I am taking a break right now from weighing, measuring and tracking because on May 15, 2016, my dear husband, Bill, had a heart attack. We had no warning, and did not even know that he was at risk. Plus, he has been eating a healthy low carb, optimal protein, healthy fat diet for over seven years. What the heck?
I want to write out the sequence of events, and I am hoping that this blog post might prevent someone else from going through what we went through. So let me start at the beginning:
In September 2015, Bill had sudden onset vomiting and chest and abdomen pain. We rushed to the ER, where he had an EKG and was told that his heart was fine. The doc in the ER said it was probably just a stomach bug or food poisoning. We understood that the normal EKG meant that his heart was healthy. It was not, but no one at the ER told us that a normal EKG does not equate to a normal heart.
Four weeks later, in October 2015, it happened again. Another ER visit, another EKG, and another clean bill of heart health. This time, the ER doc suggested that Bill see a gastroenterologist. Bill decided not to. The ER doc did not mention seeing a cardiologist, even though Bill presented with chest pain and vomiting.
It happened again four weeks later in November, then four weeks later in December, then four weeks later in January. Three more ER visits, three more normal EKGs, three more docs telling us to see a doc for the stomach, but no mention of seeing a doc for the heart. In January, Bill finally decided to see a specialist, and after a few tests, was told he had GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). He was given a pill to take and he started taking them.
Bill had slowly been gaining a little weight, even though his diet had not changed, and when he gained even more after starting the GERD medicine, he decided to stop taking it. He had not had a stomach issue for several weeks. He stopped taking the pills, and had another vomiting episode on May 10. We called his GI doc, and he said to just start taking the pills again and everything would be fine.
On May 14, he fell ill and told me that he was tired and felt like he had been hit by a truck. No chest pains, but just all over muscle aches. In the evening, he had a headache and all his bottom teeth hurt. I decided that if he was still not feeling well after the weekend, I would take him to the doctor.
On May 15, I went to lift weights at the gym, but Bill decided to stay home. He said he felt better, but was very tired. At 3 pm, he started having chest pains and difficulty breathing. HE DID NOT FEEL THE NEED TO TELL ME THIS! He thought he was having some sort of muscle spasm. He spent the night sitting up in a chair, unable to lie down.
On May 16, as I was headed out the door at 4:30 am, Bill stopped me and told me he was having chest and back pain and trouble breathing. We immediately got in the car to take the 10 minute drive to the hospital. Neither of us thought it was a heart attack, or I would have called 911. We told them in the ER that he was having chest pains, and after an EKG, things got pretty dramatic.
Within a few minutes, we were told that Bill was having a heart attack and needed immediate surgery. He never clutched his chest and passed out. It did not seem like a heart attack. But standing in an ER room and listening to "Code Blue, Room 9!" over the PA system is something I never want to live through again. Watching several medical persons run into my husband's room and start working on him was so frightening! For the second time in my life, I felt like I was part of a TV show, the first time being when my daughter was in the ER after her fatal car accident in 1997. After an angioplasty and two stents, he was taken to the ICU, where he spent three days. We found out that he had three blocked arteries in his heart. One was completely blocked and that's where the two stents were placed. Another one was 85% blocked, but the doctor said we would wait seven to ten days to put in a stent there, because putting in a stent can sometimes cause a heart attack, and the doctor did not want him to have two heart attacks so close together. The other artery was only around 30% blocked, so no need for treatment on that one.
The cardiologist told me that if I had gone to work that morning and left Bill at home, he would have been dead in an hour or so. He said that Bill did not have a "close call". He had "THE call".
On May 17, Bill had an echocardiogram done to see what damage was done to his heart during the 18 hours that he was having a heart attack but did not seek treatment. We were surprised to learn that there was no damage to the heart.
On May 18 we left the hospital and went home. Bill was told to do a lot of nothing, to lift nothing, and to take a three to four month leave from work at the golf course.
On May 20, we were back in the ER because Bill was still having trouble breathing. When we came into the ER, the same doctor was there. He told us that Bill no doubt had congestive heart failure, and that his heart enzymes during the attack were the highest he had seen. But the cardiologist said he did not have congestive heart failure, because there was no damage to the heart. He did decide, however, to go ahead and do the surgery to insert the other stent, as long as we were there. The surgery went well, and Bill was released from the hospital again the next day.
