Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Nails Dodges The Big One

My husband has a nickname.  He is sometimes called "nails" as in "tough as nails" by one of his closest friends.  I also call him Nails at times because he is that: tough.  His toughness was something that was hard won on his daily walks home from junior high.  He lived in a tough neighborhood.  He learned to fight his way home.  And, the way he tells it, there were some pretty tough kids in that 'hood.  (There still are tough kids in the neighborhood!)

In high school, he was one tough football player.  He was known as a hard hitter.  Once, a few years back, as we walked into a local restaurant, I heard a voice coming from the bar, "Oh my God, there's Jim Wessely.  He's the toughest football player to ever come out of East High School.  If he hit you, you didn't get back up."

In his running days, his best friend and running partner started always calling him "Nails."  To this day, he calls and asks for "Nails down the line."

Yesterday, Nails dodged one of the biggest opponents he's ever come up against.  My dear husband, Nails to some, went into the hospital after not feeling well for several weeks.  Being a tough guy, or perhaps because he was practicing denial, or maybe, he didn't want to worry me, he had ignored, or failed to mention, that he was having pressure in his left chest and left arm.

For several weeks my husband had complained about not feeling well. He had no energy. He took naps during the day. He couldn't finish walks. He couldn't finish exercise routines. He was nauseated. I would ask the standard questions, "Do you have chest pain?" "Are you clammy?" I would check his blood pressure. It was good. His pulse was good. His blood sugar levels were good.

As I said before, there was only one thing he wasn't telling me. He had pressure, subtle, but pressure all the same, in his left chest and left arm. I didn't have that critical piece of information. He didn't think it was important information. He thought the symptoms would go away.

Monday morning, after some indecision due to not feeling on top of his game, he decided to go with me to the YMCA to workout.  I went off Pilates class. He went to the exercise room to do his usual one hour workout on the elliptical.  He's a maniac on that machine.  Really, others comment on how hard he 'runs' on the elliptical for at least an hour three times a week.

On Monday, when I finished my class, my husband was not working out on the weight machines as usual. He generally finishes his elliptical workout by working on the weight machines.  In fact, I couldn't find him.  Finally, I found him sitting in the lobby.

His coloring was gray. He looked worried. Finally, he told me about the persistent pressure he had been experiencing. He had run into trouble when he tried to exercise. He had no energy. He had shortness of breath. His pressure was worse. Thankfully, he stopped exercising and patiently waited for me to finish my workout class.  (Don't ask me why he didn't come and get me.)

His gig was up with me.  I allowed no protests coming from him to stop me from driving him to the hospital.  At the emergency room, he was put through the typical drill.  He assured me we would be going home in just a few hours.  As it turned out, he was wrong.  Blood work results indicated something was going on with his heart.  He was admitted to the hospital.

The next day, yesterday, December 6, he had a heart catheterization to see what was going on.  The cardiologist found that my husband's left anterior descending artery was 95% blocked.  The artery was opened up, and a stint was put in place.  That same artery was blocked at 40% back in 2006 when he had gone in for a heart catheterization following an episode with chest pain.

Some of you may have heard of the LAD artery before.  It is sometimes called "the widow maker."  If this artery is suddenly and completed occluded at 100%, it causes a massive heart attack.  It was this type of event that killed Tim Russert.

My husband's prognosis is good.  He is already home.  We will go out tonight with our monthly dinner with high school friends.  (Doctor approved.)  He is in good spirits.  He looks good.  He starts exercise again next week.

We will be drastically changing our diet.  We will make sure that his cholesterol stays down.  He is on some new drugs.

He walked out of the hospital alive.

I shudder to think about what could have happened, if he had attempted to go "hard as nails" on the elliptical on Monday.  I shudder to think what could have happened as he walked the dog, climbed the stairs, took a shower, or drove across town.

I think there is a lesson here:  Listen to your body.  If you have pressure, or any heart symptoms, get them checked out.  Tell your spouse, friend, significant other, or whomever you know well, the full story when you aren't quite on top of your game.  Don't think that your symptoms will just go away.  Get your symptoms checked out.

Thankfully, we had a good outcome.  Jim did not suffer a heart attack.  He got the medical intervention he needed before things would have been so much harder to reverse, or even non-reverable.

He is tough, tough as nails, but I'm grateful he didn't have to prove his toughness after a heart attack.

