Don't Do What I Did!

Survivor Keith Short with wife Aleta

At the age of 59, I crossed off one of my “Bucket List” items: I hiked the Grand Canyon from the Bright Angel Lodge to Indian Gardens (a round trip of a little over nine miles). There were no signs of any health problems during my training for the hike, or the hike itself.

About a year later, around noon on May 11, 2011, I went to the gym to work out, which was a normal thing for me. After my routine — lifting weights, walking and running three miles on the treadmill, I was finishing my workout when I felt a sudden pain in my chest area. ‘Maybe I pulled a muscle,’ I thought. I finished my workout, but now I was sweating and having greater chest pain.

What I did next should not be done. I should have called 911 immediately. Instead I got in my truck and drove about a mile and a half home. Pain and sweat were increasing, and I called for my wife, Aleta, telling her that I had pain in my chest.

She drove me to the hospital, about five miles away (she, too, should have called 911). When I entered the emergency room, they rushed me to a room and then onto a cart. Then they gave me medication and did an EKG. The doctor told us that I was having a heart attack and needed to be “life-flighted” to a hospital better equipped for treatment. Once there, I was rushed into the cath lab, where they found my left anterior descending artery was 99 percent blocked. They placed a stent, but they could not undo the damage that had been done to my heart.

The doctor told me I was blessed to be alive, regardless of the damage to my heart that had been done. He stated my heart could not heal or be repaired, it would not get any better.

Returning home, probably like many others, I thought the rest of my life would be like this and wondered — if this was the way the rest of my life was going to be — did I really want to live like this?

The day after getting out of the hospital I began walking. Not a long distance, just down the street and back, which completely wore me out. This was going to be the new me. I cried.

Walks continued, a little further each time. Eventually, I increased them to three and then four miles — not quickly, but I did it. Tired, and along with a few naps, I continued with this routine.

It’s now been five years since my attack, and at age 65, I continue this routine. Yes, I still tire easily, and I cannot do some things that I did previously; but I am living a great life and enjoying myself as completely as possible.

Editor's Note: If you or someone you care about has had a heart attack, be sure to see the first of our four-part After A Heart Attack series, After a Heart Attack: What Happens Now? 

Our HeartFelt department highlights our readers' experiences with heart disease from their own perspective. We're always looking for contributions, so please send us yours. Before submitting, please review our Writer's Guidelines.

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