Me and the Stent
This is the story of me and the stent.
My story is not uncommon in the UK today,
On 17th December 2010 I was diagnosed with Coronary Artery Disease.
I am presently 55 years old, I was 54 when my episode occurred and I have been fit and healthy all my life indeed my philosophy had always been keeping fit was an insurance policy against some of those diseases and illnesses that other people got. So from an early age my mindset was work hard physically and it will pay dividends later on.
Like most kids from Liverpool I played football (no better way to keep fit). I played at school and for local football teams and trained three of four times per week. I left school and kept playing football for a local Sunday league team. in my early 20s I started Ju-jitsu later on taking up Karate also. Over the ensuing few years I became extremely fit (probably the fittest I have ever been. The martial arts were to become a major influence on my life and would stay with me for the next 20 years. During that period I trained at least four times per week every week only stopping for holidays and illness or injury which luckily were very seldom.
Looking back some of the sessions were so extreme that I sometimes think how the hell did we ever get through it all? But it was great fun and energy and determination were never a problem. I loved training and loved extreme training even more. I kept on in this vein until my early 40s when I stopped martial arts training. Why? All I can say is that it was time. Somehow I you just knew!. From there I started at the local gym even then I knew that I had to keep training don’t know why it was just something I felt I needed to do. Deep down I knew it was something I had to do no matter what. So I was training about 5 times per week in the gym, start around 06:30, training done before work and trained at the weekends where I could. I trained like this up until my little episode as I call it. I was thinking everything would be okay never thinking I would run in to problems. After all I didn’t have any indicators or so I thought.
I work for the ambulance service have done for the past 26 years. in my time have dealt with literally hundreds of people who have had an Mi or Myocardial infarction commonly known as a Heart Attack and many other cardiac related disorders. I’d seen all the signs and symptoms and I didn’t believe I had any. I also didn’t believe I had any indicators that would predispose me to heart disease. To look at me, I looked fine in fact better than fine I looked a lot younger than my 54 years.
So what are these indicators? in the medical game indicators are things which may predispose you to a disease as in heart disease:
Being over weight or obese
Lack of physical activity or exercise
High blood pressure
Diabetes or pre-diabetes
Previous family history
In my case there were two predisposing factors, previous family history my mother had a heart condition. She smoked for most of her life and developed arterial sclerosis for which she had major surgery on her legs the end result being that one of her legs had to be amputated because the circulation was so poor. I believe her subsequent heart attack was as a result of the trauma of having her leg amputated. Having said that undoubtedly there was disease there which in the end killed her. The other indicator is stress my job is very stressful, I must say that even though even I have been involved in some extremely stressful situations I always felt that the stress wasn’t affecting me mentally or physically. I always felt that I dealt with the stress very well and had the perfect way to channel it through exercise. Everything else was fine.
I work for the ambulance service have done for the past 26 years. For the first 10 years was a practicing paramedic (great times) I went on to train paramedics for a few years before moving in to various management positions. Because of my experience in the Ambulance Service I have a pretty good idea of what happens with heart disease indeed I have dealt with literally hundreds of patients suffering from heart related complaints ranging from angina through to heart attacks (myocardial infarction) to heart failure. I have helped and supported people through probably the worse crisis in there lives. Some with success, some sadly not so successful. Typically a person with heart disease presents some pain or tightness in their chest possibly radiating down one of their arms (usually their left), with breathlessness. In severe cases they are scared very scared and thing they are dying.
In my case I was actively exercising up until the day I was diagnosed with hear disease. I did not feel any pain, no breathlessness no lack of energy or feeling unwell. To all intents and purpose I felt and looked great. However feeling great and looking great does not mean that everything is rosy in the garden.
On 17th December 2011 I was diagnosed with heart disease following a Angiogram. I did not present with any of the classic signs of a heart disease and only ended up having the Angiogram because I had been through all the normal checks with my doctor. The only issue I had was that I experience wind while I was exercising and this is what I was being treated for when I was referred to the cardiologist.
Following the Angiogram I had been told that I had a 99% narrowing of one of my Coronary Arteries and that I would need a stent. Of all the things this was the least I expected to be suffering from. Only two weeks prior to seeing the cardiologist I was I the gym doing a rowing session with a friend. On this particular day I did my best times in ages we did 2000 meters followed by 6 sets of 500 meters with a minutes rest in between. My average time for each 500 meter row was 1 min 57 secs. When I finished I was exhausted my legs were like jelly, I was gasping for air (as you would expect, (try it and see for yourself) but within a couple of minutes and a good long drink I was fine. I remember that day because of the rowing but also because afterward I felt great full of energy and on a real high. It sure don’t add up a couple of weeks and Angiogram later I have major narrowing of one of my coronary arteries and a probability of disease elsewhere and needed a coronary stent. What a Bummer!!
Anyway you are where are as they say and you can’t do much about it but get on with it. So I got the news a week or so before Christmas and got called back to hospital for the actual stent on 17th January 2011 Just on a month with Christmas and New Year in the middle pretty good I thought. Obviously things went well the stent was a success. I came out with my pipes done a stent and pile of tablets to take (I actually got the tabs following the agiogram). Six months later I’m still here, back at work and back at the gym (I was back at the Gym a week after the stent).
So what have I learned? Heart disease is indiscriminate it doesn’t care. If you are predisposed to it, it gonna happen. Accept it and move on and don’t beat yourself up with all that why did it happen to me stuff. It happened so just deal with it the best you can there is no other way unless you are absolutely loaded and can afford the very best in cardiac care and rehab and most of us can’t.
A quadruple bypass, still smoking now needs a stent
On the other hand you can become your own best asset and make changes to your life that benefit your current position. When I was in hospital the guy across from me had already had a quadruple bypass operation yet he still smoked. He was due to have a stent but got referred back for a further bypass operation. When you get something like this I think you have to get to know the enemy and aggressively fight it on all fronts. How do you do that well we’ll go through that inside this blog so if you in a similar situation to me and want to beat the heart disease son of a bitch take a look around. Your future is in your hands not some doctor who has hundreds or even thousands of patients on his list to deal with. Don’t leave it to them, take charge. Sure you have to go with their advice but hey they sure as hell don’t know everything. They don’t know you, you are one of many. You have look out for number one if you want to beat or even just keep heart disease at bay. So that’s the story of me and the stent, take a look around the blog it be great to have you on board.