I’m 53 years old, and I never dreamt I’d have a heart attack. I was home alone when a powerful pain spread across my chest. I guess I was the classic example of macho denial. I kept telling myself that it was really a bad case of heartburn, and it would get better if I could just burp.
When the pain didn’t go away, I talked to my fiancé on her cell phone. She’s a 911 dispatcher and a former paramedic. She was in her car, but she immediately said, “Where is the pain? Are your arms numb?” When she arrived a few minutes later, my arms were numb, and the pain was getting worse. She convinced me to get into her car, and she drove me to the Emergency Department at Fairview Lakes Medical Center.
As soon as we arrived at Fairview Lakes, the ER team went in 9-1-1 mode. They moved quickly but were always in touch with my needs and my feelings. After examining and taking care of me, they told me that I was going to the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview to have a stent put in. Telling me I was going to the “U” put a calm feeling over me. Everyone was very calm and collected.
The next thing I remember I was recovering in the intensive care unit at UMMC, Fairview with a stent in place in my blocked coronary artery. The nurses in the ICU were wonderful, very attentive and very polite. They barely left my room. Two and a half days later I was at home in Rush City. But my life had changed.
I’ll admit it. I loved my beer and pretzels, but my doctor from University of Minnesota Physicians, Heart at Fairview, convinced me that staying healthy meant changing my lifestyle. I started going to cardiac rehab, first at the Fairview clinic in Rush City and then at Fairview Lakes Medical Center. I finished the full 32 sessions of cardiac rehab. The cardiac rehab team helped me learn about a heart healthy diet and how important it is to exercise. I started using the elliptical machine.
Three weeks after my heart attack, I went back to work. I felt discouraged when I started to experience some mild pain again. It turned out to be related to stress. I never realized before how much stress can affect your health.
That isn’t the only change I’ve made. On a camping trip last summer I offered to cook for everybody. We all ate heart-healthy food, and I got my cardio exercise in every morning. I haven’t been this fit since I was a teenager. I’ve lost 30 pounds.
I can’t say anything but good things about the doctors, nurses and especially the cardiac rehab staff at Fairview Lakes. I give them a lot of credit for the progress I’ve made. They kept me going with their positive encouragement. They always made sure I was working hard enough but always in a positive environment with lots of laughter.
I drive past Fairview Lakes Medical Center every day, and there’s not a day that I don’t think of the staff in cardiac rehab. No thank-you card could say enough for all they’ve done.