Tim's Cardiology Story
Tim was seemingly healthy at age 50. He weighed in at 189 pounds, and at 6'1" tall, was within a healthy weight range. He regularly monitored his blood pressure, which averaged 140/90. Tim ran 5-7 miles each day and had long since given up red meat. While he passed a cardiac stress test, his cholesterol continued to creep up. When it hit 200, Tim was put on cholesterol lowering medications as well as blood pressure medications. All in all, Tim was doing a fine job at maintaining his health. And for good reason. Tim's father died of a heart attack at age 54. Continue Reading
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Tim didn't make it to age 54 before his heart attack. But thanks to the actions of his family, the EMS staff and Martha Jefferson's cardiologists, Tim lives to talk about his experience and how it has changed his life.
Classic Symptoms, Understandable Denial
Two weeks before the heart attack, Tim felt terribly fatigued. His usual 5-7 mile run was down to 2 miles. He chalked it up to working too hard and started drinking Red Bull for an extra energy boost. The fatigue continued to worsen. Little did Tim realize he had already suffered his first attack. Then, On December 28, 2006 - the day of his second heart attack - he could barely make it through a trip to the grocery store. He went home and slept for a few hours. He was experiencing indigestion and some shortness of breath, and decided he'd feel better if he went to bed early and relaxed to music on his iPod. At 1:00 am his indigestion and shortness of breath had worsened, and he took Pepcid to try and alleviate the symptoms. By 2:00 am, he was experiencing the undeniable symptoms of a heart attack - numbness and severe pain on his left side, great difficulty breathing, extreme chest pressure, pain between his shoulder blades, an immobile neck and blurred vision. He took an aspirin and his daughter called 911.
When the ambulance arrived, they gave him morphine, nitro and did an EKG. He was rushed to Martha Jefferson's Emergency Department. Tim's cardiologist, Dr. Duong Nguyen, explained to him what was happening to his heart and what treatment options were best for him. The bottom line was that Tim needed a stent to open the artery that had completely closed and was cutting off blood flow to his heart muscle. Dr. Josh Fischer performed the procedure in Martha Jefferson's Cardiac Cath Lab, and Tim experienced immediate relief.
"My wife and I felt like we were in very good hands with Dr. Nguyen," remembers Tim. "We knew that we had tough choices to make, and Dr. Nguyen gave us all of the information we needed to make the decisions. He took on a leadership role for us, and handled things very professionally. From the minute I was in Dr. Nguyen's hands until today I couldn't be happier with Martha Jefferson Hospital."
You Can Never Keep A Good Man Down
While still in the Hospital, Tim was introduced to Martha Jefferson's cardiac rehab program. True to form, Tim was prepared to do anything and everything necessary in order to maintain his heart health. Within a few days of his heart attack, he began the cardiac rehab program. His goal: get back to 5-7 mile per day running and adopt a new cross training schedule. "The cardiac rehab team is a great group of people," says Tim. "Their welcoming and supportive atmosphere made my recovery very doable for me, and helped me to reach my goal." Tim continues to go to the cardiac rehab program today.
By March 2007, less than 3 months after his heart attack, Tim ran the MJ8K. He lost 40 pounds thanks to exercise and a special diet supported by Martha Jefferson physicians and staff. Having already followed the American Heart Association's cardiology heart-health parameters for fat intake, and further reducing his own intake by 50 percent, Tim needed to go further still. When he asked Dr. Nguyen what else could be done to push him into an even healthier zone, Dr. Nguyen suggested that Tim become a vegetarian. He took that recommendation and now carefully follows a special diet plan.
When asked what he would have done with 20/20 hindsight, Tim said "I would have taken more time to sit down with my physician and really discuss what else I could be doing to maintain my heart health. I would have asked for additional tests, and I would have been even more diligent in researching my options to make the best decisions."
Today, Tim is 54 and in great health. He's running 7 miles in 60 minutes - a pace that puts many 30-year-olds to shame. Tim says that his heart attack served as an awakening. And for someone who was extremely alert to the details of life before, this new reality is an opportunity to make everything that much better.
Tim shared his Cardiology Experience with us in August of 2008.