When the phone rings at 5 am, my first thought is that it is a wrong number or a mistake. This time it wasn’t.
My mother was calling me on Thursday morning, April 3rd, to tell me the paramedics were there and my sister was on her way to the hospital–it looked like she was having a heart attack. The surprise was that is was my very healthy 68 year old sister instead of my somewhat fragile 89 year old mother!
My sister Rachael came to Dallas to visit our mom on April 1st. We had a nice dinner the following evening at our house–I was so glad she could get to know Sammy and Tori–and I could feel them enjoying the expanded sense of family from the experience.
By the next morning her life had changed forever.
Our family has a history of heart disease. Both my father’s parents died of heart complications in their early 70s–my grandfather had a heart attack early on and had retired many years before that. My father had quintuplet bypass surgery at 72. I knew all that, but I kept thinking that by living a very healthy life, taking really good care of my body, I could somehow supersede the genetics and beat the odds. Rachael was of the same mindset.
We were wrong.
The first indicator was when our youngest sister, Diann, had a heart attack in November 2012. They rushed her into the heart cath lab and found two arteries partially blocked at 60% and one completely blocked, put a stent in the blocked one and kept her at the hospital for a day or two, prescribed medication and told her she was fortunate not to have damage to her heart.
Rachael was not so fortunate, as she had a major heart attack and is now going through rehab for heart failure. Scary that someone who eats right, exercises and is very active and vibrant could have this happen!
So, I took heed when I spoke with her doctor at the hospital and he said I was also at risk and I needed to do a Heart Strong study which looked at 5 crucial points to determine degree of risk. I did it, and mine showed a high risk factor with calcification in two arteries. Then my dilemma: do I take a more conservative approach or do I bite the bullet and have an angiogram (cardiac catheterization) to know for sure?
After getting a second opinion (who recommended medication) and giving it a lot of thought, I chose the more aggressive approach and scheduled the cath procedure, which I had yesterday morning. I knew if they found blockage, they would put stents in right away.
Two of my arteries had 80% blockage. I got the stents, hung around the recovery room for a few more hours until I could walk and dress myself and came home! What a deal!
My doctor (Dr. Michael Isaac) said I was so healthy, not overweight, not at risk of any other factors, so I could just rest up for a few days and keep living my life as I was. No change in diet, because my diet is already just great, no change in anything except taking a blood thinner to keep the stent areas from clotting and adding a cholesterol medication as a precaution–but if I had side effects from it, I could cut it in half and eventually discontinue.
What a relief that I didn’t have a heart attack! I found out I was a walking time bomb.
Genetics play a part in our physiology–no matter how much we think we can overcome difficulties on our own, there are just some things that are out of our control.
What I really appreciate about Dr. Isaac, aside from being top notch in his abilities and having a great team of people around him, is that he feels very strongly that women have been ignored and under served by the medical community. He says that women do not present in the same way as men, and have very different symptoms with heart issues. And many take stress tests and pass–even though they are at risk. I might have passed a stress test. I’m so grateful I didn’t wait.
I have children to care for! I have a life to live! I have too much I still want to do in life!
And now that I’ve cleared up this obstacle, I have a more rosy future ahead.
I hope other women take heed of this story and take action!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!