Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!

Posted: June 25, 2015 in Body Count, Fridge Note, It's not the heat, Shovels, the Self-pity goes to 11

12:30 Sunday Morning, and I was laying down to read and then go to sleep.  But when I lay down, my breathing got shallow.

1 AM, I was sitting up to get my breath back, but then some chest tightness started.

After trying a couple of different ways to get things under control, it became obvious something was wrong.

I woke up Wife Sublime, and said “I think I need to go to the hospital.  I can’t catch my breath, and have chest pain”…

I hate to say I was lucky that two friends had had heart attacks in recent weeks, because having that weighing on my mind made me pull the trigger quicker than I might have otherwise. For DAMN sure, I am fucking lucky that we live five minutes from a world-class hospital…

I walked into the ER.  I was still having trouble, but it wasn’t strenuous.  And when they did an EKG, they thought it didn’t show classic heart attack; what the ER doctor thought was that I had a blood pressure spike (my BP was something 2,000,000/500,000). that was straining the heart, which was causing my lungs to operate like a Soda Stream machine and fill up with liquid.  But at this point I didn’t care, because even with an oxygen mask or a biPAP machine on, I couldn’t even breathe anymore.  Later, the cardiologist said the ER doc wrote an unusual paragraph in his report, saying he could see me losing my ability to breathe.

Eventually, they got it under control, the biPAP was helping me to breath and get oxygen, and the BP was down.  So they moved me up to the ICU, where they kept working on the vitals, and I just luxuriated in breathing.

Until they did an echocardiogram, to see how the heart looked.  When the cardiologist looked at it, he hit the big red button calling available team members to get the hell in and scrub up; remember this is about 9AM on Father’s Day…. They didn’t even worry if I had anything in my stomach.  The RN on the team told me brusquely “you’re having a heart attack.  If you weren’t, I wouldn’t be here”.  twenty minutes later, I was receiving a stent for my LAD, which was blocked 100%

The procedure was remarkable.  I was fully conscious, and they kept TALKING to me.  They went in through my right wrist, and plumbed a wire up to my heart.  They actually installed two stent pieces, because the blockage was long enough that one wouldn’t cover.  After it was over, they even had me stand up to transfer to the mobile bed.

Later, I found out that my heart had been either ‘stunned’ or damaged so function was at about 25% (normal is about 50%).  There was no way of telling whether that would improve or not, because no one knew how the heart was in shutdown.  This is a problem, because that level makes arrhythmia a distinct possibility; The discussion was that I would be using a defibrillator vest until they could see if  the heart recovered in 90 days or so, and if it didn’t, a permanent defibrillator would need to be installed.

Meanwhile, lab work indicated that I now have a diagnosis of diabetes.

The cardiologist then came in and read me the riot act, saying if I didn’t change my lifestyle and immediately, it was likely I would wind up back here, or maybe not; maybe just going directly to the coffin, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

The thing I still have trouble wrapping my mind around is that all of this happened in about 20 hours.

They spent the next day getting my vitals under control.  Insulin, blood thinners, BP meds, oxygen, constant monitoring.  Nurses and doctors constantly asked, over and over, if I knew my name, what day it was, and where I was (amusingly, all of this was printed on the status board in front of my bed). Then they would ask me to squeeze their hands, and then would grab my feet and ankles.  It was like the world’s weirdest specialty fetish movie.

I had stabilized, and they started talking about moving me to a general room, or even discharging me.  But the cardiologist decided that he wanted to go back in and deal with a second occlusion which was at 90%, but in a much less hazardous location.  So on Tuesday afternoon, I was rolled back down for an encore.  It went almost exactly the same.  It is remarkable how low-impact this procedure is; they told me it is often done as an outpatient procedure.  One more night in the ICU!

On Tuesday, I was first told that I would be going home as soon as the doctors signed the discharge.  However the cardiologist decided that he wanted to have another echocardiogram done, to see if the heart had recovered at all. I think he wanted to know if he needed to worry about me.  Riot act aside, he was concerned.  AND…heart operation back up to 35-40%!!!! Not only does that make it more likely that I might get most or all of my normal operation back, but that I wouldn’t need the defibrillator.  I can’t tell you how excited I was about that; the doctors were too.  I think they raced each other back to the room to tell me

Came home tonight with an armful of meds, a whole bunch of diet outlines, appointments for cardiac rehab, and no activity restrictions.  Which means I will be going into the office tomorrow, then to Summerfest tomorrow afternoon!  I intend to become famous as the guy who survived a heart attack nicknamed “the widowmaker” because he needed to attend Summerfest.

Modern medicine is goddam amazing.

  1. mjsarch says:

    Amazing tale, and glad to hear you’ve come out OK. Maybe run into you at the Fest on the 2nd?

  2. Von says:

    I am so so so glad you are alive to tell this story. Sending you all of the warm squishy thoughts. xoxo

  3. Mikey Hemlok says:

    Holy shit! Can’t tell you how glad I am you aren’t dead. I mean, I don’t have a metric ton of friends, and this is all about me. Seriously, jeez, dood, How the hell did we get here? Like we NEEDED some reminder that it’s a one-way trip with only one exit door.

