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Left Anterior Ventricular Descending Coronary Arterial Occlusion

When I was 22 and working as a children's theatre performer, we travelled to Adelaide to take part in a youth arts festival.

Sue and I performed our two-person show, based on the Rumplestiltskin story, in the park between the Festival Centre and the river, with me playing the title role. We did a couple of shows a day to big, appreciative audiences, free of charge.

The biggest, most appreciative of these audiences -about 500 school children- gathered on the grass two days before we were due to fly home. It was the best show Sue and I had ever done together, and our last, as things turned out. It was also a long time before I could fly home.

At the climax of the story, when the girl guesses his name, the Rumplestiltskin character is required by the script to disappear in a puff of smoke, which I used to accomplish with a huge vertical spring, and a spin off stage. The audience erupted with sustained applause, and many stuck around to talk to us as we packed up.

But while I was talking to the kids, I began to feel a dull ache in my left elbow, that spread slowly up my arm and into my chest. I began to feel breathless, and to sweat profusely, and I had to sit down somewhere cool.

I went into the Festival Centre and lay down in a dressing room, curled up in a tight ball as an elephant tapdanced on my chest. As well as the pain, I was filled with an overwhelming sense that something was badly wrong with my body, and I needed medical help -fast!

I half-crawled to the stage door, where they rang a taxi (who knows why? I thought they were calling an ambulance) which took me a kilometre or so to the hospital. At one point, I recall, I told the driver I thought I was going to die, so he switched on his hazard lights, leaned on his horn and drove along the sidewalk, scattering pedestrians, to avoid the traffic jam. And he never charged me for the trip, either.

When I told the triage nurse my symptoms she looked me up and down and twisted her mouth, deciding what to do with me. Eventually she had me put on a trolley and given an Asprin and stuck in a booth in the casualty section. I lay there writhing for half an hour until a doctor came and prescribed another Asprin. When he returned half an hour later and found me in the same position, still grimacing with pain, they wheeled me down to Intensive Care and wired me up to an Electro Cardiogram (ECG).

A consultant cardiologist dropped by (from his exalted perch) and scanned the result. He told the resident doctor the ECG "trace" tracking my heart rhythm just wasn't possible with a fit young man like me, he must have wired me up wrong. So the cardiologist stuck the leads on my chest and ankles himself, and ran another ECG. Then he disappeared.

Suddenly, three lovely young nurses were there, putting their hands on my body and turning me onto my side. The resident stuck a venflon thingy into a vein in my arm and emptied a syringe into it.

"What's going on?" I asked.

"We're taking you upstairs to Coronary Care," a nurse explained. "The doctors think you are having a heart attack."

Just at that moment, the morphine rush hit me like a trainload of *******, and I looked at her beautiful face and said: "Oh. Good."

As their youngest-ever heart-attack patient, I was something of a celebrity in Coronary Care for the next four or five days -during which I saw another patient die three times, and get revived twice- and then  I was moved to another ward for about a week. My mother and my sister (both nurses) flew over to be with me, and I went 'home' to a friend's house after nearly two weeks in hospital.

I had another weird episode while I was there  that I know now was a panic attack, rather than one of the heart, and I went back to hospital for another month. Being out of the hospital suddenly brought home to me the enormity of what had happened.

I later had an angiogram, in which a tube is fed through an artery in the right arm, across the chest, and wiggled around so that it can squirt radio-opaque dye into the coronary arteries, one by one, to check if they are flowing properly.

I saw an X-ray picture of my heart up on a screen above the surgeon's head, saw the snaking tube twisting, squirting black which showed up like a river system, gone in a heartbeat.

The angiogram showed that it was just the one coronary artery that was blocked, depriving a piece of my heart muscle about the size of my thumbnail of oxygenated blood, so that it died and formed scar tissue. This was good news, as it showed I did not have advanced heart disease.

I haven't had any real heart trouble since, although a couple of those panic attacks have made me think it was happening all over again.

Looking back, I realised that I had had heart problems in my early teens, getting puffed just running on to a hockey field. Now that the artery is blocked, the muscle damage done, I actually have a stronger, healthier heart than I did before the episode.

 

amberdextrous amberdextrous 51-55, M 6 Responses Jan 14, 2010

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wow this is unusual. You were likely a very unique interesting case. i went to the ER during a pregnancy with chest pain and had a similar reaction from the staff. i didn't have a heart attack just arrhythmia's.

amazing story amberdextrous. youre lucky you didnt fall through the cracks. im so glad you made it!

Gosh, Rick, sorry to read about your problem. It sounds like your heart attack was more severe than mine. <br />
Doctors told me that my heart was actually better after the event, because all of my other arteries were still fine, so I was able to return to my children's theatre career.<br />
All I can suggest is that you follow your doctors' advice regarding diet, medication and moderate exercise.<br />
Perhaps there is a clue in your being 'really competitive at everything'? Life is not a race! At least, it's not something you 'win' by finishing as quickly as possible! <br />
I hope you can find ways to reduce your level of stress, accept that you have been given a warning, and adapt your lifestyle to your new conditions. <br />
Best of luck, my friend.

my name its ricky i'm 42 years old i had a severe heart attack 4 months ago and my doc have told me that half of my heart muscle its dead reading your story it give me hope that maby i can have a normal life . i have always been realy athetic all kinds of sports racquet ball golf soccer you name it realy competitive at evrithing now i'm really lost need help learning how to live with this heart problem ? whow did you rebuild your hart and your life becuse i'm kind of lost in mine

gosh i throught 49 was younge <br />
but after my recent attack ( small as it was ) i see any age any health and any time and any symptom ( you get pain or not if the feeling is a diffrant feeling ) get help

Holy sh**, bro! A heart attack at 22! Wow, your body has been put through the wringer...I for one, am glad that you're such a survivor.