As I sit out on the patio watching the sunrise on this beautiful Summer morning, I thought I`d tell you all about my latest adventure….. the massive heart attack that I suffered on July 14th.
Wait….. heart attack? Me? “….. Someone in good health and good shape? Never smoked and for the most part, always ate right? Doesn`t seem possible. Right?
So many people were shocked that this had happened to me.
But it did.
I hope at least one or two of you will take something away from this. Because it can happen to anyone.
Yes……. even you.
It all began on Saturday July 9th at the Garth Brook`s Concert at Yankee Stadium. Garth hadn`t played in New York in twenty years, so the idea venue was Yankee Stadium for a concert of this magnitude.
Before we left I suggested to Sharon to bring a light jacket as it probably would cool off as night air set it in the open-air stadium. She said she`s be fine without one though and we were on our way at 4pm.
We got to the stadium right around 6pm, parked and went out and about strolling outside the stadium to grab a bite. The concert was suppose to start at 8:30, so we got a couple gyros and sat at one of the outdoor tables before the show taking in all the sights and sounds of the crowd walking by.
Eventually we went to our seats and as I suspected, the coolness of the night time air rolled in as well as did the rain. With that, Sharon got chilled and I decided to go down one level from where we were to get her a sweatshirt. I hustled my way through the crowd to one of the souvenir stands, got the sweatshirt and made my way back upstairs to our seats.
As I made my way through the crowd, I stopped…… “Man… what indigestion” I thought to myself as I had a heaviness in my chest as I hurried back to our seats. When I got back to Sharon and sat down, I said “Jesus christ I have heartburn from that friggin` gyro like you wouldn`t believe” – Took a drink of my beer laughed a little and said, “Man I feel bad….. hope I`m not having a heart attack”
The concert was cancelled for hours because of in-coming bad thunder/lightning storms and we all were ordered to leave our seats because of the bad storms and heavy rains. This went on for hours and eventually the storms blew out and Garth Brooks took the stage a midnight and what a wonderful show it was! We ended up getting home at 4am….. that was the latest night that I`ve ever spent at a concert. We left at 4pm and rolled in a 4am! But it was worth it as we both really enjoyed the show.
Sunday we were both off and literally relaxed the entire day. Then again we did sleep till about noontime……ha! ha!
Monday morning I got up early to take our four pups for a walk around the local park. It`s a nice walk that`s about a mile and a half around. But that morning I actually had to stop three times as I walked. “Geez…… there`s that indigestion again” I thought to myself. I breathed deeply and didn`t seem to have any issue breathing-wise but the heaviness in my chest was there…….again. I really thought I had heartburn again. So I loaded up the dogs and headed back home and told Sharon, “You won`t believe this, but I still have indigestion”…… she said, “I think you`d better go see a doctor”……. Me: “Yea….. I`ll let it go for a day or so”……… Again, what I was feeling was exactly like I had felt on Saturday night……… a bad case of heart-burn. But what I should have realized was that it was happening while I was walking in each instance.
I went to work on Monday and experienced that “heart-burn” briefly in the afternoon…….. while working at my desk. But not as bad. Came home that night and still could feel it lightly and actually took a few Tums for this “indigestion” –
Tuesday rolled around and I did mention to a couple guys at work about this strange “indigestion” I had been experiencing the last few days. Both said, “Get your ass to the doctor” – Me again: “Yea…… I will in a day or so if it doesn`t go away” –
Wednesday I was driving to work and I was listening to NJ101.5 and they were discussing encounters with wild animals in New Jersey and asking what you had ever encountered. So I thought I`d tell them about the run-in I had with the rattlesnake a few years ago. They took my call and placed me on hold. While I was on hold for a few minutes, the heaviness in my chest started creeping in again. I pulled into a church parking lot while I waited my turn to be on the air. Now the heaviness became worse, more than it had been any other time. Finally they took my call. I proceeded to tell Michelle and Jeff all about my adventure up north with the rattlesnake. In the meantime, I was experiencing these chest pains while on the air! The call ended and I sit there for a few minutes literally a quarter mile from Overlook Hospital in Summit.
And I went on to work instead.
Thursday it happened.