On May 23, I took Bill in to see the cardiologist in his office because he still could not breathe. He was examined by the nurse practitioner, who told him that because his heart had suffered no damage, it must be lung disease brought on by fifty years of smoking (he quit ten years ago), and Bill was referred to a pulmonary specialist. We made the appointment, but could not be seen for a couple of weeks.
On May 25, we were back at the ER because Bill could not breathe and was having head, neck and shoulder pain and was going back and forth between chills and hot flashes with extreme sweating. The ER doctor told us that Bill had congestive heart failure. Tests showed fluid around his heart and fluid around and in his lungs. After he was admitted, the cardiologist ordered another echocardiogram, and this time it showed that there was damage to the heart. So now the cardiologist concurs with the ER doc and Bill has been formally diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
Bill was put on a pretty high dose of a diuretic, and started losing water weight right away. He was checked out by the stomach doc and the lung doc and got a clean bill of health from both, so it's all about the heart at this point.
On May 27, Bill was released from the hospital and sent home again. He has a followup appointment today with the cardiologist, and next week he starts cardiac rehab. In the ten days following his release from the hospital, he lost over 13 pounds of fluid. His breathing is normal. He sleep apnea is gone. His energy level is good, but he does get tired a little bit after walking around. He is not working, but we do take short walks around the block and such. His mood is much improved and he is back to his normal, cheerful self.
But, enough about Bill! I'm sure you are wondering how I am doing.
During the twelve days that we were going in and out of the hospital, I was stress eating and not sleeping. I stayed with Bill at the hospital, sleeping on a futon next to his bed, and ate three meals per day in the hospital cafeteria. The food was surprisingly good, with lots of low carb options. I did eat a few high carb things, like I had a cookie twice during that time, and I had fruit and yogurt. I was no nervous that I felt the emotional need to eat every couple of hours, and I gained several pounds during that time.
Needless to say, my plan for getting down to 130 pounds flew out the window when Bill's heart attacked him. It has been three weeks since then, and I am now ready, emotionally and physically, to start taking care of myself again. I fasted two days ago, and I am fasting again today, and may fast tomorrow as well. This morning, I weighed 140 pounds. I'm going to try to get on the fast track to getting rid of the weight I gained since May 15 and go on from there to my goal. I took a break from the gym to take care of Bill, but I have started back again and have been lifting weights and making progress.
THE BIG QUESTION: WHY DID THIS HAPPEN?
According to everything I know to be true, Bill should not have heart disease. He has been eating low carb for over seven years. He quit smoking over ten years ago. He is active. What has happened does not seem right, and I need to get to the bottom of it, and also find out if I am at equal risk.
From what I have learned, the cause of heart disease is not high cholesterol, but systemic inflammation, as these articles explain. All of Bill's inflammation markers are high. Maybe mine are, too. I don't know. And if he, and possibly me, too, have serious inflammation, what is causing it? Is it the feedlot beef that is high in Omega-6? Has a sensitivity to eggs been developing? Is too much dairy causing inflammation? I have no idea, but I intend to find out and stop this thing in its tracks so that Bill can recover, live long, and prosper.
In the third week of July, Bill and I are traveling to see Dr. Jeffry Gerber in Denver. I have been following him for a while, and his understanding of heart disease is on the cutting edge of current research. Bill will be tested and evaluated, and so will I. If you would like to get an idea of Dr. Gerber's views on the subject, check out this great youtube video.
When we left the hospital, we were given a set of instructions that included the recommendation to eat 7-10 servings of grains per day, along with starchy vegetables, very low fat, virtually no animal products contained saturated fat, and low salt. Basically, they want Bill to become a vegan. This will happen over my dead body. I know too much to ever let that happen.
And, all the doctors we saw told Bill that he needs to go on a statin drug. Statins cause so many side effect, including damage to the heart muscle, damage to other muscles and memory loss. Statins are bad, and Bill refuses to take one. I have heard Dr. Gerber say that he does prescribe statins, but not very often, so we are hoping that Bill will not have to take them. I trust Dr. Gerber, and if even he says that Bill should be on a statin, we will have to seriously consider it.
We will be depending heavily on Dr. Gerber to bring us through this mystery and out the other side.
I'm not sure when I will post again. I will give an update when I can, and I will definitely let my readers know the results of our testing with Dr. Gerber.
Thanks for reading!