I feel low today. Yesterday I went to my husband’s cardiology appointment with him; the first one after his heart attack. I was expecting very positive news: after all, the GP had said that his blood pressure was way down, his cholestrol was very low; I have made the changes to his diet, he has lost 12 kgs, he exercises at least four times a week and attends an outpatient cardiology clinic once a week.
The doctor was concerned about a few episodes of pain he is still having (that he hadn’t told me about). The angiogram showed moderate disease in many vessels. His blood pressure was raised when taken. One of his medications was increased. He has been booked in for a stress test.
Maybe these things don’t seem like such a big deal but to me they are. What I took away from that appointment (and a few pertinent questions) was that if that if he had his heart attack at home, he would have died. He had it in hospital, with the lines already in and the medication already on hand, that is why no damage was done to his heart muscle or organs.
(We’ll leave aside the fact that if lazy wife had taken him in at the initial symptoms he would have been discharged because angina is NOT a heart attack and he would have been at home by himself when it did finally happen. But it still bugs me when people say to me that he was lucky and look at me like I was dumb lucky for giving him aspirin.
No, I KNOW heart disease – I took his pulse, I checked him for sweating, I asked him for symptoms of indigestion or chest pain, I asked him if he had a feeling of doom or dread or anything bad about to happen. He had bilateral arm ache and he had used weights at the gym. I gave him two aspirin and said that we would give it a little time but I would take him straight to the hospital if he wanted. The ache disappeared. If we had gone in then, we would have been assessed, tested and discharged. The second bout of angina at 4 am, the one we did go in for, we would have ignored as muscular skeletal again, as they initially told us at the hospital, right up almost to the point of discharge, it was.
I would have left him at home and gone to work and he would have died, alone and in pain. So, this whole dumbluck thing makes a good story but pisses me off. I am not stupid and my decision probably did save his life, inadvertently. I would make the same choice again, given the same situation.)
The lifestyle changes he needed to minimise heart attack risk were already in place before the episode. The doctor said how impressed he was with the effort he was making – apparently most people just take the pills and don’t address diet or lifestyle changes, which I just don’t get. But there is one thing we can’t change and that is family history. His grandfather and uncles and going back further died in their fifties of coronary heart disease.
I feel intermittently tearful, fearful and angry. Part of me says that he will live to be 90 but there is the other part of me that says generally I don’t get to be that lucky with my happiness; that small, intense doses is the best I can hope for.
And there is the whole part of me that wishes I had never gone to the appointment in the first place.