I told Sharon on Wednesday night that I planned on going to Merrill Creek Reservoir in my `Yak at daybreak the following morning, as I usually fish for a few hours before work on Thursdays. I got up a 5am on Thursday and really didn`t feel well…… went out and dragged my `Yak to the truck. I really didn`t feel right at all at this point. So I sat down in a chair on the patio. Sharon brought the rest of the “pack” out to pee at 5:15 and said, “What`s wrong?”……..Me: “I just don`t feel very good…..but I`ll be alright” — Her: “Get your butt to a doctor this morning!”……… I grumbled something and she went back inside. Then I decided not to go out fishing…….”Ahhhhhh……the hell with it……. I`ll go back to sleep downstairs on the couch for a few hours” I thought to myself. I didn`t lay down even a half an hour and sat up quickly. My glands were swelling in my jaw and I got that overly “watery” feeling in my mouth…… you know the kind…….. like just before you are going to throw up. And then I started sweating profusely and I went upstairs yelling for her to “Get the car! I got to get to the hospital!” —
I got in the car and Sharon drove me to Hackettstown Hospital which is only five miles away. I told her to drive up to the Emergency Door and there I jumped out of the car, went into the emergency area, bent over from the pain, the lady at the desk stood up and said, “May I help you?” — Me: “I hope so….. I think I`m having a heart attack!” —- With that everybody came running towards me.
In a matter of minutes, they had an IV in my arm and placed nitro-glycerin under my tongue and administered some other life-saving medicines which I can`t recall the names of and said, “You`re having a massive heart attack….we need to transport you to Morristown Memorial Hospital. They were going to fly me by helicopter but couldn`t as it was too cloudy and foggy that morning. Sharon rode in the front of the ambulance as well.
Upon arriving a Morristown Memorial, they quickly took me into an emergency area and in a matter of minutes, four or five nurses and EMTs moved me to another gurney, took my clothes off and were wheeling me somewhere…..quickly. I was actually signing release waiver forms as they were rolling me to my next unknown destination. Upon entering this procedure room, there was an entire team of maybe five or six individuals and a doctor. Each individual was performing a certain function as the doctor gave orders as to what to do. One was shaving my wrist, one was shaving my groin another one was setting up some sort of x-ray visual machine while others prepared other apparatuses. Everything was happening at a lightning-pace. And I didn`t have a clue what they were about to do………. and to be perfectly honest, at that point I really didn`t care what was going to happen. I just wanted “something” to happen quickly.
They were about to perform an angioplasty on me.
The doctor went through my wrist…. as this is a newer approach to performing an angioplasty. If they go through the groin, you have to lay flat on your back for ten hours or more after the procedure as the risk of bleeding is greater.
I felt it go up my arm, across my chest and into my heart where he inflated a small balloon. By inflating a balloon, this opens up the blocked artery, allowing blood to flow again. When he inflated to balloon, all of the heaviness left my chest. It was an amazing relief. Then he said, “You`re going to experience some discomfort Ken as I insert the stent in your heart” — And as I felt the stent go up my arm, across my chest and into my heart….. all of the pain/heaviness came back………….. “ughhhhhhhhhh” I thought…………………… and then it all went away.
When the procedure was completed, the doctor asked how I felt and I said, “100% better….. I feel wonderful now” – I said, “Well I guess I have to change my routine and diet a bit now right?” – The doctor said, “No no…… not at all. See you`ve taken very good care of yourself and this has actually prolonged this from happening. If you had smoked and/or ate a lot of unhealthy foods, this would have happened in your 30s, but because you have stayed physically fit and ate right, this has actually prevented this from happening until now at 53….. it`s hereditary…… something that could happen to anyone at any age” –
A yearly physical would not have alerted my physician, as my blood pressure and cholesterol were at perfect levels. A stress test may have revealed a issue.
See my Father had his first heart attack at 32 years old and passed away from his second one in 1979 at the age of 42. Back then there wasn`t the technology that we have today obviously. Heart surgery was all very new back then with a lot more uncertainty. My best friend`s Father passed away while having the angioplasty performed on him several years back.
After they cleaned me up, they brought me to a waiting area. As my Mother approached me the doctor smiled and jokingly said to her, “Can you please take him out of here? We are so tired of him already! —- Now at this time my Mom sees all of us smiling and is a little confused and had a smiling yet uncertain look and said, “Well……. what exactly was wrong with him?” assuming it couldn`t have been all that serious…..if we were all smiling. The doctor said, “He suffered a massive heart attack”………… and with that my Mom`s mouth dropped open in shock. Then he proceeded to tell her that he had performed the angioplasty and inserted a stent in my heart…….and that I was fine. With that, she smiled and cried and thanked him. He in turn smiled with her, put his arm around her and said again, “Now…… will you please take him out of here?” ———–
The CCU/ICU – Critical Care Unit/Intensive Care Unit
This is where I spent the next three days…….. As I was monitored 24 hours a day. I was absolutely astounded the first time I had a little heart “flutter”…… a monitor went off and within less than thirty seconds, a nurse appeared in my room. They explained I would feel these palpitations occasionally as my heart was now getting blood in that area again and it was it`s way of reacting to it.
