In February of 1967, my father, Dr. Charles L. Shacklette, died of a heart attack. He was only 45 years old and I was only 14 months old. In November of 2007, I also had a heart attack: a "widow-maker." And this still happened despite all the precautions I had taken. I was very much aware of my family’s history of heart disease and wanted to ensure I didn’t suffer the same fate as my dad. I ate right and I exercised regularly. I maintained a very healthy weight. I NEVER smoked. I was, and still am, a fitness instructor at the YMCA. And despite all of this I also suffered a heart attack, but a stent and a great cardiologist made all the difference. Because of stents and the research dollars that helped developed them, I survived. And 6 years later, I am doing very well.
After my heart attack, I began to ask my mom more about what happened to my dad in February of 1967. How did he describe the pain? What were his symptoms? My mom’s description of his symptoms matched mine – the feeling that someone had hit you in the chest with a sledge-hammer – so I’m convinced my dad also had a widow-maker heart attack. Unfortunately for mom, it did make her a widow who had to raise five children on her own.
My dad survived for two days after his initial heart attack. If only he would have had access to stents like I did. I’m sure it would have saved him, too, and it would have saved my mom from being a widow. It would have been nice to know my dad.