What does yours say, and what will you do about it? A cautionar - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

What does yours say, and what will you do about it? A cautionary tale for men and women

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This is a cautionary tale for both men and women. My question is: What does yours say?

Hopefully, you're wondering about my question, and the image attached here.

My question is directed to you, the reader.

The image is my doctor's office EKG (Electrocardiogram) from January 30, 2017. Turns out, that image revealed a startling reality.

Somewhere along the line, unbeknownst to me or anyone else, I suffered a myocardial infarction, more commonly known as a heart attack. To say the least, I was totally caught off guard by this revelation, as I had never had any of the classic signs of heart attack, such as chest pain.

My official medical record still indicates the exact date of this heart attack as unknown, but, just the fact it occurred has been an eye-opening experience over the past year. It crushed six decades of feeling as if I was somewhat special and invincible. Clearly, that is not the case.

Many of you know my situation eventually led to quadruple bypass open heart surgery at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City on February 6, 2017, the day after the Super Bowl. The surgery was a complete success. I got a second chance, and I'm hoping you will, too, if necessary.

I'm not suggesting you rush to your local cardiologist in panic. But, I am suggesting you not live as I did, ignoring subtle warning signs and thinking you are in some way invincible from medical problems, which could possibly be prevented with earlier action and perhaps, intervention.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart attacks occur every 40-seconds or so, all across the United States. Most heart attack victims survive. But, 1 in every 5 heart attack victims don't even realize they are having a heart attack. The C-D-C says 210,000 of the 790,000 Americans who suffer a heart attack every year had a first heart attack earlier, but did not realize it at the time. That is what happened to me.

Heart attack occurs when there simply is not enough blood flow to the heart because of narrowed or blocked arteries. In my case, a cardiac catheterization at Covenant Medical Center showed the four main arteries in my heart had significant blockages.

That meant I would require open heart surgery very quickly, or face the possibly of having what doctors often refer to as the 'widow-maker.' That's when the heart attack occurs so quickly and dramatically, there is no chance of saving the patient's life.

My symptoms were not classic heart attack signs. They were quite subtle. I should have been much more self aware that something negative was happening to my health over time. For some reason, I chose to ignore those subtle hints. That was a mistake I want you to avoid.

The first subtle sign happened during a Holiday Vacations, KWWL sponsored trip to Hawaii with some of our loyal viewers in early 2015. My wife, Candy, whom spent three decades as a cardiac rehab specialist, and I hiked the popular trail to the top of the famous Diamond Head Volcanic crater.

The summit is just 763 feet high and the hike is fairly easy. However, I was a little winded pretty much the entire hike. I had a difficult time keeping up with my wife. When we got to the top,

Candy looked at me and said I looked 'terrible.' She suggested I should sit down for a while, which I did. It was not what I would call a life-altering experience, but one which now jumps out at me as a warning sign, which I chose to totally ignore.

Another unheeded warning sign came in October of 2016, when the KWWL News operations moved from the first floor to the second floor of our renovated building. KWWL installed a new elevator, but I would always take the stairs. There are 31 steps. Looking back, I remember wondering why I was slightly tired after climbing just 31 steps. Now I know. Another subtle warning sign completely ignored

Candy says I am in denial that I suffered a heart attack. I will admit that. It's still hard for me to believe, given the years of exercise and running (10 marathons) which were a huge part of my daily routine. That regiment of exercise continues today, now that I have been cleared to resume physical activities.

If something just doesn't feel right involving your health, check it out. Doing so can at least give you some peace of mind, and could end up being a life-saver. It certainly was for me, and, with some Divine intervention, I came out of it without any heart damage.

Heart attack is often viewed as a man's health problem, but, heart disease is the number one killer of women. However, according to the American Heart Association, http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/WarningSignsofaHeartAttack/Warning-Signs-of-a-Heart-Attack_UCM_002039_Article.jsp#.WnKawa6nGJA women often ignore warning signs, and associate their symptoms to less life-threatening conditions, such as acid reflux, normal aging or having the flu.

Dr. Nieca Goldberg, Medical Director for the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women's Health at New York University's Langone Medical Center, says, “They do this because they are scared and because they put their families first. There are still many women who are shocked that they could be having a heart attack.” Many women, she says, often think they are just experiencing a case of the flu.

Chest pain is the most common heart attack symptom for both men and women, but a woman's symptoms can be different.

Dr. Goldberg adds, “Although men and women can experience chest pressure that feels like an elephant sitting across the chest, women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure. Instead, they may experience shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue.”

Dr. Goldberg says, when those signs are subtle the consequences can be deadly, especially if the victim doesn't get help right away.

The AHA says the most common symptoms include uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the chest. The pain can last more than a few minutes, or it can go away, and then comes back

Other symptoms include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

There can be shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort, lightheadedness, clammy skin, breaking out in a cold sweat and nausea should also be of concern.

