent installation. First off, let me say how stupid I felt just needing to be there. I'm at least 20 years younger than every other patent there! They prep me and wheel me into what Dr. D has expected to be a 90 minute procedure. Well 4 HOURS LATER, they're wheeling me to recovery as the proud owner of 5 brand new shiny metal stents!
Blood flow before
Dr. Demopulos told me later that night that he found the main artery that feeds blood to my heart completely 100% blocked. 100% blocked. And it appeared to have been blocked for several months. On top of that, the other 2 arteries were each 70% blocked. I had been living large for months while this time bomb was barely ticking in my chest.
Blood flow after
Needless to say, the news almost gave me a heart attack! (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) But to say I was shocked would be a gross understatement. Even Dr. D was amazed that I had been going about my life for months with this kind of blockage.
So what now? The story is that I'm extremely lucky! And I've literally been given the gift of the ultimate wakeup call. Dr. D says I've got decades of life ahead, but I've got to earn them. A few life changes and a good deal of better judgment and I should live to be a pain in the ass for years to come.
Do yourself and those that count on you a favor. See a doctor. Even if it's just a routine checkup. I don't mean to sound melodramatic, but the life you save could be your own.
Ed. note: Thank you, Spike, for sharing your story with us! For those who don't have a primary care provider and need a checkup, you can click here to find one closest to you.