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The Heart of the Matter

Week of December 11, 2006


            “Honey, I think I have a problem” I said softly, half hoping my wife wouldn’t hear; it was 5:20 a.m. and mornings aren’t exactly her thing.  Mine either, but the pain that awakened me at 1:00 a.m. had only gotten worse.  By the time I decided to rouse my wife I was pretty sure I was having a heart attack.

            I was, but at the time I wasn’t certain.  I had no history of heart disease, good blood pressure, and had carried about 190 pounds on my six foot, one inch frame for several years – hardly svelte but not obese.  Aside from the occasional scolding about the balance of my good and bad cholesterol, I had had no reason to add heart trouble to my list of worries.

            That changed after I told my wife how I felt.  If she has come to full consciousness from a dead sleep more quickly I don’t remember it.  “Why’d you wait so long?” she demanded.  “Get dressed.  We’re going to the emergency room.”  No room for debate there, not that I was up to it.

I did scrape up the nerve to ask her to drive rather than wait for an ambulance to find its way to our rural home.  In hindsight, this was the worst idea I’d had since waiting four hours to mention I was having a heart attack.  About halfway there I told my famously cautious spouse “I wouldn’t be worried if you were Girl-Child (our daughter).  She drives like this all the time.  Slow down, Mario.”  

            We arrived in one piece (not counting my fractured nerves) before 6:00 a.m.  After a battery of tests I was on a table by 7:30 a.m. and in my hospital room with two newly-installed stents by 9:00 a.m.  Two days later I was home.

            Six weeks later I am more-or-less back to normal.  I take a fistful of medications and had to change my diet, though I’ve always been pretty easy to feed and happily eat almost anything.  I attend thrice weekly torture sessions thinly disguised as cardiac rehabilitation, but aside from fatigue I feel pretty good and should fully recover.

            There has even been an unexpected benefit: the increasingly frequent and debilitating headaches I’ve suffered for many years have nearly disappeared.  It was four weeks after the heart attack before I had a headache of any note, my first break of that length in years.  After a change in my exercise regimen a week ago I’ve had no more.

            This happy accident baffles my doctors.  Specialists of every description had been unable to offer explanation or relief and they’re not sure why it stopped now.  My cardiologist believes it’s a coincidence, my general practitioner says the medications or improved blood flow may be the answer.  My guardian angels in cardiac rehab told me one of the medicines I’m taking is also used to prevent migraines; I’d been assured my headaches weren’t migraines but the possibility makes sense.

            Here’s my theory:  I’ve been praying for relief for years.  I picture God saying “OK, since you keep asking, I’ll take care of that.  While we’re at it let’s do something about all that rocky road ice cream and the couch potato lifestyle.  And a couple of things about that attitude of yours … ZAP!”

            And so it was, and so it is.  I have had no fear of death, even during the worst of it.  I’ll go when the Good Lord takes me but I believe I got off easy for a reason; I’ve been told that half of all first heart attacks are fatal, which is a real bummer as symptoms go.  I also have an increased appreciation for my family and friends, who have suffered through this much more than I.

            Life is too short to live just for yourself; this experience puts an exclamation point on it.  I’ll miss the ice cream, but it’s a good trade. 






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© 2005 Brent Morrison