We have been blessed, greatly blessed.  God has shown us much mercy and grace.  

*source for heart image:


  1. Phew! Thank heavens your husband finally told you about the chest and arm pressure.

    My husband had heart bypass surgery a few years ago, and his blockage was "only" at 75%.

  2. What an amazing story, Sally. I am so glad he had a guardian angel and a smart wife looking out for him. Men can sometimes be to strong for their own good, but the kind of symptoms you described can't be ignored by even the strongest.
    I am so glad you were able to tell us about a positive outcome.

  3. Holy cow! So glad things turned out as they did for you both. You've given us all great advice! Blessings to you and "Nails".

  4. In 2008, my husband was also diagnosed with the 95% blockage. Three other arteries were also over 75 % blocked. His only symptom was fatigue. He had a sudden quadruple bypass before he could even arrange an appointment with a surgeon. He exercises faithfully. Our diet has changed drastically. I cook without salt or much fat. We eat no red meat. I miss buttery baking. There is a great blog, "What Would Cathy Eat" which is all heart healthy recipes. I have enjoyed your blog for some time. I wish you both success with on this new life change.

  5. I am so glad to hear of this positive outcome from all that. It's not always what happens. He listened, and you listened, and now you will be getting better together. How wonderful! Thank you for this uplifting post. Scary, but uplifting. :-)

  6. Wow .....

    There are times that one must wonder "How did I escape that one?" and this definitely qualifies. I'm very glad he decided to go in.

    I'll bet his color is already tons better, isn't it? Whew!

    Give him a hug from your cyber-buddy. :)

  7. Oh Sally, I'm so glad that you and your husband went to the hospital. I'm thankful that his problem was diagnosed, and he was able to be at home this evening. What a close call he had! The symptoms of heart problems are well known....but we tend to think 'it couldn't be that for me'. I am so very thankful that he is doing well now.
    I send you both warmest smiles....knowing that you are both grateful to have dodged what could have been a tragic event in your lives. God bless you both.

  8. Oh how scary.. He is one very lucky man. I'm sure you were scared---when you all headed to the emergency room.. Glad it all worked out. His truly is living up to his nickname, NAILS.... WOW!!

    Now---you two relax and have a wonderful Christmas.

  9. Wow. close call! I'm so glad for the happy ending, and the lesson learned about listening to you body.

  10. Oh, Sally. I am so very grateful that this was diagnosed now, rather than later; that he finally listened to you and went to the hospital, that he dodged a big bullet. That you both did, really, for I suspect that bullet to Jim would be one to you as well.

    The lessons you mention are so very important and you are to be commended for sharing them. I will say a prayer of thanks tonight for you both.

  11. I bet you are still not quite calm after these events. Hopefully writing this lovely essay will help. Glad your husband is doing well. Might I add - just like a man not to tell you the whole story in regard to his health. Now before the men jump on that bandwagon, I'm generalizing. Right?

  12. I am so glad that he got in and got help when he did!!! That was a close call. I am so happy for you both!! Wonderful to hear good news. :):)

  13. Oh Sally, I read quickly through this post with my heart in my throat. Thank God your husband didn't push himself any further.

    I can only imagine how scared you must have been, and worried about the outcome. Someone was watching over your husband, poking him on the shoulder to say, "Stop that! You need to get some help!" I'm so glad he listened to that voice . . . eventually!

    Thank you for reminding us all to pay attention to ourselves. We all need that reminder once in awhile.

    Take care!

  14. Oh my gosh, Sally! I'm sure he's tough as nails, but I think you're just as tough! Tough and smart! I think it's fabulous how you kept your cools and made sure he did the right thing. That's why married guys live longer, right? Thank goodness there was a good outcome. Now, it's watching that diet and slowly exercising. I've made Art stop doing marathons and stick to 1/2 marathons.

  15. Great post with good info. and great results for your Nails- I'm glad for you. My Husband had exactly the same symptom- pressure- and exactly the same sequence of heart cath., 95% occlusion and a stent put in. That was 7 years ago and he's fine since, on meds., eating better and back to his regular exercise schedule (that happens quickly). The name "widow maker" gave me the chills back then.

