Signs and Symptoms
Believe it or not, if you know what bad heartburn feels like, then you know what my heart attack felt like. I have quite a sensitive stomach, so I’m used to the lovely feeling of heartburn, but this was worse than normal because I wasn’t able to get it under control with normal remedies. Still very weak from 22 days in the hospital, as well as nauseous, I asked my wife to drive me to our little local hospital ER. I was sweating profusely due to the nausea and pain. As they were hooking me up to the rhythm strip, I mentioned I was having the worst heartburn ever and promptly vomited; I then mentioned that I felt like I was going to pass out…
Have you ever seen an Rhythm Strip report with a flatline (no heartbeat) for 2 minutes? That’s as near to death as can be- and that was my my report- with a second flatline 20 minutes later lasting 30 seconds- and then my body began to posture and clench showing that oxygen deprivation had occurred in my brain. When the helicopter arrived, I was flown to a larger medical center that would try to stabilize my condition and repair my heart.
I was in an induced coma for 3 days while a pump was beating for my damaged heart. My family was told that if my heart did not stabilize I would be put on a cardiac transplant list and could also possibly be brain damaged due to oxygen deprivation to the brain during the flatline episodes.
Slowly I became aware I was in a hospital room (again!) and being disoriented, asked the nurse if she was real! I learned that I had flatlined twice due to a blood clot blockage in the left ventricle which controls blood flow to the body and the brain (thus the ominous name “the widow maker”), and that the valve had been fibrillating and would not stabilize. My ejection fraction had showed 29% while normal is 65-70%- not good at all- known as congestive heart failure! There was also good news: my cardiologists had installed a stent in the left ventricle, and were able to reduce the blockage from 80-100% all the way to zero, but time would tell if my heart would be able to beat normally once more!
I learned that people all over the country were praying for me – as requests had been sent out on church and Facebook prayer chains; when my heart began to pump effectively on its own, I was slowly brought out of the induced coma, meanwhile everyone was hoping I would not be brain damaged. All I can say is if my brain was damaged, it wasn’t in a part of the brain that I use! Miraculous either way!
When my ejection fraction was checked again a few days later, it miraculously had returned to the normal range of 65-70%, but as I had developed various severe infections, I remained hospitalized for 13 days. Between North Dakota and Idaho, I was hospitalized for a total of 22 days out of 25 days! In actuality, my heart attack was far more traumatic for my friends and family than for me, because I was clueless during the worst of it, blissfully in a coma while they were anxiously waiting to see if I would live or die!
When released, I was extremely weak and had severe muscle atrophy. My kidney stones and stent had not yet been dealt with and I was using a cane for stability and support. I could not go up or down stairs unassisted and had no stamina. I was not allowed to begin cardiac rehabilitation therapy for a few weeks to allow my heart to take a break. I came home with 7 new cardiac medications and slept for 16 or more hours per day.
When I was awake though, I began to think about my life in a new way. I knew God and believed in his son Jesus for my salvation from my arrogance and selfishness and had helped as many people as I could, but with this new lease on life I began to ask a new deeper question: How do I make the most of this second chance?
With so much of my future up in the air regarding career, my physical condition, and how I could most put a smile on God’s face, I knew that a new direction in my life was already beginning.