On Friday I had my breakfast…. and let me tell you, it was really good…..to eat.
The nurse came in to check on me and asked, “How was breakfast Ken?” – I replied, “Actually….it`s quite delicious” – She in turn said, “I`ve never heard anyone say that before”…….. I smiled and replied, “Well nurse… some people also don`t appreciate getting to see the sun rise the next day either” –
Later that morning, they had me get up and walk a little down the halls with Sharon. As we walked the hallways, I started having strange feelings about all of this. I must`ve had a distraught look on my face at one point, because Sharon looked at me and said, “What wrong?” ………. Me: “This just isn`t making a lot of sense to me. No one in here is my age or even close. Everyone is very, very old” ….. Sharon: “The doctor told you it can happen at any age”…… Me: “Yea…. Well….. I don`t see anybody here near my age”………… And this really, really bothered me. Maybe it was even making me a little depressed. It just didn`t make any sense to me.
On Saturday they moved me out of the CCU ward and into a private room. At this time I was taking ten pills a day. Six in the morning and four at night. The thing that I didn`t care for at Morristown Memorial Hospital was that fact that a different doctor came to see me every day. And no one could give you a definitive answer in regards to the medicines that I was taking. Nor could anyone nurse-wise, tell you why your medicines were changed or added. Too many “Cooks in the Kitchen” —- For example when Sharon asked why I had to take Lipitor when my cholesterol and blood pressure were perfect, the answer that they “weren`t positive but that it does help prevent cancer”—–Whaaaaaat???
Monday – Going home.
Sharon picked me up around 1pm to take me home. As I waited outside for her to bring up the car, I can`t tell you how good that warm Summer air felt to me as I basked in the sun for a few minutes. Yep….. it was hot as hell, but boy, it sure felt good to be alive.
Tuesday – A revelation – “I got the Message”
When I woke up Tuesday morning, my pinky, my ring finger and bottom of my left hand were tingling and numb! This scared the hell out of me and Sharon called the doctor`s office immediately. Then said to bring me right in. Now my actual first appointment with my Cardiologist(No, no…not another doctor…this is the gentleman that actually saved my life.) was suppose to be a week from today, but this incident really had me nervous and very concerned.
So there we were, my first day home in my Cardiologist`s office. He walked in very concerned asking how I was doing. Then he reviewed my medicines on the computer and suddenly got a very distraught/concerned look on his face. Looking at the screen, he said to Sharon and myself, “I cannot believe that they(Morristown Memorial) have you taking ten pills a day. You have been taking six in the morning and four at night. Correct?” Me: “Yes…” – Then he said, “No, no no…..You cannot take this medicine with this other particular medicine!” He then took out his phone and took pictures of the screen and said, “I`m reporting the hospital immediately!” – Anyway, he took the time to thoroughly explain the purpose of each medicine and why it was important that I had to take certain medicines daily going forward. When we walked out of his office, I felt so much better talking to him and went from taking six pills in the morning and four more at night to just five pills once a day. As we got in the car, Sharon even said that I seemed so much better after speaking with him.
At that point I was getting hungry and said, “Hey want to grab a bite at the diner?” She said, “Sure” – Now we do drop in this local a few times a month, but we don`t really know any of the waitresses by name. Except one. And she waited on us this particular day. As she seated us, she said, “Hey I haven`t seen you guys in awhile. How`s your Summer going?”- I proceeded to tell her that I had just suffered a massive heart-attack as we set down. She in turn said, “Ohhhhh geeez…… I`m so sorry. I know all about that. I`ve had three heart-attacks myself.”- She took our order for drinks and I turned to Sharon with a stunned look and said, “Three? her?” – She came back with our drinks and explained that she had three children and that within 24 to 48 hours of giving birth each time, she had suffered a heart-attack. I then asked how old she was, she said thirty-four and had her first heart-attack at twenty-two. This is a very trim/lean Lady mind you. You would never imagine anything like this just by looking at her. She then proceeded to explain to me that she does everything that she always did before and said jokingly, “You think I would`ve learned after having the second kid!”
As we were eating, I told Sharon I just couldn`t/wouldn`t believe anything like this happening to someone that young.
