Saturday, October 18, 2008

Heart Attack--Part III

Thank you for following my blogging journey of what has taken place this week. I'm finding that blogging is helping me process what has taken place and helping me to put into perspective all that God has done this week.

As promised in my last post, I mentioned that I would share with you about my journey to the hospital. Now, if you've followed my blog over the months, you've read about some of the experiences I've had as a volunteer fireman. I've driven firetrucks, water-tank trucks, and even our personnel carrier--that had previously used as an ambulance.

But, I must say that driving an emergency vehicle is nothing like riding in the back of an ambulance, strapped to a gurney. Looking out the back window was interesting, seeing where we have been, not where we were going. I listed to the siren and air horn as the driver moved through Birmingham traffic. Fortunately, most people moved out of the way, most but not all. The driver did the same thing we did when we drove fire trucks--if people don't move, sit on their bumper, blowing the airhorn as frequently as possible, and just hope and pray that they finally get the message the red lights, sirens and horns aren't just decorations! I am always amazed at how some people get their license to drive and not know what red or blue lights mean!

While in the back of the ambulance, the EMT and EMT-in-training monitored my condition, administered oxygen, checked my vital signs, regularly talked with me about how I was feeling and the level of pain I was having. The EMT also talked with the hospital, preparing them for my arrival.

To go from my house to the Urgent care to the hospital, you have to go over a "large" mountain. Not large as in the Grand Canyon, but large for our area. I must say that going down that hill, on the gurney, at what seemed to be 80 miles per hour was an interesting experience. I don't like roller coasters and fast rides at amusement parks. Finally, I couldn't look any more and just closed my eyes! That did help. Some. Not much. But some.

It took 10-12 minutes to get to the hospital, not bad for the way we had to go to get there. I didn't know what to expect at the ER. Would I have to wait in line? Would I be pushed into a corner and told that someone would be with me soon? I really didn't know what to expect.

I was surprised at what happened upon my arrival at the hospital. A person on the cardic team met the ambulance in the parking lot. His first question was: "Is this Mr. Heartsill?" Once he knew it was me, he immediately led the EMTs to take me to the cath lab. In a matter of minutes, I was moved from the gurney to the cath table. And, in less than an hour, the cath procedure was finished.

As a pastor, I had sat with many families as family members went through a heart cath. I knew what was coming, what to expect, and most of the language the doctor would use. None of it was really new to me. The only difference, this time it was me they were working on. I listened as the doctor worked. I heard most of what he and the others said they were doing. I felt the pressure in my leg as they worked. I heard the razors as they shaved me.

What the doctor found was simple. It seems that an artery that goes from the front to the back of my heart, a clot broke off of that artery, settling into another artery in the back of my heart. That clot caused 100% blockage in that second artery. That was the cause of my heart attack. The doctor inserted a "balloon" into my heart, made his way to my blocked artery, and completely opened it within a matter of minutes. Fairly quickly, the pain began to ease in my heart.

After he finished cleaning out that artery, he went back to check on the other narrowing of my artery. That part of the artery, where the clot came from, was still at 30% blocked. Doctors do not like to work on an artery that is less than 70% blocked, fearing that they will do more damage that the smaller blockage. Hence the need for medicines! Some of which I'll be on for the rest of my life.

The days ahead include heart meds, a stress test, countless trips to the doctor, and cardic rehab with diet and exercise. I suppose, keeping those things in perspective, they are far better than deciding where to bury my body and what suit to bury me in.

At this point, pray for the meds to do their job--to keep further clots from forming or breaking loose from the blockage. Pray that they will dissolve slowly with the meds.

In my next post, I'll share about my experience with the CCU! Trust me, before checking into the CCU, please make sure you are really, really, really sick! If not, it will just about kill you!

More to come!


  1. Like you Steve: not sure what would have made me sicker at the moment...the heart problem or flying down a hill with this nauseating feeling in me. Meds may not sound all that great but if they keep you around for that little guy and your bride then they will be worth it.

  2. Help me with this part of the story - which CCU were you in? The Cardiac Care Unit or the Critical Care Unit?

    Then I'll know better how to comment.

  3. I assume Critical Care Unit...but, I never really asked. There were other people in the unit who were not cardiac patients...but it seems that all cardiac patients went to this unit...I know, confusing.

  4. Now see there... that's why you're family Steve. You weren't just in the CCU being totally oblivious to any one else around you and their struggles.

    Definitely agree with you though about the CCU! It is some of the nature of the beast that is a place known as a hospital. And yet, having said that.. I wouldn't trade all the time I spent in the CCU for any thing - not as the patient - nor as the daughter/caregiver.

    I can almost picture you in that ambulance.. And I know you won't mind at the fact that it does sort of make me laugh. It is completely different riding/driving in one as opposed to being strapped to a gurney. And I can assure you - it cannot help but change the way you look at ambulances from now on and respond to them.

    This morning - my prayers for you have been that you will rest as you need rest. As you need to engage your mind/heart... do so. For one thing I know without question - while physical health is important... there is no substitute for Spiritual health. And good mental health is necessary as well as you continue to process all that has taken place and how your life is forever change in the beat of the heart.

  5. Camey...of all the people who read my blog, you understand far better than most!

    Thanks for your words of wisdom...and your continued prayers!

  6. They really got to the cath quickly.

    Ambulance rides are not so fun but downright scary!! Unfortunately I have been on two of them in the past years and wished I was the patient.(patients were my kids)It puts such a funny feeling in your stomach to be moving that fast backwards....or so it feels!

    Will continue to lift you up in prayer.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I can't wait to read what you have written.