Joel Robbins Lafayette, IN
My name is Joel Robbins and to quote the ER Doctor, I’m “one lucky dude”. On Aug 25th, 2010, my life changed in a heart-beat….or rather, lack thereof. As we would find out later, an unknown blood clot released from wherever it was hiding and I suddenly had a 100% blockage of the Left Anterior Descending Artery, known as the LAD. The LAD delivers about 75% of the blood to your heart. The result: I had a massive heart attack. This heart attack is known as The Widow Maker. There’s a 5% survival rate. Thank God…He spared my life.
I had felt some shortness of breath for about a month prior to having the heart attack. On July 26th, I got an allergic reaction from some bee stings. I was given some medication to fight the allergic reaction. The very next day, I went to the nurses at work with very elevated blood pressure and very fast heart rate. I was told it was the medication working and not to worry about it. I sought help two more times, each time I was told it was the medication and not to worry. So…I didn’t. Over the course of the next 30 days, I had some periodic shortness of breath for a few seconds and then I was fine (or so I thought). What we later learned was, the medication was also working on the blood clot I didn’t know I had!
As I came home from work on the 25th of Aug., my wife and kids were out working in the yard. I was tired, so I lied down to rest a bit. They called in through the window for me to help with something and I went on out. I decided to do a few more things while out there and as I finished putting things away, I was knocked flat, face first to the ground. I had no energy and I was extremely short of breath. This time, however, the shortness of breath was not going away! I remember thinking to myself, “I’m only 44, I can’t be having a heart attack.” My wife and daughter came up to me and I said I was fine, I didn’t need to go to the doctor or hospital…it was nothing. I finally stood up and wishfully determined I had just overheated. So, I went inside to take a shower and cool off.
While in the shower, suddenly, an extreme pain in the center of my chest came upon me. It was as if someone was pushing their heel down into the center of my chest and someone else was pulling up on my shoulders. I broke out into a cold sweat and both of my arms went numb. I immediately knew I WAS having a heart attack now! I got out and lied on the floor. Everything around me was now gray, no color whatsoever. I thought to myself, I don’t want to die here. So, I got up off the floor and headed for the stairway.
It was at this point, I realized God was with me. I was very unstable walking and the stairway was overwhelmingly steep looking. I remember saying, please don’t let me fall. Suddenly, the stairway appeared to be narrower and distant - as if I was lifted above it. I truly believe it was at this point God was holding me and helping me down the stairs. I had called out to Wendy a little earlier and she met me at the bottom. While coming down the stairs, I noticed the Lord’s Prayer we have above the landing. Now, the Lord’s Prayer was completely in color and in focus….while around it was still all gray. God was telling me to PRAY! As Wendy wrapped her arms around me and helped me to the floor, I whispered to her, arms numb, can’t breathe. I then started gasping for every breath. Wendy is immediately on the phone with 911 (she did a great job of staying calm – I think it helped she was in shock of what was really happening) and I can hear both of our kids crying. I am praying for all I am worth at that point and I can safely say, that was the hardest I have ever prayed.
I felt some relief as I heard the sirens in the distance. I couldn’t believe they were coming for me, but I was relieved at the same time.
The first responders came and then the EMTs. The hardest part of this was looking at Isaac and Ashley as I was being wheeled out of our home, thinking this was going to be the last I saw of my family. Fortunately, God was still there with me. God worked through the EMT as three different times on the way to the ER, God and the EMT brought me back. Standing over me, the EMT told me, God wasn’t done with me yet and not to leave him. God had all the right people in all the right places for me that night. When I got to the ER, the staff quickly started working on me. The cardiologist had called the catheterization team in before I got to the ER, so they could be ready for me. My senses were heightened as I could hear all of the conversations that night. Even the one with the EMT speaking with the ER in the ambulance on the way there….saying, he needed to speak with THE cardiologist on duty as he had a 44 year-old, white male actively having a heart attack and of the three EKGs performed, none were good. He needed everyone to be ready and we were five minutes out. (That is really scary as you realize, it’s you they’re talking about!) When we pulled into the ER, I was cold and my legs were now numb too. I remember thinking, “I don’t have much time left…I’m slipping away.” As the hustle and bustle of medical staff was everywhere within the ER room, I soon had this calmness that came over me. The ER staff was really working on stabilizing me and trying to ease my pain, though it was the most excruciating pain I’ve ever felt. I cried a little, but quickly knew I needed to fight instead. It was great to see Wendy and my parents there in the ER with me. Soon, the staff whisked me away to the cath lab. I had briefly passed out but immediately came to when they removed the clot and inserted a stint. I was warm and now could feel my arms and legs again and I had no more pain. After I looked around and realized the big bright light was just the surgical light overhead, I thanked the nurses and said I felt wonderful. I also thanked God for the first time that night.
So, a few hours after this whole thing had started, I was feeling great. I was soon lying in my ICU bed, I was thankful to see my beautiful bride and my parents again. I was able to speak with my kids on the phone and tell them Dad was ok and I would see them tomorrow.
I have learned very much about the heart and being heart-healthy since my heart attack. I also learned a LOT about The American Heart Association and the valuable research they do. I am here today because of that research. When I survived, I knew I had to help the AHA in any way that I could.
I am a very active volunteer for the AHA. I am one of a few people picked by the AHA to be a Social Media Diplomat for the AHA. What does this mean? It means I monitor their Facebook and Twitter pages and respond and encourage people who post of heart issues. I am a National Mentor for Lifestyle Change.
I walked in my first Heart Walk just 56 days after fighting for my life (2010). I was asked to help on the leadership team the following year (2011). That same year, I won the Lifestyle Change Award. The next year (2012), I was honored to be selected as the Chair of the Heart Walk. Last year (2013), I was again on the leadership team for the Heart Walk. This year (2014), I am thrilled to be a part of the Indianapolis Heart Walk.
I have also been featured in the Indiana Affiliate newsletter for 2014, as well as the National mailer. I am not afraid to share my story. It is my extreme honor and my privilege to be associated with this great organization. As I wrote earlier, I would not be alive today if it were not for the AHA. The valuable prior research and the prior education and training all led to saving my life that night.