May 1, 2012

A Cardiovascular Event

Stuff happens. Tuesday, April 11, I did a typical Kettlebells workout. The next afternoon (Wednesday), Patty and I went for a 40-minute hike with our dog. As we climbed a hill I got more winded than usual, felt weak, and had a mild pain in my chest. The trail leveled off, my breathing returned to normal and the discomfort gradually went away. We finished the hike and I didn’t think much more about it.

That evening, we watched a movie on television and the strange feeling in my chest returned. It was mild; I thought it might be indigestion. The movie ended and Patty stayed to watch something else while I went across the house to our bedroom. By the time I got there the chest pain was getting worse and I was having trouble breathing. I went back to the TV room and told Patty, “I’ve got a problem.”

We walked to the bedroom and she dialed 911. Now it felt like someone was standing on my chest, and I was gasping for air. Who knows why, but she says I tried to get into the shower? I did remember from first aid to chew an aspirin. Within minutes, fire department paramedics showed up. I was flat on my back and could not get up.

As hard as it was to breathe, I didn’t lose consciousness. There must have been a half-dozen firefighter/paramedics in the room. They got an IV started, gave me oxygen, did an EKG, and even an x-ray, right there in the bedroom -- and they were fast. They confirmed to Patty that I was in fact having a heart attack; they said they were taking me to the Kaiser Hospital emergency room. We aren’t Kaiser members, but they said it is closest and they already had a cardiac team waiting for me.

As they wheeled me into the ER, a doctor and nurses were firing away questions:

“Do you smoke?”
“Any allergies?”
“Have diabetes?”
“Take medications?”
“On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the worst pain you can imagine, how much pain are you feeling?”
“About 5 or 6,” I said.

What was I thinking? Eight or nine would have been more like it. It hurt! I think they knew. They gave me morphine. There was another x-ray and EKG. They were moving fast.

Prepping and questions stopped when a doctor said, “We are going to insert a temporary pacemaker, then a catheter through an artery to clear a blockage and put in a stent. We‘re going to start the procedure now and we’ll be too busy to talk to you. But know that we are here taking care of you.”

The rest is kind of a blur. I think I was awake during the procedure and I remember the pain going away. My next real clarity was in the Intensive Care Unit. Patty and my son, Drake, were there with nurses and a cardiologist. I felt fine, but had to remain flat on my back for 6 hours.

The whole procedure, from the time I was wheeled into the ER to finishing, was 43 minutes! Amazing people. I have only good things to say about the Kaiser doctors and nurses.

They had cleared the arterial clot and placed a metal stent (actually two), which will remain. Over the next two days, they had me siting up, standing, and then walking around. I was discharged on the third day, with medications. Since I am a geezer (75), they were surprised that I wasn’t already on meds of some kind. I told them I take fish oil.

Patty says the first thing I asked the cardiologist in the ICU was, “Will I be able to lift weights again?” So far, it appears that I will. But first there are follow-ups and stress tests. I am cleared to drive and take walks. I have to stay off the hills, for now, until they give me a stress test. I feel fine.

I wasn’t sure how to write this. I know something of human nature: He did all the right things, and still had a heart attack. So what’s the point? There will be some of that. I reminded myself of something I wrote in Living the Fitness Lifestyle: There are no absolute guarantees in life, only good odds and bad odds. Make good decisions, health-wise, and put the odds in your favor that your years will be good ones.

Many subscribers have gone through health crises and worked their way back. My plan is to make a recovery in the same way I would begin any program. After getting a green light, I will start with moderate doctor approved training and will be incrementally increasing my effort. It is the tried and true method that works every time. My kettlebells beckon.

I realize this is an uncharacteristic newsletter. I felt an obligation to be forthright, as so many of you have been in writing to me. Next newsletter, we’ll be back on track with the nuts and bolts of strength and fitness information.

Best regards to all,


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The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter is a free publication sent twice monthly to subscribers. The purpose is to provide honest and realistic fitness information for people age 50 and above.

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The newsletter and web site provide information to help users establish and maintain a fitness lifestyle. But fitness information is not the same as fitness advice, which is the application of exercise and dietary practices to an individual's specific circumstances. Therefore, always consult with your physician for assurance that fitness information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate for you. Your comments and questions are always appreciated.


Logan Franklin
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