You haven’t heard from me lately because I was dealing with some serious medical issues, which culminated in an angioplasty procedure on Tuesday. I had two arteries that were substantially blocked, but with the insertion of stents, I should be on the path to recovery pretty quickly.
Along the way, I discovered things about my family’s long history with heart trouble that made this inevitable, according to my cardiologist — who, upon hearing my father had a heart attack at 55, quipped, “You chose the wrong father.” But I also learned something amazing.
The doctor told me that in addition to the two arteries that needed stents, I have another that is 100% occluded, but that’s not a problem because the human circulatory system has the ability to open up collateral arteries to route the blood through. It would be the equivalent of coming upon a huge backup on the highway and having your car not only find a way around it via Google Maps, but also build the new road that would get you to your destination. The collateral arteries apparently exist even in heart-healthy people, just kind of standing by to leap into action should they be required. While they’re not a viable fix for every plaque-filled vessel, this one’s doing its job in my case.
This all started for me a month ago when I finally was able to get back in the pool at our gym. We had just passed the fully-vaxed-plus-two-weeks point, and I was thrilled to start doing laps again. But on the third day, I emerged quite light-headed, a feeling that did not dissipate for three hours. I contacted my physician, who ran a bunch of tests, including an EKG he said looked wrong. He sent me to a cardiologist who conducted more tests, including a CAT scan for calcium deposits and an echocardiogram of my heart, my carotid artery, and my jugular vein. They all indicated trouble.
Considering the first time most people discover they’re having cardiac trouble is when they have heart attacks, I was lucky. Martha and I had planned this month to finally take the trip to the National Parks of Utah that we’d postponed from last June because of COVID. If I hadn’t had the lightheadedness after that swim session, I might have gone down somewhere in Bryce Canyon.
Throughout this ordeal, I never felt pain nor had any chest-clutching moments. In the days leading up to the angioplasty, my wife and daughter kept asking if I was nervous about it. I replied that I wasn’t, since all I had to do was be driven to the hospital and lie down. Other people were going to handle the hard parts, just as they do several times every day. My role was completely passive, and because I trust science, and knew I’d emerge healthier, I suffered no anxiety.
So, now I’m home to recuperate for a week before starting some cardiac rehab and getting my life back to normal. In the meantime, I have two lovely bruises in my groin area, each in the shape of a Rorschach test. My brother joked they’re going to ruin bikini season — and just as I’d stocked up on Speedos, too.
I’m very thankful to the medical professionals who have cared for me over the last month, particularly those at Missouri Baptist Medical Center who treated me wonderfully — even with the regular sleep interruptions for poking, prodding, and taking my vital signs. They and the crew at St. Louis Heart and Vascular probably saved my life, for which I’ll be forever grateful.
Here’s to better days ahead.