Then minutes later, a couple guys sitting in a booth across the way, sort of pointed my way. I said to Sharon, “Well I`ll be damn, I think I played football with that guy back in high school” – With that I got up and walked over to their table and said, “Remember me?” – He smiled, shook my hand and said, “How the hell could I ever forget you Ken Beam?” – Once again, I proceeded to tell him and this other guy sitting across the table, that I just had a heart-attack. So he introduces me to the guy across from him and I shake his hand as well. I said, “I believe I used to see you at Gibson`s Gym quite a bit, just never met you” – He in turn says, “I had a heart-attack four years ago as well” – Me: “Really? How old are you? He said, “I`m 53” – The same age as me….. And he then told me that he does everything he has always done with a few modifications. We chatted a little more then said good bye and I went back over to our booth. I told Sharon, “You`re not going to believe this, but that guy also had a heart-attack and he`s my age now” – Sharon said, “See? You`re not alone. People of ALL ages suffer heart-attacks” –
We walked out of the diner and I said, “What the heck just happened in there? I mean I saw and met two people younger and my age that had heart attacks” –
Now I have to be honest…… I lost a lot of faith in God when I lost my Father at the age of sixteen….. Even to the point that my dog-tags from my Air Force days say “Religion – No Preference” on them. But that particular day, in that diner, somebody wanted me to see something. Whether it was God or my Father, I`m not sure……
But the one thing that I am sure of…… Someone sent me a message. The message was that I wasn`t alone and heart attacks do happen to people of ALL ages.
And numbness that I had in my fingers and hand earlier that morning, was now gone. If I hadn`t had those issues that morning, I wouldn`t have went to the Cardiologist`s office and would have been taking the wrong medicines for another seven days.
So some of you out there commented that this should be a sort of “Eye-opening-Second-chance-at-Life” experience,…..well I want to let all of you know that this isn`t my first time at this “Rodeo”……. See this was actually my third time knocking at Death`s Door. The first I was eight years old, had a bad bicycle accident and lacerated my liver and bled internally. The second was the bad motorcycle accident while in the Air Force, where a lady ran a stop sign and put me in the hospital for three and a half months with a blood clot on my brain. And now the third….the heart attack. My Mother said that she felt that I`ll deal with this latest situation much better than my Father ever did. Although if today`s technology existed back in the 70`s, I`m pretty sure he`d be alive today. I told Mom that up to his first heart attack, Dad never had any physical trauma ever, for the most part. It has to be harder for anyone that has never had any sort of traumatic tragedy to deal with a life-threatening incident. Mom said, “With all that you`ve been through over the years, you`ve taught yourself how to deal with things differently than most people” – And I agree with that.
I`d like to leave you all with something else that happened on the seventh day I was home. It was Monday and I told Sharon I was going to relax on the boat ramp and do a little fishing in Riegelsville for a few hours. So I went down to the Delaware that afternoon, set up my poles, set up my chair and just enjoyed the beautiful Summer breeze that afternoon sitting on the ramp.
After sitting there and dozing off in the sun, I noticed around 2pm two kayakers were making their way towards the boat ramp where I was sitting. “Boy…those are really little `Yaks” I thought to myself as they got closer. Upon approaching the ramp I struck up a conversation with them, commenting on how little their kayaks were. “Earl” the husband introduced himself and his wife and explained that they had just gotten them as his wife was new to kayaking. I told them that I was doing quite a bit of kayaking myself before I had a heart attack. He turned and looked at me while he sat in the kayak along the ramp and said, “I had a heart attack two years ago myself” – I said, “Wow….. how old are you?” He said, “I`m fifty now” – Then proceeded to tell me that was one of the reasons why they opted for the eight foot six inch kayaks….. because they`re so light. So we talked a little more about our heart attack experiences and I told him how I had just saw the doctor last week and that while in his office I shook his hand and had thanked him for saving my life. I told Earl, that the doctor turned to me and said, “God saved your life Ken….. I`m just an instrument” — With that Earl asked, “Who is your Cardiologist?” I said, “Doctor Godkar”…….. he looked at his wife and smiled back at me and said “We`ve heard the same thing Ken……. Doctor Godkar is my Cardiologist as well” —-
Something to think about.
What are the odds on a random Monday afternoon, I happen to be sitting on a boat ramp and two people kayaking happen to paddle up…… and the guy happens to be almost my age and suffered an heart attack as well? And who also happens to have the same Cardiologist? A Cardiologist named Dr, Godkar……. a person that actually has the word “God” in his name.
Coincidence? Think whatever you may.
But I think not.
And I got the message. Again.
For me, it was the most ‘revelating’ week of my life.