Dave Semrud North Dakota
The reality is that I've run out of excuses not to do this little history of the poor choices I had made over the years, and of my rescue by some remarkable people a lot more committed to life than I was.
Let me start with the bad health choices I made years ago. I had a serious aversion to all types of exercise, a keen interest in a six pack plus, and I smoked a pack of cigarettes a day. I never grew out of that belief in my own personal indestructability.
I remember sitting in my doctor’s office waiting for a follow-up appointment as I had recently been diagnosed as pre-diabetic. My A1C was at 6.3 or so and my triglycerides were high. How ironic that I was sitting there reading an American Heart Association article detailing the behaviors that increase your chances for stroke or heart attack. I remember thinking that I could check the box on all but one. I chuckled to myself thinking "not going to happen to me," and grabbed a People magazine...
I had my heart attack a year later.
Just before it happened I recall that I was having trouble doing s some fairly basic tasks like getting out my EZ chair, walking to the bathroom or opening the refrigerator. Then one night, I developed heartburn that wouldn't go away. My biggest concern at the time was whether I was going to run out of the generic antacid I was taking, and whether or not the grocery store was open all night.
My rest the night before had been strange, a little bit mystical. It was as if I was half asleep and half awake. I was aware of my being asleep but not able to go into a deeper sleep or to wake up. It was a very pleasant feeling … It almost felt like I was floating.
The next day, I couldn't lift myself out of my futon. I dragged myself over to my chair and lifted myself onto it, but I still didn't think anything was really wrong. I decided to call my sister, Karen.
Karen asked me what had been happening and I explained to her that I had been starring out my window at the old Victorian house across the street. Suddenly, pink and blue blotches started blocking out the window I'd been looking through. I stopped and just stared out the window. Soon I heard a panicked sister asking if I was okay. I tried to explain what was happening to her as they began to vary in color and intensity. Sometimes I could see most of the house, other times very little or none at all. It fascinated me so much I stopped talking. This scared Karen and she pleaded with me to dial 911. I didn't. My denial knew no bounds. Not too long after that she buzzed my apartment.
I had to get up and walk to the buzzer to let her in. The effort completely exhausted me. It was about 12 feet from the chair to buzzer. When she opened the door I was sitting on the armrest of the couch next to the door trying to catch my breath. She quickly called 911. They asked her some questions which she asked me. After the second or third question they told her the paramedics were on the way.
When they arrived they checked me over and told me I needed to go to the hospital.
Once at the hospital, I remember being rushed into a room with a lot of people and a lot of monitors. I remember being very quickly stripped and having the heart monitors stuck on my chest. I was rushed down the hall to the Operating Room. The staff in the O.R. communicated with me about what was happening and told me that I’d be conscious throughout the procedure and that I could watch it on the screens.
I found out later that the procedure lasted five hours. The doctor put in three stents and did two angioplasties. I remember being wheeled out of the room. Another sister had shown up and they both walked me to intensive care.
My sisters stayed a while and then left so I could try to sleep. The anesthesia slowly began to wear off and my emotions settled. The full gravity of what happened had not really sunk in. I don't think that even with all that had occurred that I really believed what had happened … that I had a near run-in with death … that nature had almost collected the tab from all the bad choices I had made and the years of very poor health habits.
Since then, I have replayed the whole thing in my mind whenever my motivation to change to a better lifestyle starts to wane. It is my motivation to continue the lifestyle changes I have made for better health.
Today, at age 63, I have quit smoking and drinking alcohol, my blood pressure is normal, I have lost 100 pounds and will soon run my fourth 5K race. I have changed my lifestyle because of what happened, and in honor of the folks who saved my life.
I know that my life was saved by a lot of really amazing people. From the trauma team to the dedicated people at the Sanford Cardiac Unit, the surgeons and their teams to the nurses in intensive care to the folks at Cardiac Rehab. There were also a lot of people I never met like the ladies at the Coumadin Clinic, the RN's at Ask-A-Nurse, the 911 operators, the folks at the American Heart Association, and many others that I'll never think to mention or be able to thank.
I am sharing my story here because I want to thank everyone who played a role in saving my life. I applaud not only the doctors and nurses who cared for me, but the amazing people who designed the procedures, the equipment, the medications used to save my life. I will always be in awe of the X-ray equipment and those trained in how to use it, the monitors, the medications, the people who invented the procedures they used to save my life without cutting open my chest. I am grateful and I hope my story will inspire others to seek help when something doesn’t feel right. Make changes to your habits and take care of your health.