Monday, June 6, 2016

AS SERIOUS AS A HEART ATTACK!

I wanted to put up this post in case anyone was wondering how things are going with my "kinder, gentler" challenge.

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.

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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!



12 comments:

  1. I think Bill's series of events indicate you DO have to be your own health advocate. GOOD ON YOU! Docs flat get things wrong, even ER docs! Prim example....how did my ER doc when I went in with a bluging disc that was crippling both legs NOT SEE a 5cmx7cm tumor on my ovary so dense my surgeon that removed it a month later described it as a block of cement. Heck it moving around may have been precisely what caused the disc to bulge to begin with!!! How did the miss that?!?! They just do, is all I can say, Becca. Stay on top of things as I know you will. Docs are human and make mistakes. More knowledgeable heads are always better than one IMHO. Hope your visit with Dr. Gerber is productive.

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    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Peggy! I know that not everyone feels that a person should be their own advocate. Many people feel that the doctors are gods and know everything and that it is foolish to disagree with them about anything!

      Someone said to me the other day that the doctors know a lot more about nutrition than I do, because they are trained in that. Yeah. Right. Docs that are honest will tell you that they get one hour of nutrition training is med school, and what they are taught is wrong.

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  2. I will be praying for your husband, and you, as you navigate through all this! I'm glad you guys are okay. :)

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    1. Thank you, Vanessa! That means a lot to me! Rebecca

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  3. Mercy - you have been through the wringer!! I am so sorry. Good that Bill is doing better and that you know enough not to follow the doc's bad advice. I hope Dr G will help you find answers. Take care ~ Tracy

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    1. Thanks, Tracy! We are really looking forward to seeing Dr. Gerber. Of course, I will document the results of that visit here. Rebecca

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  4. Rebecca, this is Irene Beattie. Thanks for writing this up. Nausea/vomiting is a sign of heart issues that is often ignored. Sorry for your long saga. Years ago I read an article that indicated something (not cholesterol itself) that causes plaques is the problem. They weren't sure the cause then but inflammation makes sense. They suggested several things like exercise, folic acid and good oral hygiene to prevent it. Anyway I am anxious to hear what you learned. By the way, after Ed's bypass surgery the dietitian gave us the same advice. We don't eat low carb (because I don't feel called to it and and it can be hard on the kidneys and with all my chemo and other meds my kidneys have been through heck) ... but I still knew the diet she recommended was bad. It was ultra low fat ... which totally isn't the current thinking and they didn't mention sugar. We try to do moderate protein, moderate fat, mostly olive oil and good fats with some beef and butter thrown in, and lots of complex carbs (lots of veggies) with moderate serving size. We are trying to limit sugar and simple carbs which likely cause inflammation. Ed does much better than me at sticking to it and he looks darn good (health wise). I still stress eat and worst of all pleasure eat. If I can focus on eating only when I am really hungry and reasonable amounts I do better. I do hope your plan continues to work for you. I wish you the best on your doctor visit and will be interested in what you learn. Prayers for healing and a safe journey. Irene

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Irene! It sounds like you and Ed are doing what is right for you. I'm glad that Ed is doing well! I'll update the blog as I learn more, and definitely when we get back from Colorado. Rebecca

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  5. Oh my goodness, I am so sorry that this happened to your husband and I am hoping that he gets better.

    Thank you for sharing. I took my husband to the ER 2 months ago and was sent away with antacids. The odd chest pain has happened 3 times now, but never were we told that we should see a cardiologist or that the EKG and stress test weren't conclusive that his heart is fine

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    1. It is so frightening to think that people are not being told to see a cardiologist when there is chest pain involved! Come on! According to what I have been reading, the CAC test is a definitive test that will prove, one way or the other, whether you have heart disease. We are going to be having that test in Colorado. If we had known about this test sooner, we could have taken measures to start REVERSING Bill's heart disease before he almost died!

      Check this video out, and see if you can have this test done on your husband: https://youtu.be/ggovoQ8JKyw Of course, you will need a doc that understands the implications of it.

      There is no excuse for the fact that 75% of men find out that they have heart disease when they have a heart attack. And for many of them, there is no gong back, because that first heart attack kills them. That could have been my husband.

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  6. Rebecca! I just found your blog today (because of a keto search for fat bombs...thank you for that post, btw), but WOW. Just WOW.

    I hope that you and Bill are able to find answers in Denver, but I also wanted to share some inflammation information I have learned on my path to being healthier.

    I suffer from polycystic ovarian syndrome, which is a misnomer, since it is an endocrine disorder involving the testosterone output from the ovaries due to the inability to effective utilize insulin. One of the ways I have been able to help treat my symptoms is lowering my inflammation triggers - no dairy, no gluten. NONE. I've been dairy free for 4 years, but the gluten revelation has been recent with additional research.

    My joints have stopped hurting (I'm 38, but I am overweight and losing). My mood has improved. And next week, I expect to see amazing results for my lipid profile lab test.

    My other 1-2 punch has been to take highly concentrated (non-OTC) fish oil pills. After doing some research, I chose Nordic Naturals, which can be purchased from Amazon, or at places like Whole Foods. I feel amazing. I've been taking their highest dosage supplement for over 3 months and the results not only to my mood and joints have been remarkable, but the normal "flush" to my cheeks, nose, and chin (a CLEAR sign of inflammation) are gone.

    I wish you both the best and will keep up with your journey.

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    1. Hi, Erin, and thanks for all of the valuable insight!

      We have been gluten free for years, so we are on track there. But I have been having a suspicion that my husband should not be eating dairy. He has been a cheese addict since we started eating LCHF years ago, because he felt it was on thing that he could eat plenty of and still be compliant. I am hoping that Dr. Gerber can shed some light on this. A couple of weeks before his heart attack, I had asked Bill to try quitting the dairy, and he had agreed, so he has had none now for several weeks.

      We have both recently started taking fish oil again. If you don't mind, how many mgs of DHA, EPA, etc., are you taking per day?

      Thanks for reading!

      Rebecca

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