33 Stents and Counting
My heart trouble started in 1997, when I was 50. Driving to work with my wife, Gerri, one morning, I stopped at a convenience store for coffee. Suddenly I started to get chest pains and could not breathe very well. I told Gerri and said I would drive to the hospital, but within 30 seconds, I got out and let her drive the 15 minutes to the hospital. When we got there, Gerri ran into the emergency room screaming, “Help! My husband is having a heart attack!”
When they asked how she knew that, she started yelling and cursing, and I lay on the floor in pain, but was also laughing because that’s what keeps me going — a sense of humor. They gave me something for pain. My left anterior descending artery — the one some call the widow maker — was 99 percent closed. I had my first heart cath. One year later, I had more chest pains and two more stents were placed. When it seemed that stents had caused scarring, I had a triple bypass.
A few years later, my cardiologist told me about some research trials for occluded stents. Since I was having chest pains again, I went and received another four stents and felt great. But three weeks later, I was back there with chest pains. Out of 200 people in the trial, only two of us closed back up, but they opened the closed stents and I returned home.
The following year, I had a double bypass and had to stop working and go on disability. Six months later, I could tell the stents were closing again — I had figured out that for me, their closing was accompanied by a sharp pain in my left ear. At the hospital, I was told the stents had, in fact, closed again. This happened at least 10 more times. A year later, I had more chest pains and my armpits were turning black [something that can happen for some with diabetes]. After they checked me out, I was taken by air ambulance to Keck Hospital at the University of Southern California. This time they replaced my aortic valve with a pig valve and fixed another blockage.
I felt great for about a year, then I had more chest pains and more stents. I have had four heart attacks, more than 60 heart caths and 33 stents, and I’m still here. I just had another bout with the worst chest pains I’ve ever had. My heart was beating over 200 beats a minute and my blood pressure was very high.
My cardiologist is great and has kept me going all these years. I just turned 69. I still have chest pains; if I walk up stairs, I have to stop and spray my peripheral. I take many pills twice a day. I watch my diet, but I can’t exercise. I also have diabetes, peripheral neuropathy and benign essential tremor. Gerri has saved my life many times, and my family is very supportive. What gets me through is a positive attitude and a good sense of humor. When I go in for anything, I don’t worry about it. Whatever happens, I know that between God and my doctor, they’ve got me covered.
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