Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I Had a Heart Attack last Wednesday and I'm Glad I Did?


Yep, that's right I am glad I had a heart attack. You see, heart disease runs deep in our family. My mom had one. My grandfather had one. My uncle died from one when he was 45. My father died from one when he was 47. They call it a genetic predisposition. (They all smoked, drank, ate crap and never exercised however).
Starting when I was about 40 I began to live in fear of the inevitability of my dying of a heart attack in my mid 40's. Every time I had a touch of indigestion I would panic, feel my pulse expecting to fall over dead any second. I drove Robin crazy with this behavior. I went to a doctor and got a physical to see where I stood. I had high blood pressure and high colesterol. I also spent a lot of time in bars, and ate crappy food. I didn't smoke though (not yet anyway). I went on the standard regimen of drugs to lower my blood pressure and colesterol. I went to an alternative doctor who was a purported expert in nutrition to get some help. He took a lot of blood tests and sold me a bunch of expensive vitamins and other "nutritious" pills. After a few months I decided that the vitamins and stuff were not worth the expense so I stopped taking them but I continued on with the medicines.

And I continued to live in fear!

In the year 2000 I had my 47th birthday. Wow, that was a cause for celebration. As the years went by and I was still kicking the fear began to subside. But I have always thought that one day I would have a heart attack. (keep in mind that in 2000 the internet was just beginning to grow and access was primitive so getting good information was not easy at all). I continued getting yearly physicals and taking the prescribed drugs. I would start an exercise program for a while and promise myself to eat better but I was never committed to it.

I think it was in 2005 Robin and I started frequenting a new bar after work. This was a late night place so we were usually the only people there early so we got to know the hot young women who were the bartenders. Robin liked to smoke when she drank (I was always a vocal opponent). The bartenders were given Zippo lighters and when you bought a pack of cigarettes from them they put on an elaborate show of packing them, opening them, handing you one and lighting it for you. Great customer service! Who could resist that? So I would smoke a couple when we went there.. Long story short, I eventually became a smoker... with a pack a day habit.

So add smoking to my risk factors to complete the list!

About this time we started the community garden so my eating habits improved some and I was getting some exercise working in the garden. Then we moved to the Funny Farm and improved our eating habits even more. I was working hard in the gardens. I convinced myself, (got that? convinced myself...) that I could control my blood pressure and colesterol without the drugs. The drugs we causing muscle aches and fatigue. By 3 o'clock in the afternoon I needed a nap. It really sucked feeling like that every day so I decided that I would rather feel good and die early that feel like crap for 20 more years. So 2 years ago I stopped taking them and pretty soon I was feeling great. I decided that since I wasn't going to take the drugs there was no point in getting a physical any more. Shortly after that our business closed, we got different insurance through Robin's work so I had to find a new doctor which would be a pain in the ass so I didn't do it. This was a year ago.

Life was good!

A couple of weeks ago I was thinking about how I might actually live to be an old man. My best friend just had a baby and I was looking forward to experiencing her grow up. Some of you read my post a few weeks ago about the lessons I supposedly learned from Ma Nature as result of the closure of The Urban Gardener. Well, I obviously did not learn that lesson very well so Ma Nature decided she needed to resort to stronger measures to get it into my thick head. "Tomorrow never comes and the future does not exist".

So last Wednesday I had a heart attack. Why am I happy about that? I did not die! As I said, I always expected to have one and I always figured it would be horrible, mostly likely resulting in my death. I had a total blockage in a very small artery and partial blockage in a major artery going into my heart. They performed 2 angioplasties to open them up. In the large one they put a metal tube called a stent so now I have bionic parts. At night I'm pretty sure I can hear the voices of the others in the hive. "Resistance is futile" they are saying. No one discussed any options with me. They told me what they were going to do and then they did it. I did have a conversation with my sister who is a nurse and who had to deal with our mother's heart attack. I had told her of my decision to stop taking the drugs the year before. This time she told me to let them do whatever they thought was best so that's what I did.

Oddly I was never afraid during the whole ordeal. I felt I was in good hands at Emory Hospital and that I would most likely survive but if not there was nothing I could do about it. Right before the first angioplasty I did have a moment when I thought 2 things, one was that I might not get to experience Annabel growing up after all, and the other was that Robin hasn't completed my 6 week organic gardening workshop yet so she might not know how to grow her own vegetables.

After the procedures I was talking to my sister about it and she said I was like turning the clock back 2o years. What she meant was that it took a long time for those arteries to clog up so now that they are open it will take a long time to clog them back up again.Everybody in my family has always worried about the possibility of my dying of a heart attack so I guess this is kind of a relief for them in some ways too and hopefully a wake up call for my brother who is 11 years younger that me, fast approaching the magic number 47. And no Ma Nature I got the message now and I will changing my ways. And I know I could die from any number of causes at any time so I promise to live in the moment as much as possible.

It has been a week since this mess started. Physically I feel perfectly fine except for a fog in my head. I am back on those damn drugs again. I will take them for a while at least. I will consult with my doctor to figure out how to get off of them ASAP. I have a plan to develop new habits that will make it possible. Some parts will be easy, some harder.

Thank you family, blood kin and not blood kin, for putting up with me for all these years. I will try to do better.
And thanks to everyone else in the physical and virtual worlds for all the love and support you have given me through this.

7 comments:

Big Daddy Biscuits said...

Big Daddy And I Are So Glad That You Are Ok. We Have Taken Everything You Said To Heart. This Is A Lesson To Us All.

Mucho Love And Looking Forward To Many More Laughs Together!!

Big Mama

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Anonymous said...

Hang in there, Dwane. You've still too much good work to do.

BB

LizM said...

So glad you're on the mend Duane! And yes, it's a great second chance! Take good care of yourself! I'm getting quite used to having you in my universe!

Take care,

Liz

amy said...

Glad to hear you're changing your ways. I've thought about you a lot in last few weeks. Stay strong. If you need some tough love, hit me up.
By the way, I can't believe you started smoking at age 52. I thought they only hooked kids these days. tsk tsk

Terri said...

I just found your blog - I'm glad your brush with your own mortality ended so well! We have a small, shared farm in Tennessee and are trying to become more self-sufficient.

I'm really interested in your aquaponics system - I'd like to build one in the next couple of years. Thanks for all the good information you've made available - I'm adding you to my blogroll now!

Robbyn said...

Whoa, just read about your heart attack and so glad you're still here! It's a big deal to have a second lease on life...SO grateful. Take good care, you're in our thoughts and prayers!

Robbyn and Jack