As this report will sound more like a showboat mellodrama, I'll write it as such.
PROLOGUE: I had been in a deep funk for several weeks following my aborted cross country charity bike ride. Twelve hours before my plane departed for San Diego a cardologist explained to me that my heart was defective. Under stress it would only empty maybe 35%. He said that if I exceeded 80% of my heart's maximum it could result in a stroke or a fatality.
I attempted the trip anyway. Afterall, I had been riding the newly purchased recumbent trike for several hours daily throughout the winter on an indoor trainer. Crossing the dessert area of Southern California was easy and enjoyable. On the 17 mile incline to Alpine, California the trike performed well and physically I had no problems. But I could not keep my heart beat at 120BPM, the 80% level. When my heart beat got to 148 BPM I gave up the trip and returned home. I had promised my wife and children I would not be foolish!
At the suggestion of my good friend, John Murphy, I had involved my entire church in a dollars-per-mile charity bike ride to raise funds to reinovate the church sanctuary. Although I only heard encouraging words, I knew everyone was disappointed that I had to abort the trip.
After a month of deep depression, and two weeks of a virus infection, I looked to Dr. Matthew Finneran for help. Following a thorough examination he prescribed a Zpac for the infection and the anti depression prozak.
Recovering from several weeks of illness induced inactivity I accompanied my wife, Julie, to Walmart. In the store I experienced five separate, short but hard heart pains. I experienced three more as she hurried me home arguing that we should go straight to a hospital. Instead, I insisted she take me home where I took aspirin and went to bed. I intended to go back to the cardologist after the Memorial Day holiday.
At 6:00AM, two days later, as I exited the shower, I could not catch my breath. When I tried to breath deeply, I'd become faint to the point of near unconciousness. I awoke Julie and she called 911.
ACT I - The Emergency Medical Response: Six medics from the Barberton Fire Station rushed into my living room with their arms full of equipment. As four men worked on me, one recorded everything and another supervised. After they had carted me outside and put me into their ambulance they concluded that I was going into what is known as v-tac, a condition where the heart stops beating and just quivers. Wide awake and fully concious, they applied a shock treatment. It was a horrendous pain that literally lifted my 6' 2", 241 pound frame right up off the bed. The doctor told us later that they had undoubtably saved my life. I quietly thought of the song "How great thou art" and thanked God!
ACT II - Suma Citizen's Hospital, Barberton: The critical response in the emergency room was immediate and thorough. Through IVs they gave me assorted medication. After they ran several tests including EKGs, they explained to my wife and daughter, Kimberly, that I should be admitted to the ICU for constant monitoring and further evaluation.
The doctor explained to my family, now including my sons, Mark, from Mansfield and Todd, from nearby Cincinnatti, that if I had of continued the bike trip I would have probably been found dead in the dessert. A heart cath was scheduled after further evaluation and meds adminstered through ports in my hand and arm. At 3AM I did experience a bit of a breathing problem that seemed to fit into the normal, and typically miserable, night in a hospital.
The cardologist explained that there were three elements to a heart attack. Number one was blocked arteries, number two was a damaged or misshaped heart, and number three an electrical condition when the heart's "spark plug" could not cause the heart to "fire".
The cath to my heart through my right groin concluded that my arteries were actually "remarkably clear, astounding for a man of 78 years of age". Problem number one was ruled out. Following the cath my body was bruised deep purple and yellow from my right hip, along the inside of my leg to my knee. It was extremely painful but responded well to pain meds.
The resolution to potential cause number two, a damaged or mishapen heart, was to be an ultra sound of the heart. After first concluding that I was pregnant with twins, they decided that, no, it was just the two parts of a heart that was, in fact, perfect. No scars, no signs of any heart attack, the size and shape were exceptionally good. The heart was a bit thickened on the bottom and the right branch bundle was somewhat obstructed but neither of these conditions presented a problem. Potential problem number two was also ruled out. Again I thought "How great thou art"!
The Barberton Hospital was not equipped to make the test for the electrical problem and I was trasferred by ambulance to the Summa City Hospital in Akron. Although the ambulance medics applied the patches for an electrical shock, putting the shocking equipment between my legs, thankfully it was not necessary on this ambulance ride.
ACT III - Summa City Hospital, Akron: The CCU unit was full and I was placed in a double room in the Heart Care Unit. The other patient had had a triple bypass and was constantly coughing with water on his lung exterior. The room was hot. While I had a personal full time nurse at Barberton Citizens, at Akron City the nursing staff was obviously over tasked. The food was inadequate and not all that good. The technical equipment was not on a par with what we had seen at Barberton. None-the-less, Kimberly, who is very knowligible in medicine and in hospital care, assured me that Akron City would be a better hospital for me.
The medication that had been given to me intraveniously at Barberton prevented the immediate EP testing. I had to endure two very hot, uncomfortable days of poor food and over worked attendants as my system was flushed to remove the undesired meds. Did I go to the potty often? Uh, would you please pass me that urinal again? Would you believe every 20 to 30 minutes around the clock.
The high light of the City Hospital experience was to have my pretty wife bathe me all the while fussing because my hair "smelled" and she could only wash it with a wash cloth. She kept me in clean clothing although the hospital top sagged in front due to the heavy heart monitor radio in my chest pocket and looked bad. She tolerated my "bed" hair which stood up every where.