  16. I am so glad that your husband got the treatment that he needed.

  17. I got the chills reading this post. Thank God that he is ok! And thank God you pushed him to go to the ER.

  18. WHEW - Because of HIM I CAN face tomorrow...sandie

  19. Your story could have ended so badly, Sally. I am relieved it didn't.

  20. A true cautionary tale for all those "tough as nails" folk out there. This is required reading for my husband who thinks he is going out to shovel heavy wet snow off the driveway.
    I was glad for your title here, because I guessed what was coming right away, but realized it must have a happy resolution. Thank God you were tough enough to drag him to the hosital!
    (Does he understand now that denial is not a sign of toughness?)

  21. Thank the Lord that Jim is now home again, after his procedure. Thank goodness that he finally told you about the pressure he was feeling on his chest. Men don't really 'do' illness, do they?! Hopefully, he will now be able to start his exercises again, and be feeling as good as new, if not better! He certainly sounds like a very strong man.

  22. Dear Sally,
    I read this posting today with my heart in my throat.
    Fearful of the outcome. I was so relieved to learn that "Nails" is home now. I hope that he will listen to his body and I hope also that in doing so he'll know if that LAD artery (I'd didn't know this term) starts to get bad again.

    Reading your story today is a wake-up call for me about how I've been eating lately. Thank you.


  23. There but for the grace of god .... A lot of us think that if we exercise and eat right and do all the "right things," we are invulnerable. But we're not. Great story and I'm so glad it was a close call and not a direct hit.

  24. What a blessing! When my husband had his heart attack a few years ago he ran his truck into a power pole. We say that hitting the pole was the best thing that happened to him. The accident meant that paramedics were called and they recognized immediately that he was having a heart attack. (The police officer who responded kept asking him how much he had had to drink!) He made substantial changes to his lifestyle and now his doctor says that there is no sign that he ever had a heart attack. I wish you both all the best.

  25. I'm so glad he said something to you. I'm doubly glad they found something and were able to take action on it. Yes, join us with fiber in our yogurt, oats here and there and everywhere, low fat, low salt, and it's wonderful to be alive. Hugs to both of you.

  26. Good for you both that "Nails" came away unscathed and wiser. I had similar out of breath symptoms etc. went to Mayo Clinic where AFib was diagnosed and put under control. Happy Holidays to you and yours. Were off to Arizona to see the Grands over the holidays. :)

  27. Praise God this story has a Happy ending. I was really worried while reading this but thanks to God and you for being the wife and person you are that you got him help.
    Nails is very lucky and I am thankful that he is going to be okay.
    You two take it easy and it is a blessing

  28. Thank goodness you got him to the hospital and he realised before it was too late. My husband had heart problems a few years ago and like your wouldn't admit to them initially...what is it with men?
    My sincerest best wishes to you both.

  29. I think there is a lesson for all of here too...I am going to tweet etc so others may read this post.

  30. What a story! Thank you for sharing this....reminders like this can save lives! So happy yours has a happy ending.

  31. So thankful for a happy ending to this post.Prayers and thoughts coming your way for those lifestyle changes.And thanks for your continued encouraging words you send my way.

  32. Wow!! It is wonderful to read thye happy ending to this post. A BLESSING for sure.

  33. I'm so glad that he finally allowed you to take him to the ER. Men are silly, they feel they must grin and bear it. Tell him to have more sense next time. Having a stent put in is easy nowadays and it saves a lot of lives.

    At the first sign of my trouble (violent AF) I call out the ambulance service. So far, so good.

  34. Oh my Lord! I am so glad to hear he is fine now. That was scary.

    God is good, indeed.

    Merry Christmas.


  35. Wow! And on the 9 mine had a bypass for 5 blockages. We are truly blessed to have our hubby's with us this Christmas!

  36. Gosh, Sally - I missed this when I was "off" but reading your newest post, I realized something had happened. How lucky you both are! As you know, I also had a tear in my LAD nearly 2 years ago. After a heart attack on Jan 8, 2010, (the tear was on the 7th, but I didn't know it), I had a stent placed to hold up the flap. I'm hoping he is going to Cardiac Rehab - that is what was most helpful to me. The monitoring helped relieve a lot of worry about continuing exercise. Also, I hope he has a great cardiologist who listens to him. Mine is gorgeous but that probably isn't necessary for your husband (unless it's a female...). Good Luck! It has taken me 2 years to feel back to "normal." The emotional consequences are often the hardest to overcome.


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