The A-H-A says women, more than men, are likely to experience some of those symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting and back or jaw pain.

Experiencing any of those symptoms means you should call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital right away. 

Interestingly, when we learned I would need the surgery, my wife called a high school classmate of hers to inform her of what was happening.

At that time, the classmate and her husband (also an old Orange High classmate) were vacationing out of state. 

Somewhat taken back by my situation, Candy's longtime friend had her husband go to a doctor and get checked out.

A short time later, he underwent the exact quadruple bypass open heart surgery I had undergone in Iowa City with the same amazing team of Dr. Mohammad Bashir.  Today, he, too, is doing fine. But, that likely would not have been the case had he not gone in for that checkup.    If anything feels out of the ordinary, have it checked out.

More Background:  The following is some of what I wrote back in May, 2017, four months or after my bypass surgery.

Much to my surprise, I experienced a series of personal events, originating from the aftermath of a light dusting of snow, which had fallen on our sidewalks in Hudson.

That last snowfall of January, 2016, wasn't much in Hudson. As I recall, it was barely more than an inch, though it was a very wet and heavy snow. So wet and heavy it even clogged up my always reliable 1996 John Deere snow blower, forcing me to clear my sidewalks using my metal snow shovel. As it turned out, that snowfall, and that shoveling experience, would have a profound impact on my life.

First of all, you need to understand; I love shoveling snow. Just like I love to mow my lawn and paint. You know, basic chores, which give me a sense of accomplishment. I can look and see exactly what I've done. In my business of television news, I really can't see the results very often. You send the signal out there, perhaps off to Mars, not really knowing who's watching or if anyone really cares.

As I started to shovel the shorter of our two main sidewalks, the snow just seemed so heavy for some reason. I just attributed it to the wet nature of the snow. I really struggled to finish that sidewalk, but, got it done and then drove to downtown Waterloo to work out at the Cedar Valley SportsPlex for an hour or so. Following my workout, I drove back to Hudson to finish my other sidewalk, which is considerably longer than the sidewalk I already shoveled.

Again, I truly struggled to move the snow and remember saying to myself at the end, “I'm never doing this again. This is for young people.” I was literally exhausted, like never before. It never occurred to me that something might be wrong.

A couple of days passed, but, in the back of my mind, I was still thinking about how difficult it was for me to move that little bit of snow. I decided to tell my wife about it and she ordered me to go to the doctor right away for a checkup.

An EKG revealed what appeared to be an abnormal reading, so, a stress test would be my next stop at Covenant Medical Center.

A stress test is sometimes called a treadmill test, or graded exercise test. Formally, it's known as an exercise electrocardiogram. The patient walks on a treadmill (sometimes a stationary bike) to test the heart's response to the exercise. The walking gradually becomes more difficult, as the speed and grade increase throughout the test. Heart rate and blood pressure are tracked throughout the procedure, until the patient can no longer go on.

I'll go off track here for just a minute to say I took a stress test several years ago for a University of Northern Iowa Professor, who taught a very interesting course at UNI in the late 1980's, affectionately known as the marathon class.

The semester-long, 3-hour credit class, featured a combination of the physical demands of running a marathon, along with the mental aspects of running 26-miles, 385 yards, in a single effort.

Two veteran UNI professors were the instructors for that 1989 UNI class.

Dr. Forrest Dolgener, longtime Kinesiology & Exercise Physiology Professor at UNI, taught the physical aspects of running a marathon.

Dr. David Whitsett, popular UNI Professor of Psychology, now-retired, taught about the grueling psychological demands of completing a marathon.

It was the most fascinating course I had ever taken, highlighted by running and completing the Drake Relays Marathon in Des Moines.

For that effort, I received 3 hours of graduate credit. So, to this day, I can honestly say I carried a 4.0 GPA as a graduate student at the University of Northern Iowa.

This course also led to publication of a marathon training book, entitled, The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer, authored by Dr. Whisett, Dr. Dolgener and Tanjala Kole.

Now back to my current stress test, which was scheduled for January 31, 2017, at Covenant Medical Center.

I was very excited to take this test, but never got the chance.

Nurse Practitioner, Tabetha Gehrke, and Stress Test RN, Erin Smith, had me all ready and hooked up to an Electrocardiogram machine with several electrodes, which would record my heart activity during the test.

But, when Covenant Cardiologist, Dr. Ahsan Maqsood, saw erratic electrical signals coming out of the Electrocardiogram machine and its video monitor, he immediately canceled the stress test, saying, “This is a serious abnormality. I expect several blockages.”

They sent me right to the Covenant Cardiac Catheterization lab, where an examination of my heart revealed my four major blockages.

As they say, the rest is history.


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