Part I of a Special Guest Series by Steve Irigoyen, a You’re the Cure Advocate who’s an 8-time heart attack survivor and 2-time stroke survivor
The reason I advocate is because someone advocated for me and I want to give back. It’s my turn to go out and save another life. My first heart attack was in 1999, I was getting ready for my son Tristan’s open house at school and I had a bit of a headache, some chest pains and a touch of nausea. My left arm started to hurt a bit but I was in a hurry to get out the door and just shook it off. Must have been a touch of the flu or a cold I thought to myself.
Honestly, I couldn’t tell you who was more excited for the open house – me or Tristan! At 5 years of age, Tristan was very excited to be in kindergarten. Although he was a bit of a mommy and daddy’s boy who loved being at either my ex-wife’s house or mine - he truly relished being at school and making new friends. For weeks he’d been working on craft projects with his new teacher and really looked forward to showing them off.
On the way to the open house, my headache got worse. I stopped off at 7-Eleven to pick up some Tylenol, and then was back on the road and shortly arrived at the school. The open house was great – I enjoyed meeting Tristan’s teacher, and of course all the artwork Tristan had so lovingly made. Tristan went home with his mom and I headed back to my condo.
When I arrived home the headache and pain in my chest had not gone away, so I decided to call my sister Roberta, who knows all kinds of homemade remedies. After telling Roberta my symptoms she said, “Steve! You’re having a heart attack!” and I didn’t believe her. So she put her husband on the line and I reiterated my symptoms and he said, “Steve, you’re having a heart attack! Call 911 right now!”
I replied, “I’m 39 years old. There’s no way I’m having a heart attack. But I’ll drive to the hospital and get myself checked out.”
I walked to the garage to get back in the car – and hit the floor. The crushing pain knocked me down. Despite my protests, fortunately Roberta dialed 911. Because of her quickness to call 911, and a robust emergency response system, I was saved.
Since my heart attack, I’ve learned that sadly, where you have a heart attack matters in terms of the type of care you receive. Where I lived in Rancho Cucamonga, there was a quick emergency response system in place ensuring that heart attack patients arrived to the right hospital with advanced cardiac equipment. Part of my advocacy work now with the American Heart Association is advocating for timely emergency response systems. Everyone deserves the best chance at quick, timely treatment! Join me by taking action here on www.yourethecure.org to help ensure that all cardiac patients get the best of care.