How to Have a Really Awesome Heart Attack

TRIPLE-THREAT-Conehead-Articulated-Leech-Black-size-4-6

Buy a Triple Threat Leech here. 

My clog wasn’t quite this big, but I couldn’t resist the photo.

I know this isn’t exactly Spey related and I changed my mind several times about making this entry on a fishing blog.  But I do know that many of my readers are not exactly spring chickens. I know there may be some of us wandering around remote fishing locations unaware or in denial of the fact that we are followed by looming, ominus, serious health problems. We spend time alone on the water or with our precious loved ones not realizing that we have one foot in the grave and the other on the proverbial banana peel. Our studded wading boots will do us no good.  

We spend time alone on the water or with our precious loved ones not realizing that we have one foot in the grave and the other on the proverbial banana peel and our studded wading boots will do us no good.

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No, I’m not suffering an infarction.  This is a hard working blogger taking pics of his kids.

Its an embarrassment that I should even have a heart attack because I’m in decent physical shape and very active. But the down and dirty of it is that my beloved American diet is trying to kill me.  We have a love hate relationship. I love it. It hates me, with a vengeance. I’m addicted to food.  I have other issues too, one of them being heart disease runs in the family, but I’m pretty much an addict.  I camped all summer on a semi remote job location with a bunch of fine fellows who make good money and eat like kings. We withheld no good thing from ourselves and ate lots of sweets. Ok, they didn’t eat that many sweets, but I ate THEIR sweets.  I also ate their King crab, bacon wrapped brats, kielbasa,  mac and cheese, garlic bread and coupled with life on the road, I took really crappy care of myself.  I knew better. So I’ll throw my heart attack story out there in hopes that it may help somebody…

The cardiologists told me that when I do something, I do it in a really big way, referring to the size of the clot the he removed from my my artery.  According to the way he described it,  it was about the size of a 5 inch Moal leech. (Mother of all Leeches)  Now I know why Millers Fly Shop has a version called the Triple Threat Leach.

The cardiologist was so impressed with the size of this thing that he now uses footage of my procedure to educate his students. I must have done a great job. Therefore, I consider myself an expert when it comes to having a heart attack.

Here is a list of things I did to work up to this large, blood stopping clog in my right coronary artery.

  1. Variety in your diet.  Mix it up. Maple bars, pizza, highly processed sausage, wrapped in highly processed bacon, add tons of cheese to everything. Fast food. Whoppers, Filet of fish (they serve doubles now!) $1.00 hot fudge sundays give you a real bang for your buck.  Milk shakes, little frozen ice cream pies. Little Debbie Nutty bars, HoHo’s, processed cookies, Kentucky (deep) fried chicken on occasion, lots of sugar and manmade fats wherever possible.  Chips are an excellent source of artery sludge.
  2. Eat fast.  That way you can  pound down more of this crap while you’re still craving it. If you pause too long after you begin to feel full, you may be tempted to stop eating. Don’t be fooled, fill your second plate quickly or you’ll lose the moment and your tastebuds will suffer.
  3. Poopoo everything your doctor tells you to do. Don’t take your meds, don’t change your diet, put off getting that prescription filled or that procedure done. After all, they are just doctors. What do they know. They are bought off by big pharma.
  4. Exercise very sporadically. Skip workouts as often as possible and then try to “kill yourself” to make up for that three days (or weeks) in a row you skipped.
  5. Forget regular walking.  Do high intensity cardio and completely random intervals throughout the month.  Use the excuse: Hey, sometimes it takes two weeks to fully recover from HIT. I’m letting my body rest.
  6. Stay really inactive. That’s the best way for a high level athlete (you convince yourself) to recover from fierce, randomized HIT workouts. (That your teenage kids can do without cracking a sweat)
  7. Use lots of excuses.  A little ice cream sunday won’t kill me. I did just go for a run tonight, or last night, or last week, or last spring, whenever that was.  I need these (simple, refined) carbs to refuel my depleted muscle cells. Besides I had salmon, or sardines (canned, (farmed) full of sodium) or (processed) tuna salad for lunch!
  8. Lie to yourself. So what if all these relatives of mine had heart attacks? They were like, in their seventies, I’ve got years before I have to get serious about my diet. Cheers! You say as you click two nutty bars together. (One in each hand)
  9. Start really stressful arguments with your wife and kids about stuff that doesn’t really matter.  Nothing gets the old heart rate up like choosing your battles stupidly!
  10. Go fishing in remote places and don’t tell anybody where you are going, because you get skunked all of the time and you don’t want anybody to know you’ve been skunked again or that you stayed out past dark fiddling with your casting stroke.Skagit Casting

  11. This is a freebie.  Lose your temper over stuff that doesn’t matter.  This is a great exercise for men, it works best when you hold stuff inside that you insist doesn’t bother you, so when you let it out, there’s a good chance you’ll break something, hopefully expensive, which will add to the stress and get that heart attack rollin’!
  12. Helpful tip:  If you’re not into losing your temper, stress out!  It’s more commonly accepted, yet still a leading cause of heart attack! and Strokes!
  13. Combine every diet you’ve ever read about so you can justify everything you eat.  
  14. Reward yourself with lots of cheat days….and a heart attack!  

