A week ago today was one of those moments. One of those moments in your life when you realize your life just changed forever.
For me, it came mid-morning last Monday in catheterization lab #8 at Sanford Heart Hospital in Sioux Falls. I was flat on my back, flimsy hospital gown and all, undergoing an angiogram procedure on my heart. Awake and feeling pretty good thanks to a cocktail of calming, numbing drugs. That’s when cardiologist Adam Stys leaned over me and told me I had substantial blockages in my heart’s arteries and I would need multiple stents to open up those arteries.
In less than hour, Dr. Stys inserted four stents via a catheter in my right groin. Routine work for him, miraculous to me.
Afterwards, I was wheeled into a hospital room where my wife was waiting. Neither of us said anything at first but we quickly shared a look of shock and fear.
How did this happen? Four stents? Three main arteries 90 percent blocked?
I’m 51 years old. (I suspect I was one of the youngest patients at Sanford Heart that day.) No chest pains or shortness of breath. No dizziness. No early warning signs. In fact, this spring I had been doing 30 minutes on an elliptical a few times a week at the campus wellness center and feeling pretty good about it.
Friends and colleagues have told me how surprised they were by my heart news. Many of them who were with me at our annual South Dakota Newspaper Association convention a few weeks ago, an on-your-feet, three-day affair with some heavy lifting along the way.
How did this happen?
Yes, there is a family history of heart issues. And yes, my cholesterol levels have not always been good. Still, heart disease this bad at this age?
This journey started on Valentine’s Day while lobbying at the state capitol in Pierre. The Sanford mobile heart screening unit was there for the day and I decided it would be a good time to get my heart screened. After all, nothing says I love you to your spouse on Valentine’s Day like the computer print-out of a heart screening.
That day, my heart racked up a very high score on the test for calcium, an indicator of potential plaque build-up in heart arteries. It triggered a call to Sioux Falls and follow-up tests this spring, all leading up to last Monday’s angiogram and stents.
Friends have told me how smart and lucky I was to take the initiative to get my heart screened that day in Pierre. However, I can’t take the credit. I’m not much for wearing my faith on my sleeve, but I know it was God who took me to that mobile heart unit on Valentine’s Day. And He is with me every step of this new journey. I am blessed and I am thankful. Thankful to have caught this disease before something worse happened.
So where do I go from here? Eat better. Exercise more. Laugh more. Take my pills faithfully. Even carry those little nitroglycerin pills with me always.
And learn to live with severe coronary artery disease at age 51.
I have a wonderful, caring wife and family and many friends who will keep me in line. And a great faith community to support me.
In the meantime, I hope to blog from time to time here about this new journey of mine.
For now, I leave you with this: if you have not already had your heart screened, I urge you to do so. It can change your life.
— David Bordewyk / 5-20-13