Allison contacted me and asked me if I would consider writing a PSA for this blog. At the time, I was 18 days post-incident and I asked her to give me two weeks to submit something. Without procrastinating any further, I sat down today hoping it was a soft deadline. (Editrix’s note: fear not, gentle Rand and Dear Reader, all deadlines for the blog are soft, as is your darling Allison).
For those of you who do not know, I suffered a heart attack at mile 15 of the 2017 Houston Marathon and died. Compensating for any bad luck or fortune I have ever had in my life, I found myself surrounded by half a dozen people who knew CPR and fell within yards of a geriatric facility that had a defibrillator and four staff people that ran it out to me. The odds of someone similarly situated to me surviving that scenario outside of a medical facility is low single digits. As you can imagine, I am thankful for those people on the ground with me who saved my life as well as every new day.
Upon arrival at the hospital, I learned that not only had I suffered a heart attack but I had suffered a prior incident. The heart attack du jour was because I was 99 percent blocked on the right side and my prior incident had completely obstructed blood flow; however, secondary routes had formed and that, among other things, was responsible for my survival. A stint was put in and once I am recovered, I should be good for decades.
I have been running for thirty nine years and very cognizant about what I ate for most of that time so you can imagine that no one was more surprised than me that I suffered such an incident. At an early age I realized that there was heart disease aplenty on both the maternal and paternal sides of my family and I needed to take responsibility for my own health.
I won’t go through all of it here, but there were a lot of classic warning signs that I missed. I was beyond overworked in November and December. During that time I had been plagued with heartburn and what I thought to be pain in my ears. The pain in my ears was actually jaw pain. I believed these maladies to be caused by stress and playing music too loudly in my car. It would have never occurred to me that these were warning signs of a cardiac incident. Additionally, I ran a marathon one month before and really struggled to complete it even though I’d had great shorter distance races earlier in the season. Despite oppressive conditions, I reasoned that my age was finally catching up with me and perhaps my long distance days were over. Again, it never occurred to me that my body was not getting enough blood or oxygen.
What else can I share with you? Over two years ago my general practitioner saw something he did not like on my EKG. He sent me directly to a cardiologist. Two weeks later the cardiologist performed a nuclear stress test and an echocardiogram. It was never mentioned to me by the cardiologist or my general practitioner that I had a prior incident. I question whether the cardiologist ever sent his findings to my GP. The cardiologist never told me I needed to follow up with him.
I clearly lost the genetic lottery. I also overlooked warning signs of an impending cardiac incident. Prior to this I took what I believed to be responsibility for my health by exercising and eating what I believed to be the optimal diet for heart health. I have been told that I benefitted from these positive steps. However, it appears that taking responsibility for your own health includes reviewing your own records and personally supervising the transfer of information between health care providers. Perhaps a stint could have been put in during a planned procedure instead of following such a traumatic event.
Finally, I have two more things to share. First of all, take four hours of your life and learn CPR. If it was not for the timely and proper administration of CPR, I would not be here physically and mentally intact. I am working with the Honorable Paula Goodheart to have a class at the CJC for everyone to attend. Since my incident, Mark Metzger saved the life of a woman with his CPR training. Any one of you can possess the skill to save someone’s life. You do not need to be a health care professional or look like Superman as in Mark’s case.
Secondly, the love, affection, offers of help, and actual assistance that washed over me from the CJC touched me beyond words. As George Bailey stated in It’s A Wonderful Life, “No man is a failure who has friends.”