I never imagined I’d have a heart attack at age 45

Heart Health

by Guest Contributor

Feb 13, 2020

I never imagined I’d have a heart attack at age 45. At the same time, I never imagined that kidney stones would alert me to my heart disease and ultimately save my life.

For 20 years, I’ve been plagued with recurring kidney stones. In 2016 I was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, requiring at least one lithotripsy procedure per year since 2016.

Trips to the hospital to take care of the kidney stones had become routine. So, on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, I checked into Baylor University Medical Center for another surgery to address a cluster of stones.

The right place at the right time

I was scheduled for a percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL), often referred to as a keyhole surgery, during which surgeons inserted a tube into my side to access my kidney. I was then wheeled into the operating room for the procedure, placed under general anesthesia and turned face down on the operating table.

Even though I have no memory of what happened next, caregivers, family members and my medical records helped me piece the story together…

About 20 minutes into the procedure, I had a heart attack.

The operating room staff immediately pulled the tube, turned me over and began performing chest compressions and using the defibrillator to reestablish a heartbeat.

Three minutes later, my heart started beating again. An interventional cardiologist was called in. He determined the heart attack was caused by a blockage in an artery.

I was whisked to the cardiac catheterization lab, where Jeffrey Schussler, MD, interventional cardiologist on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Heart and Vascular Hospital – Dallas, performed a transradial catheterization, a procedure that placed a stent in my artery to open it up via a catheter introduced through an incision in my wrist and guided into my heart.

I was in the cardiac intensive care unit (ICU) for two days following the procedure, then moved to a regular room for one day before being discharged home to recover.

I have very few memories of that weekend. But I do remember feeling like I was on an emotional roller coaster.

At one of my low points, I remember a patient care technician sitting by my bedside, listening to me and comforting me. All I knew was that I was so lucky and thanked God that I was in the right place at the right time when I had my heart attack. Had I been working at home that day, I probably wouldn’t be here to tell my story.

My sister tells me that my caregivers did an outstanding job. In every experience I’ve had with Baylor Scott & White, everyone has cared for me as a person, not a disease. All of the doctors work together as a team so you get the best level of care possible. I haven’t found that at other hospitals.

My recovery has been surreal. Emotionally, I’m still dealing with the thought that I had a heart attack at age 45. While I’ve always been an active person, going to the gym three to four times a week, I didn’t push myself physically after the heart attack. I was afraid of doing something that would cause me to have another one.

How cardiac rehab changed my life

But then, Dr. Schussler referred me to cardiac rehabilitation and it’s truly transformed my outlook on life.

While coming to rehab three days a week reinforces the fact that I had a heart attack, I now have peace of mind. There are knowledgeable cardiac nurses and exercise physiologists monitoring me the entire time. I’ve been able to push myself and they are changing my exercise routine to reintroduce weightlifting, something that I enjoy and that had been a part of my regular workout program.

Related: Professional skydiver dives headfirst into cardiac rehab

Today, I take nothing for granted and I’ve learned to appreciate everything and everyone around me. I have a second chance at life thanks to the team who took care of me.

I’m stepping out and doing all the things I want to do. The entire experience has brought me closer to my family and my friends. It’s also motivated my family to see their doctors and have their own health checked out.

Today, more than ever, I realize my support network is key to my physical, emotional and mental recovery.

Discover how cardiac rehab can help you, too, get back to enjoying life without limits.

This blog post was written by heart attack survivor and advocate Jason Oglesby.

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