Heart Month Stories

On May 24, 2016, I heard voices and opened my eyes to see an old high school friend leaning over me. I heard him say that he was going to tape some pictures of Deacon, my Great Dane, on the wall, and I watched in confusion as he did just that. The wall, however, was made of glass, and it was not a wall that I recognized from anywhere.

I figured out pretty quickly that I was in a hospital – based on the fact that I was surrounded by more medical equipment than I had ever seen in one place. I noticed more people in the room: my mother, friends, medical personnel.

I had no idea what was going on. When I tried to move, intense pain shot through my chest. When I tried to speak, my voice was a mere whisper.

It turns out that the pain was from broken ribs, the result of attempts to revive me after I went into cardiac arrest three times on May 19. The loss of my voice was the result of intubation while I was in a medically induced coma for several days, an apparently successful attempt to preserve my brain function while doctors worked to unblock my circumflex artery.

I was in the cardiac intensive care unit of one of Pittsburgh’s premier hospitals, where the doctors referred to me as the “miracle” patient. I never would recover my memory of the days since my heart attack, or even the heart attack itself. All I know is that things went dark for a while, and I woke up into a world that had changed forever. My life became all about staying alive, and healing as much as possible.

About every 38 seconds an American dies of cardiovascular disease. Heart disease remains the number one cause of death in the United States, outnumbering all cancer-related deaths combined.

One of every four women in the U.S. will die from some form of heart disease, the most common form being coronary artery disease – a condition that develops slowly over time as plaque builds up in the arteries.

February is “Heart Month,” and The Citizen will take the opportunity each week to share stories, recipes, etc to help our readers prevent, manage and survive heart disease. If any of you would like to share your stories, including what heart-healthy changes you’ve made and how you have coped with heart disease, e-mail us at the.citizen@verizon.net.