    Do what they tell ya and think positive thoughts. Eyes on the horizon, one foot in front of the other. Good luck. Please take care of yourself…

  4. Holy shit! Congrats on still being alive.

    What kind of lifestyle stuff do you have to change? Do you have to give up eating branez and drinking cocktails? More and faster shambling?

    I have major heart disease history on both sides of my family. I exercise a bunch but I should really start thinking about drinking less…

    • Brains are mostly fat, so in moderation.

      Drinking cocktails is pretty much out for the time being. one small glass of wine a day, maybe.

      Much more exercise, cardiac rehab starts on Tuesday….

      Family history of heart disease means to look at lifestyle changes sooner rather than later. Believe me on that. Diet and exercise go a long way, and allow the Happy Fun Time Juice to continue…

  5. Scott says:

    Holy. GOD.

    So glad to hear you’re okay. Also staggered to learn you have a heart! You been holdin’ out on me, boyo.

    Hang in there, pal.

  6. how glad I am you aren’t dead.

    Congrats on still being alive.

    Hey now, it’s hard to kill someone who’s already dead. There’s entire SHELVES of movies about that…

  7. fish says:

    Holy FUCK ZOMBIE! Let us take your name not quite so fucking literally please. I would still like to see the fields of fuck you do not sow for much longer.

  8. Wow. Just… Wow! Have a GREAT time at Summerfest! Stay hydrated, non-alchoholic beverages are a smart choice ❤

  9. That’s a long way to go to make a Nick Cave allusion. Glad you’re OK

  10. Landru says:

    I’m glad that you emerged with a positive outcome. November will mark the 12th anniversary of my very similar event (BDR doesn’t say so above, but his was even farther in the past). What you do with it is up to you, which I mean as a statement of plain fact, rather than as a snippy judgement. BDR lost weight and altered his behavior. I gained weight, kept smoking, and took more (prescribed) drugs, although I do eat less red meat and I stabilized my weight about 5 years ago. I neither promote nor cast aspersions on either approach, and I surely don’t promote this little tale as science.

    I do look forward to them approaching the area through my wrist, rather than through my femoral artery, as they have done now five times (only two of which involved actual problems–the other three were “Let’s have a look because we’re afraid of a malpractice suit.”).

    But most importantly, I’m glad you’re okay, I’m glad you took quick action, and I’m glad you’re still craving brains and other fun. My one recommendation would be to milk it for more time off work–your recovery time is phenomenal–but everyone’s mileage varies.

    • My boss is a complete asshole.

    • What you do with it is up to you Pretty much exactly what the cardiologist said.

      I am looking to make the BDR changes. Cardio rehab PT starts Tuesday. I have been trying to get diet and schedule under control. I am thinking that it will be easier to make complete changes rather than incremental, since the changes cover heart/BP/diabetes issues. Drinking is very nearly a complete no-no; I have a stock of Sailor Jerry’s that mocks me.

  11. Snag says:

    Changing your lifestyle? I need a good influence, so stick around for awhile, okay?

    Helpful hint: Listen to your cardiologist and your wife. Not necessarily in that order.

  12. Jennifer says:

    You’ll do anything for comments, won’t you. 🙂 I’m so very happy you had the help you needed and were in proximity to good places. Long live Zombie Johnny Rotten from Sunnybrook Farm!

  13. I confess I tired easier than normal last night, and my feet, legs and back are a bit more sore today, four days confined to a hospital bed being subjected to Modern Medicine takes a toll.

    Won’t stop me from going back down tonight, of course!

  14. Mikey Hemlok says:

    What, not even Lime & Gurgles Summer Shanty?

    God DAMMIT, life is not fair….

  15. blue girl says:

    Even without oxygen, you’re a good writer.

    ZRM, How scary. I’m so glad you are ok and that you responded so quickly. Live long and prosper, my friend.

    And now you’ve inspired me to get off my butt and head to the gym.

    Be well. Stay well. Have fun at Summerfest. Music is medicine.

  16. Hey look! It took DYIN, but I’m getting the bloggerhood back together!

  17. Mikey Hemlok says:

    Good work. Unfortunately, you’ll probably have to re-up a couple times a year because you know this group gets distracted by shiny objects….

  18. herr doktor bimler says:

    Enjoy the summerfest!
    Does all this mean you need all your organs, no donations? Just saying, I could do with a new pair of lungs, the more I hear of this “breathing easily” concept the more fun it sounds.

  19. I’m dismayed to hear of your cardiac issues, but am overjoyed to read that they didn’t kill you. One of the things that I hear helps with making lifestyle changes is getting plenty of sleep. The thinking is that people who are well rested have more willpower and have an easier time making positive choices and resisting the temptation to fall back into bad habits.

  20. Pinko Punko says:


    What the what the what?????

    Geez, ZRM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. tengrain says:

    Well, this rules out some standard-issue debauchery of course, but in general I suppose the undead can put up with a lot.

    I’m glad that you got the happy ending, so to speak, but I’m really sorry that you had to go through all that, too.

    A freaking miracle indeed,



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