What a week!

It’s been an interesting week.

Last Monday at about 8pm I suffered a massive heart attack just after I had put Mr J to bed.  The heart attack involved the total blocking of my primary coronary artery.  Best guesses say that the blockage was caused by a random floating piece of “plaque” getting lodged in what was an already somewhat blocked blood vessel.

I got Mrs Dave to ring the ambulance within about 5 minutes of the chest pain starting[an interesting marketing story here, ask me about it one day if you want to hear more] and the ambulances arrived at our place within about 15 minutes.  The time between calling and arrival are the longest minutes of my life.  Incidentally, I think if they could communicate what goes through your mind during that time, they would eradicate obesity and heart disease.

The paramedics provided exceptional care and identified my problem quickly, which allowed them to start talking to the hospital about my treatment well before we even left our place. Amazing technology.

On arrival at the hospital I went into an emergency procedure to place a stent [more info here] into the blocked coronary artery to bring back blood flow.  The procedure was very successful.  I was pain free within 3 hrs of feeling the first twinge in my chest.  As a result of the quick action by Mrs Dave, the paramedics, the nurses and doctors, I have suffered little permanent damage to my heart.  In fact, the little damage that there is may, in time, heal itself completely.

By noon on Tuesday I was feeling 95%.  A great result.  There is basically nothing else to be done with that blockage.  It is fixed for life, subject to me looking after myself.

As a result of being in hospital, and all the blood tests that that involves, I was also diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.  Probably the primary cause for the plaque build-up in my coronary arteries in the first place[along with too many burgers and dim sims].  This was hard news to take at an already difficult time.

During the stenting procedure they had a good look at all of the arteries around my heart and found that some others had unhealthy plaque build-ups in them.  As a result we[Mrs Dave, the doctors, and me] have decided that I will undergo Coronary Artery Graft Surgey [CAGS, also known as Coronary Artery Bypass Graft, CABG] in about 6 weeks time to fix up the other partially blocked arteries.  The great thing about CAGS is that it is basically a fresh start.  Given a healthy lifestyle, I should live to be a ripe old age as a result of this intervention.

Additionally, while in hospital they do lots of tests, mainly on your blood.  As a result of all of these tests the doctors were able to give me the outstanding news that despite the way I have not looked after myself for the past 25 years the rest of my body and organs seem to be in 100% perfect working order.

So, what does this all mean?

In the short term;

  • no driving for two weeks from the date of “the event”
  • no heavy lifting for the next week or so
  • no unusual exertion until after the CAGS
  • I will have to inject myself with insulin 4 times a day for at least the next 2 months.

In the longer term;

  • I will be on aspirin and some other drugs for the rest of my life
  • I will have type 2 diabetes for the rest of my life and will probably need drugs to control it.
  • I will need to change the way I manage my diet and exercise to maintain my health

Not really a surprise that I should have a heart attack and/or be diagnosed with diabetes given my lifestyle and current fitness. It was a bit of a shock though.  I had been doing quite a bit about my health and fitness over the past 18 months and I truly thought I had “turned the corner”.   Clearly, what I was doing was not enough.

In reality, not much will change.  I will be healthier, fitter, most likely thinner, and probably happier. On the flip side I will need to further reduce my alcohol intake, and exclude completely all of the sweet foods and drinks and high fat foods that I have previously loved to eat/drink.  A no-brainer given the circumstances.

More about the surgery as it gets closer.  Now it is time to get on with things.  I view this not as a catastrophe but as a second chance.  And I intend to embrace it with all of myself; for me, my wife, my children and my friends.  Because life really is worth living.

I intend to share my thoughts on this journey more as time goes on.  Partly as therapy for myself and partly, in the hope that I can get some of my friends and family to look at their own health and fitness.

2 thoughts on “What a week!

  1. JohnTogs Tognolini

    It’s nice to hear you or anyone after surviving a heart attack Dave. Do you realise how lucky you are to have survived one? I wish you well and can I send you my book Singing Johnny Cash in the Cardiac Ward-A personal story of heart disease and music. http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/john-tognolini.html

    From my book:

    “The trouble with heart disease is that the first symptom is often hard to deal with − sudden death.”–Dr Michael Phelps.

    I should be brown bread. Translating that good Cockney rhyming slang, which has become part of the Australian vernacular, I should be dead. I say this because of my jam tart, my heart. Thanks to modern medical science I’m still here, and it’s been proved beyond all reasonable doubt that I have one, a heart that is. To use the football term, I’m in extra time. But instead of a few minutes, I’m talking about maybe three decades. I’m 54 years old.

    On October 28, 2011, I had a six-and-a-half hour heart operation. It was actually two operations, one to replace my aortic valve with a mechanical valve and one to graph my aortic artery (the main trunk from the heart that connects all the arteries). If I did not have these jobs done I would have been a dead man walking, the victim of a coronary aneurysm and certain heart failure ten months later.”

    Get well Dave.



  2. JohnTogs Tognolini

    I’ve never had a heart attack Dave but when I wrote my book I went into detail about my best mate Mick’s one.

    “In the four to six minutes after a heart attack (myocardial infarction), the brain will become dead. Then the body suffers complete death. To say that the survival rate after a heart attack that occurs outside of a hospital is low is an understatement. It’s less than five per cent.
    When my friend Mick Cowles had his heart attack, he was found by his parents when it was actually happening. He didn’t think it was a heart attack. He thought it was just severe indigestion, bad heartburn. He didn’t have any sharp, stabbing pains that most people associate with heart attacks.

    His mother Dulice asked him if he was getting pains in his arms. And Mick said, “Yes.” He told me they felt numb, like pins and needles. He had pains in his neck too. Mick’s father Ken had rung straight away for an ambulance and paramedics arrived in five minutes and were treating him. He was in a state of half-conscious, bleary and dazed. He was taken to Gosford and flown to Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital. When he became more aware and awake, and saw the emergency medical staff around him, he asked where he was and what had happened?

    “You’ve had a heart attack Mr Cowles.”

    “Am I going to die?”

    “No, you’re going to be alright.”

    Mick is the first to say that his heart attack was brought about by his lifestyle decisions. He smoked. He was very lucky to have survived his first symptom of heart disease. A lot of people don’t.

    One was Bob “Bobcat” White, a retired seafarer who was only sixty five years old when he died. He was highly respected in his trade union, the Maritime Union of Australia. He had migrated to Australia as boy with his three brothers and his parents, from Glasgow, Scotland. The date of his death was recorded in the Coroner’s report as April 26, 2012, because that’s when he was found alone in his Melbourne home. Medical terms that appear on the report are ischaemic heart disease and atherosclerosis heart disease. Bob smoked too.”

    And again, Get Well Dave



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