Two weeks ago while in Lawton, Matt went for a walk/run and after jogging a short distance began to feel fullness/pressure in his chest and tightness in his arm as though he had been lifting weights. He stopped, the feeling subsided after a few minutes, he decided to get a check-up before resuming exercise.
Last week he saw our doctor, had an EKG (which was normal) and blood drawn. The doctor recommended that he see a cardiologist for a stress test before resuming exercise. His boss, who has dealt with heart problems for years, recommended his cardiologist, so we were on track to get things checked out. Matt flew back to Oklahoma the next day, set to return home on Friday night.
Saturday morning we went for a light walk when Matt experienced tightness in his chest. That feeling of heaviness/tightness continued as he debated whether to go to the hospital. Sitting in a chair and leaning forward seemed to relieve it. The lack of any other classic heart attack symptoms like pain, sweating, nausea, or shortness of breath, made it difficult to assess what was really going on.
At 3:30 pm, we decided to go to the hospital. Within a short time, they called a cardiologist, which happened to be the one we were planning to see this week (a blessing). To our surprise, he told us he was taking Matt to the cath lab and would probably be putting a couple of stents in his heart, but they would not know until they got in there. We were stunned. By 5:30 pm, he was headed to the cath lab.
When the doctor showed up in the waiting room just 20 minutes later I assumed he would be telling me they did not find anything major. Instead, he said that during the procedure Matt’s heart became irritated, went into cardiac arrest, and they used the defibrillator. (Blessing: if you’re going to have a heart attack, he was in the perfect place.) His left circumflex artery was 100% blocked and the right coronary artery was 60-70% blocked. He went on to say that, had he gone down (had a heart attack earlier) he would not have gotten back up again. This was staggering news, to say the least. I was so grateful we got there in time. Two stents were placed in the left artery, but the other was not addressed because his heart was still irritable.
The cardiac unit did not have a bed available, so he was taken to critical/intensive care instead with three nurses caring for him. This proved to be another blessing due to the V-tach he continued to experience until almost 10:00 pm that night. The next morning, I recognized his new nurse, Colleen. She was one of my nurses at the wound clinic. It was such a comfort to both of us. Once a bed opened in the cardiac unit, he was moved and our new nurse was Margie Nicole, a High Country mom I knew years ago (another blessing).
He will be laying low this week, back at work next week. His boss graciously reassigned him from the project in Oklahoma to a project at Ft. Carson and is taking care of having his things in Lawton will be brought back for him. We are thankful beyond words.
Yesterday, just before he was released to come home, we had a moment to reflect and process the prior 72 hours. We realized his heart experienced trauma; we will need to address physical, psychological, and emotional aspects of what that means, just as we learned to after the shooting. Although a lesser trauma, the process will be much the same—assessing/grieving losses, dealing with mortality, rejoicing in life-spared, adjusting to a new normal.
We decided to share our journey here, as we process, with hope it may help someone else in some small way. If you’d like to continue to receive updates, just click the subscribe button. We are thankful for the prayer covering our family, thoughtfulness of friends, as well as the excellent medical care we have received—it means so much.
For more information about understanding and recognizing the signs of heart disease, check out my post on The Stuff of Life.