Thursday, May 06, 2010

Heart Attack Cruise: Update

That's the EKG I got two weeks ago on the cruise ship showing the rhythms of my wayward heart. Since then, I’ve been grading papers for my online course and seeing the cardiologist.

Let me tell you, the former is less stressful than the latter.

Last week, Thursday, 8 days after my heart attack, I went to see the cardiologist my doctor here in Danville, Virginia, recommended. He looked at the EKG tests and blood word and cardiac enzyme counts I brought in and decided I hadn’t had a heart attack.

He felt that the elevated cardiac enzymes I was showing weren’t the significant ones.

This good news was immediately followed by the bad. My heart has some kind of arrhythmia that needs medication and further testing. He told me to start taking 10 milligrams of Coreg CR daily. He even gave me three weeks worth of free samples. I was feeling good about this guy.

We also set up a nuclear stress test and echocardiogram for this week Tuesday.

I was looking forward to the stress test.

I hadn’t had any exercise or even strenuous walking since my attack, and I was hoping that this would be a good workout. I dressed in some exercise shorts, T-shirt, and running shoes and was ready for anything.

First they gave me an echocardiogram (like a sonogram), and then they injected some kind of radioactive mineral into my blood stream. After waiting for a while to make sure it was moving around in my heart, they set me up on the treadmill.

I typically do about 45 minutes of aerobic exercise each day and expected this to be a piece of cake.

It was. It took me about 9 minutes to get my heart to the target rate (135 beats a minute), and I was feeling pretty good. Then,the nurse put a stop to the whole thing.

She had been monitoring my blood pressure, and she thought it was way too high, 190/100. My resting bp is about typically 120/60, and 190//100 was -- to use her word -- abnormal. She slowed the threadmill and asked me to take a seat until my blood pressure went down. It did, but very slowly, too slowly. This worried her too.

When the cardiologist stopped by and saw the blood pressure numbers, he reacted the way the nurse reacted. He immediately raised the Coreg CR dosage to 40 milligrams a day. A week ago I wasn't taking any meds, and suddenly I was doing mega-doses.

Although my blood pressure was high, I didn’t feel woozy, wonky, or dizzy. I did feel a little winded, but I figured that was because I hadn’t exercised in two weeks, and after all, the stress test had me marching up a 14 degree grade for 9 minutes.

Yesterday, Wednesday, the nurse called me with the results of the various tests. The good news was that I survived. Pretty much everything else was bad news. The cardiologist suspects I have a couple leaky heart valves and two blocked arteries. The valves aren’t a big deal, he said, but I needed to get the blocked arteries fixed.

He recommended he do a cardiac catheterization. That’s where he introduces a thin tube into one of my veins and works it up to my heart. He said that this would let him see how much blockage was in the arteries and whether I would need a stent or a by-pass.

At this point, I’m wondering “what’s going on?!?” Two weeks ago, I was living my normal life, exercising without a problem, eating peanuts and oranges (my favorite vegetarian foods), and now I’m listening to this cardiologist who I don’t know from Adam telling me I might need by-pass surgery and that, although he doesn’t do surgery, he could hook me up with somebody who’s really good.

Linda is of course going crazy, but I’m too drugged to notice.

PS--Linda just asked me to mention that the cardiologist wanted me to have the catheterization this coming Tuesday, but I told him that I couldn't because we're going to Las Vegas for a week with her parents Tony and Mabel. He shook his head and thought for a minute and said we could do it the following week.

I said, "Great."

Then he asked, "Didn't you have your last cardiac event on vacation?"


Stuart Vail said...

Pretty good spelling for being drugged up! Hey, you take care of yourself!

Lola said...

Be careful. We need you.
I absolutely get it too because, I,
being the healthiest person I know,
am suddenly in the middle of testing swamp.

Anonymous said...

As always a good read but packed with portent. My dad had similar issues in his fifties and lived (until pancreatic cancer took him at 83) with loving care from Mayo, so I'm glad you are on top of it. In fact, you may want to consider getting a referral there. My dad's fabulous doctor is John MOrrison. He's a cardio star.

Can't wait to see you both in Vegas.

Anonymous said...

This sounds more like a rollercoaster ride than a cruise . . . . I wish we didn't have to depend on experts, on the other hand, better experts than cranks. Thanks for the update, John, and it sounds like you made the right decision not to get off that ship in Spain. Keep making wise decisions!
And good luck in Vegas.

Carl said...

Hmmm... vegitarian diet for decades. What going on here John? What about a second opinion from another doctor?

lil said...

Mom is worried--what about me?!?!?

The last time you guys went out of town I got a couple of emails telling me that you had a heart attack. I am terrified about what is going to happen--especially since you will be in Vegas and you aren't going to be able to pry anyone away from the table to take care of you!

Curtis White said...

John: Just retired this week. So I'm watching you. Is this what retirement is about? Heart problems?

the story poet said...

John, Vegas will always be there, have the plumbing fixed, and then you can sit by a pool in the desert to recuperate. Take care, as I have four brothers with heart issues, and know you just don't put this off. Be a good patient, a proactive one, but compliant. In my prayers, Mary

Angelina said...

hey there prof! Take care of yourself. The world needs all the amazing professors it has...Lord knows the minions are in dire need of a little insightful direction.

Joy said...

Please take care of yourself! I don't write too often but think of you a lot!

(aka Pratte aka your favorite student EVER!!!)

Ranjit said...

Thanks for the update, John, and may good health accompany you to Las Vegas!

Charles said...

John, I agree with Carl: get a second opinion . . . & a third. The numbers don't add up. One thing is certain, though: we need you around for a long time!

Jane said...

I too have an irregular heartbeat for which I have been on medication for about 10 years. Dr. Miller is also my doctor. I have great confidence in him and have found him to be very thorough and cautious. Yes, he gives a lot of tests, but he wants to make sure that he hasn't missed anything. He did a catheritization on me about 12 years ago. I was glad that I had it because I learned that I had very clear arteries for someone my age. Maybe you should start indulging in a different diet - meat, carbs, desserts, etc.. Keep us informed on your tests, but try not to worry too much until you have all the results.

John Guzlowski said...

Hi, Everybody and thanks for the encouragement and advice!

I'm worried but not crazily so. On a day to day basis, I feel pretty good even though I've had to eliminate exercise and caffeine and carbonated drinks.

The doctor thought about my Vegas trip and gave me the nod. I'm hopeful that he made a good bet.

Jason said...

Great writing, John. Your spin at the end was wonderful. My dad went through a similar procedure about five years ago (the stenting). He has been good ever since. You are in my thoughts.

Kathie said...

Hi Uncle John

Thanks for making me appreciate grading. :) We're all keeping you in our thoughts and prayers. The one thing I've learned through my (comparatively minor) health your own advocate. No one cares about your health as much as you do.

Anonymous said...

Dr. G.

Wow! Had no idea you were going through this at the time you were reading and grading our papers and finals. Once again...I'm impressed by your dedication. And...once again I am awed that diet doesn't always insure excellent health. I kind of like Carl's suggestion (hello...Twinkies and Corn Dogs!) but Katie is most correct. You know what's best for YOU. Can't wait to read that all is WELL! God Bless!

Nancy said...

Several other friends who have been leading extremely healthy lifestyles (lots of exercise, good food, etc.) have had heart problems in their 60's. Dang. Still, would probably be a lot worse if we weren't taking such good care. I'm looking forward to reading about your successful procedure, whatever it may be.