That food and appearance were a concern surly was a good sign?
On the third day they took me down for the EP. I was scheduled for 2:00PM. I had encouraged my family not to come to the hospital until just before they took me for the EP. They were actually more distressed than I was.
When the nurse came in a bit before 9:00AM and said there had been a cancelation and they were coming to take me to surgery then, I called the wife and daughter who headed for the hospital in great haste. They made it just before I went in to surgery.
I must say that what Akron City lacked in creature comfort in the rooms they more than made up for with the professionalism and equipment in their operating facility.
The cardologist had explained the planned procedure. They would do a double probe from both the left and right groin to the heart. If there was a problem with the top of the heart leaking electric pulses into the body, they would use a lazer to scar the top of the heart, concentrating the electrical pulses downward only.
If the problem was that the bottom of the heart was slow to respond to the "spark plug" charge, they would install a defibilator to assist the "spark plug" with an additional charge. In this procedure they would also cause the heart to stop and/or fiberate in different ways to see if it would restart when their obstructions were removed.
I had insulated patches from the top of my right shoulder to just below my heart on the left side and from my chest through to the center of my back. The electrical shock would be used to restart my heart as necessary. They assured me it would not hurt as it had in the abulance.
Stopping one's heart was surly a time for serious praying and I did so constantly.
The procedure lasted the better part of two hours. The most unpleasant part was the room temperature which was probably around 55 degrees, compounded by the frozen patches for leads from my ankles to my shoulders over and around my body front and back. I was concious but in what they referred to as twilight sleep. I was actually surprised when it was over and a nurse informed me that I was in great shape with no electrical problems. Incredulously I asked "Is it all over"?
The cardologist informed my family that electrically my heart was fine. Iregardless of how they interupted the electrical current, stopping the heart, when the restraints were removed the heart fired right up and restarted itself without any assistance. When he shared this information with me in the room I thought again "How great thou art".
FINAL ACT - The medical summation: The doctor informed my family and I that my heart was good. It was shaped right, my arteries were unbelieveable clear and the electrical impulses were strong and steady. He questioned the original statement that my heart only had a 35% output. It was now constantly putting out 41.2% which was normal but low. He said he was confident that with a medication he would start me on my personal output could be up to 55% which would also be normal but on the high side. Again I thought "How great thou art".
EPILOGUE: I am so thankful to be home. Fresh clean sheets, ironed pillow cases, cool air conditioning, and my own firm mattress with custom pillow. My right groin and leg, with the double cath, is so sore but it still responds well to pain meds. I have inflamed skin every where that removal of the body patches took off hair and, seemingly, the top layer of skin. My fingers, hands and arms are full of puncture wounds. Having said all that, again, I am so thankful to be home with my good wife fixing all my favorite foods.
I am to refrain from driving for awhile but am to start modestly walking immediately. I am to monitor my blood pressure and blood sugar. A new med, coreg, has been added to increase the strength of my heart. I am to go back to the cardologist in a couple weeks and again in six months. I am to see my family doctor tomorrow. I have no restraints. LLAP!!!! Live Long And Prosper!
As I was only allowed family vistors, my family grew as many dear friends claimed relationship so as to encourage me. Many are as close as family. I did deeply regret the concern and strain I was causing family and friends but I thoroughly enjoyed their company.
Mark reminded me of the many prayers that were sent heavenward on my behalf. The entire congregations of several churches, many friends, certainly the family, and even by the prayer group of Liberty College, led by my cousin, Cheryl. I informed Mark that I had already come to the conclusion that God had answered prayer and granted me a new heart. How Great Thou Art!
WE REPORT YOU DECIDE: Did God answer prayer and grant me a new heart?
On the one hand, the trained and efficient Emergency Med Squad concluded that I was dying and shocked me back to life. The cardologist said they no doubt saved my life.
After several exhaustive procedures it was concluded that my arteries were "remarkedly clear, astounding for a man of my age; the shape of my heart was good; and electrically my heart was beating strongly in rhythm.
The doctor said that both the heart pain and the breathing problem could have been caused by the virus infection. He didn't know. He did know that for anyone, especially for a 78 year old man, I had a remarkably healthy heart that he could make even stronger. I thought "How great thou art".
I Samuel 10:9 says "and it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him a new heart".
Ezekiel 18:31 says ".......and make you a new heart, and a new spirit........."
The skeptics will scoff! Even bible scholars may correctly remind me that the above scriptures are ramdonly selected and not really applicable to my situation. In faith I believe that God has a history of granting new hearts. I am not a religious fanatic but I do believe prayer changes things.
I trust in the following: Psalms 92:15 "Oh Lord, how great are thy works"!
TO BE FAIR AND BALANCED:
On the other hand, when I shared the above belief with a visitor today she immediately told me that her Dad's neighbor had exactly the same experience. He had a heart attack and they could find nothing wrong with him. Since the first, he had had two additional heart attacks.
WE REPORT, YOU DECIDE!
As for me, "I don't worry about tomorrow, I just live from day to day.........for I know who holds tomorrow and I know he holds my hand.
I must acknowledge that this blog was written in uninformed layman's terms. It was written as I understand it. Events and times may not be exactly accurate. The end result is believed to be true.