A brief account of the Ticadoc Marketing Manager’s recent brush with heart problems and a week in hospital!
I just returned home from hospital today… where they wouldn’t let me skate the hallways (perfect smooth floors to skate).. they said I shouldn’t surf for a month (surfing has always been my favorite relax and re-energize activity)… so this news is quite a shock to my system indeed.
Do I have the heart of an ageing athlete or is it simply a bad tooth? There are many similar symptoms between a heart attack and what is known as a ‘cardiac event’. Although the symptoms may be similar, one carries with it many serious long term implications while the other just leaves you with more questions than answers and results in statements such as “We’re really not sure what to do next, as we don’t know exactly what happened or why this has happened.”
If a person is diagnosed as having had a “heart attack” however, surgery usually always results and one may not be able to do many things for quite a while like going back to work, doing the gardening or simply driving your car. If you are an active person like me, that likes to get out there and get things done, go surfing, running, swimming, snowboarding, training with your local under 7’s nippers squad, or to just live your normal fast paced life, you may be hit with some quite depressing and restricting news.
After almost 5 days in hospital my diagnosis has been a ‘cardiac event’ (who knows what has happened?) rather than a heart attack and this has caused me to start doing some research. This research has lead me to some very interesting findings and also to several amazing articles. One article cites the correlation between dental health and heart disease and the other one talks about the heart of an athlete. Both of these articles (links at the end of the blog) seem quite applicable to my current plight: firstly because I have had a broken tooth that was the victim of old unfinished root canal treatment and secondly because I have lead quite an athletic life…. but before reading those articles, let me tell you my story.
All I can say is that I’m sure glad that I said my prayers the morning of my eventual rush to hospital, because the jury is still out….
This all took place on a normal Saturday morning while surfing some really great waves. I took off on a really good sized Whale beach wave (in Sydney, Australia) and barely made it to the bottom when, with my body twisting and contorting just to regain my balance, I felt some strain and sting in my chest. Given that I had never felt anything like this before, I spoke to my friend Mick who was out there with me and explained the situation and then asked him to keep an eye on me as I wasn’t sure what happened.
So, as you do when the surf is good, I decided to catch a few more waves. However the pain and the grip on my heart wasn’t getting any better so I headed in in and walked up the warm beach to the carpark. One of my friends greeted me there and said something about me not looking very well and being reminiscent of “an old sack of faded potatoes.”
After getting myself home and relating the she story to my wonderful wife she immediately whisked myself, along with our two kids, straight to the nearest emergency room.
In The Emergency Room.
The first medical staff member said, ‘you look fine, I’m sure you will be ok. Its probably nothing as your ECG and blood pressure are perfect’. The second Medical staff member that took my blood test came back and said: “I have some bad news; “Sir, you’ve suffered a heart attack.” To this I said (after some tears of course) “there is no way that I have had a heart attack, I feel fine and I’d actually like to get back in the surf because the waves are great, and I’m not sure what time the wind may change, can I go now?”
Apparently because the “Troponin I” levels in my blood were high, they decided that it was a “heart attack”. Troponin I is an enzyme that your heart releases into your bloodstream if you have had a heart injury or heart attack.
As my Troponin levels were on the way up, I was told that I would have to be transported from the ER to another hospital that has a specialist cardiac ward in order to best look after me if my situation became worse. At this moment, even with the added stress of this news, I was feeling physically fine and I really felt like going home or just paddling out for a surf to just clear my head a bit.
However, this would not of course be the case. Not being allowed to leave the hospital, I instead proceeded to do what everyone who has had spent time in the hospital does: I waited around for things to happen.
Waiting around can really be quite stressful, as you wait to be told what tests and procedures are going to be conducted, which doctors and specialists are going to look after you and you wait to be told what is actually wrong with you. Along with the moans and cries of other patients coming into the ER the situation can begin to play on even the strongest of constitutions. My wife had gone home to get the kids to bed and now I really just wanted to know the plan so I could let my family know when to return, what was going to happen next and when I might start to understand what may have happened to my heart.