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                         Spending time on the water with people I love…Daughter Gracie…Pic by Linda Rawlins

 


 

 

Mr Rawlins, You’re Having a Heart Attack

I woke up early Sunday morning not feeling great but still toying with the idea of enticing my wife back into the bedroom after she made coffee.  As I lay there devising my “game” a sick pain began oozing from my upper chest.  It turned out to be the proverbial game changer.

It wasn’t a clutching pain or pressure or weight, just a sick, almost burning, weird pain I instinctively knew no ibuprofen or tylenol, or antacid was going to make go away.   It did not feel heart related.  It gradually became worse and I broke out in a cold sweat.  I took a baby aspirin and walked into the living room and told Linda about the pain.  “I suppose we ought to take you in.” She said.  So I put my pants on, and my slippers and a T shirt and walked across the driveway to the van that was parked 150 feet away.  I conducted a little experiment on my walk to the car by increasing my pace to see if it increased the pain. Sure enough it did. It was like the burn you get in your lungs when you hike a steep hill without taking a break, only it was my upper chest, not my lungs.  I wasn’t short of breath, I just had a sick burning sensation that seemed to come out of nowhere and not be related to anything- no charlie horse feeling, or clutching in my chest or feeling of pressure. Just sick pain.

My friends that are my age are very interested in knowing what it was like. They want to know what to feel for in case it might happen to them.  So I’m not trying to be a drama queen, like I’m the only one in the world to suffer from a heart attack, I’m just trying to be descriptive.  I will not say that it is the worse pain in the world but as I sat in the car waiting for Linda I did decide that honking the horn a few times was a good idea.  She finally showed up with the excuse that she had been waiting for one cup of coffee before we left.  Fair enough.

One cool thing is, if you show up at the emergency room with chest pains, they roll out the red carpet.  Linda talked to the receptionist while I sat and looked at the ground.  She tried to hold my hand (Linda, not the receptionist) but I declined because while it didn’t hurt as much, say, as having a baby might hurt, I felt a need to sit really still with my hands pressed together. I have never turned down any kind of touch from my wife, ever. I wasn’t holding the fact that she was making a pot of coffee while I was out in the car having a heart attack against her.  I just wasn’t in the mood for holding hands.

Waiting 30 minutes to seek help after the onset of symptoms of a STEMI heart attack (ST segment elevation myocardial infarction) leads to a 10 percent loss of heart muscle. Waiting 60 minutes is 30 percent and six hours means you’ll lose 90 percent of your heart muscle to oxygen deprivation.

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Sharing a camp fire with my favorite hunting/fishing partner and my favorite coffee pot.  

What it’s Like…

A wheelchair materializes instantly and the nurse wheels you into an empty room where a squadron  of doctors and nurses appear.  They make you take your clothes off and stick stickers on your chest and connect wires to your torso.  You don’t care if they know you don’t wear underwear. You’re happy you could make their lives easy.  They are all business and respectful and friendly and comforting because they know you might drop dead any moment.  

The dude running the EKG machine that reads all of the wires connected to you looks hep and competent.  The head physician is young and smart, casual but sharp and you like him right away. He asks a few questions and is confident and urgent at the same time. He approaches the bed again and says, Mr Rawlins you’re having a heart attack.  Mr Rawlins doesn’t say much. What does one say upon hearing this kind of news?  “Oky doky. Do I just wait here?”

Mostly I don’t remember what I said but I did remember that earlier I refused to hold my wife’s hand at the receptionist desk so I cried and apologized to her after hearing the grim pronouncement.  They gave me a bunch of aspirin after queries into what I had taken myself and pumped me full of morphine which didn’t help much.  So they pumped me full of some other clear liquid that did a lovely job of relieving the pain.

The helicopter guys showed up and they were really nice, and I wondered if they all got along well as I watched them interact very professionally with each other. The pilot introduced himself and made sure my wires and tubes and gurney straps were in order in a very paramedicaly authoritative way which was very impressive. After doing some very cool bed switches where I did nothing but just lay there, they stuffed me into that huge helicopter and my nose barely cleared the hatch of the loading door.  I wondered how they loaded really large people in that thing but I kept my mouth shut, which was a good thing because there are many large people who are much healthier than I was at the time.

They flew me to Bend, just a few miles up the road. I’m sure my wife could have easily driven me up there just fine but the stop at Dutch Bro’s might have slowed the process down a might. So they decided on the helicopter.

In Bend my Cardiologist looked like he easily could have been a Syrian refugee with his dark skin, and black beard.  He called me buddy and I liked that because at the time, he was my best friend in the world. They gave me a shot to induce amnesia and installed a stint and a pacemaker through the artery that runs up my  groin and into my heart.  Of course before they do all that they warn you that this procedure could cause strokes, heart attacks, emergency surgery, death, and your wanger might fall off, but it’s still a better choice than NOT having the procedure. So I signed the paper in my pleasant Opioid induced state.

The procedure gave me some relief but as I recovered in my room I slowly began to hurt everywhere.  I had to lay still, in my hospital bed, on my back and keep my leg straight.  I was immediately surrounded by the people who love me and they were all very concerned and a little surprised that I had a heart attack.  My sweet mother who is the sole care taker for my dad who struggles with dementia, could not be kept away.  Of course Dad came with her. He was on his best behavior except when he thought he was supposed to give me an opioid shot. The nurse on duty handled that situation rather well I thought. She tactfully avoided a wrestling match with skillful bedside manner.

The nursing staff began trying to ween me off of the opioids but I could not find it in myself to totally comply.

 

One of my nurses, Debbie Downer was even a little put off that I kept asking for my opioid shots. Finally she asked her charge nurse what she should do because in fairness to Debbie the shots were only supposed to be for chest pains, which I had not experienced again quite yet. I just hurt everywhere else.  The charge nurse told her to load me up.  I immediately liked the charge nurse. Debbie loaded me up around midnight and told me that she did not want to hear from me again until 4:00 am.  What she did not know was that I was having another heart attack.

My day nurse was gentle and understanding. She rubbed my back and gave me all of the pain meds I wanted, God bless her.  Throughout the day though, I developed more pain in my back and head, numbness in my arms and jaw. I ached everywhere and began to experience that sick weird chest pain again, ever so slightly.

By Monday evening, even though there were no huge changes in my blood work and EKG they decided to run me back into the cath lab and see what was going on.  A boatload of nurses and doctors again materialized in my room, every last one of them was consumed with sticking these square electrode sticky tabs all over me with the sole intent of eventually ripping them off along with every hair on my body.

Since I had eaten recently they said I couldn’t have the amnesia this time, just a local anesthetic.  Remembering also that I could die and my wanger might fall off I became scared but only because I thought the procedure might really hurt without the anesthesia.

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Glenn Ness came over for a visit

My Surgeon for this episode was from India. He spoke in a manner similar to the Indian people who are often caricatured as working in convenient stores.  Odd, that he would become my savior and my new best friend.

I was able to watch my heart and arteries.  All of the nurses and specialists working in the cath lab are kind of hot shots and very competent.  I enjoyed listening to the back and forth between them and my convenient store Surgeon who was quite competent and cocky himself. That made me and my wanger very happy.  He made a joke about the blood flow in my first stint that had already clogged again causing the second heart attack. “Does that look like flow?” He smirked.  Everybody in the cath lab was amused but me. “Don’t go making fun of my flow, now.”  I told them, and they all thought I was a pretty funny guy.  It was a success, although the surgeon was not happy with his work and said he felt the procedure had a 50-50 chance of success. My immediate response was a heartfelt Okie dokie.

Finally I had my relief. They switched my blood thinners and I began the process of weaning myself off of the pain meds.  Nurse Debbie Downer, who only 12 hours previously had thought I was a weenie, changed her tune. I’m sure she would have happily administered methamphetamines or cocaine or a shot of whisky or even smoked a joint with me if I had asked for one.  She was an angel. They were all angels. God love them.

5 thoughts on “How to Have a Really Awesome Heart Attack

  1. Hey Tim –
    Well written piece. A scarily effective and cautionary tale, a wake up call for all of us… I’m glad you posted this as you lived a lifestyle not terribly unlike my own. It would have been very sad if you ended up unable to write this piece. Even sadder if, after reading this, those who should know better don’t make lifestyle changes that would allow them even one more day on the water…

  2. A stint to enlarge an artery, and a close call to open a perspective. What more could a guy ask for except maybe a more scenic helicopter ride?

    1. Yeah Greg, it was quite a wake up call. I’m very fortunate. I’ve been eating better and exercising more consistently. Fortunately I have good insurance and we reached our deductible fast! The charge for the helicopter ride was $36 K. For that you would think a trip to the Dean would be included.

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