There were so many interesting things that happened during my stay in the cardiac ward that were almost like tiny stress buttons that were constantly testing me.
I was lucky that early on in my stay, my family brought in my laptop, mobile phone and wallet just in case I wanted to write or chat with friends, or possibly order some food from outside of the hospital, which I didn’t end up doing, but it did give me a bit of comfort and a semblance of normality.
However my sources of comfort quickly turned into another source of stress. Just before being called to have my angiogram at about 8am on day 2, I was asked by one of the hospital staff if I knew if I had had a heart attack or not. She needed to know for the purposes of getting the paperwork right – I mentioned to her that I would also really like to know the answer to that question and perhaps when she found out she could let me know! She then also told me that I should be careful about leaving my belongings at my bed because, “things go missing in hospitals 😩!?” Although I appreciate the warning, these words were not exactly something that someone still wondering if they have had a heart attack or not wants to hear 30 seconds before getting an angiogram.
(An angiogram is a procedure where they stick a long tube into your artery from your wrist or your groin, and inject some dark dye into your heart so that they can see of there are any blockages of blood flow in your heart)
Now finally resigned to moving on with this procedure, I made it to the doorway of the operating theatre where I met the doctors and nurses that would be performing the procedure. They were very pleasant and told me that the entry point for the invasive procedure would be through my groin, as they didn’t like going in through the wrist. This to me as the patient was a red flag. It was a last minute change from the original plan of entering through my wrist, and it was not a very comforting change.
The day before my procedure I was told that the doctor would be entering through my wrist as it was the best method. I could stay awake during the procedure and it would be quite easy and non intrusive (well, as much as a tube stuck into your body can be not too intrusive). There I was in the doorway of the operating theatre with an instant and highly important choice needing to made – should I proceed with an altered procedure that I hadn’t had time to get my head around, or not? With all of the stress of the last 48 hours I frantically wondered what I should do. Then out of nowhere comes a comment that I will probably never forget: “Please make a decision sir as you are now blocking the doorway”. At least they let me know that it was my choice to make.
Wow. At that point I was feeling like just another piece of leftover meat on the dinner table, so I opted out, and decided to wait for all of the stars to align so that I could feel comfortable with the invasion of my “never been touched before” heart. With this decision made I was then promptly wheeled back up to my ward and the patient in the bed next to me was quickly prepared to take my spot.
Four Days Later
After much discussion, 1 full day in the ER, 3 nights in the cardiac ward and some careful negotiations with several doctors, nurses, and other folks with many tests involving looking 👀 deep inside and all around my heart from all angles with sound waves (sonogram), dark dyes (angiogram), lots of needles and tubes (not my kind of surfing tubes) and after eating some very interesting hospital food, It was confirmed that I had suffered a ‘cardiac event’ and probably not a heart attack. At this point the doctors and staff are still unsure why.
They confirmed that this was some type of cardiac event based on my troponin levels being quite high & rising from the levels back on day 1.
So, after this 4 day (and still counting) adventure, the doctors decided that they don’t know why I suffered from a cardiac event, but I should come back for some stress testing in a months time 😊.
I did come away with some new massive bruising on my tummy, a large hematoma on my forearm at the entry point of the angiogram, lots of nearly unbearable aching pain in my arm, new knowledge and appreciation of my heart, and an immense level of gratitude for these physicians taking their time and using their expertise to try and find an answer…to say the least, whew! 😲
As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, I also found out some interesting things about athletes and their very special hearts along with some interesting, but debated, information around links between dental health and heart health. I’m actually on my way to the dentist on Tuesday to check my teeth because of this article. Have a read of the two articles below and let me know your thoughts…I’m leaning toward the possibility that maybe this all happened because of a ‘bad tooth’ which may be the explanation for my cardiac event. I just happen to have a tooth that has been in need of fixing and it is almost an exact match for the root canal tooth described in one of the links below.
The Bottom Line
I am incredibly thankful for physicians and hospital staff I encountered on this adventure as well as the incredible amount of information available at ticadoc.com. Ticadoc has provided me with a trusted starting point for my medical situation and for my concurrent investigations.