On Father’s Day 2017, “Fred” (who possesses none of the common risk factors) experienced a heart attack about half-way through a 30-mile bike ride on the W&OD Trail in the Sterling/Ashburn area. He was treated and transported to INOVA Loudoun Hospital by members of Loudoun County Fire and Rescue and the Sterling Volunteer Rescue Squad. Through a mutual friend, “Fred” shared his story with us and it is presented below (edited to protect his privacy). The editor recently spoke on the phone with “Fred”, and he is recovering nicely from his surgery and is in great spirits. We thank him for sharing his story with us, and wish him a speedy recovery. On with the story . . .
THE STORY OF MY FATHER’S DAY HEART ATTACK…
Blog Post 1—The Attack Happens
Believe it or not family and friends, on Father’s Day, I experienced a heart attack. I possess none of the common risk factors (non-smoker, limited alcohol, low-blood pressure, low cholesterol, in good physical condition, not overweight, no family history), and yet I had one, and, thanks be to God, I survived with no discernable heart damage. More details about why the damage was so limited later—let’s just say the Lord was looking out for me that day.
Very early last Sunday morning I took our son to our local American Legion Post, where he and friends caught a bus to camp. After seeing the boys off, my plan was to ride 30-miles on the W&OD trail, then go home and have a nice Father’s Day breakfast with my wife and daughter, and then go to church with them. The day didn’t quite turn out as planned…
After parking my car in downtown Vienna, I headed out on the trail to my planned turn-around point 15 miles to the west, near Ashburn, Virginia, in Loudoun County. It was a beautiful morning and I was feeling exceptionally well, so pushed myself speed-wise. At the 15-mile mark where I was to turn around and head back, there was a bit of tightness in my chest—which I attributed to seasonal allergies—so I took a five-minute break, drank some water, and then headed for home. After two more miles, that same tightness came back, so I took another short break, and the tightness went away again. I was thinking to myself, “Well, this will take FOREVER if I have to stop every two miles!”
About a mile further down the trail (where the W&OD crosses over Route 28 by the huge CarMax for those who live locally), it felt like someone stepped out of the woods and hit me in the chest with a large sledge hammer! I mean IT HURT BAD – pounding, pounding deep in my chest. I stopped and got off my bike on the bridge and knew something was horribly wrong, so pulled out my cell phone and dialed 9111, which of course didn’t work. My vision than began to go dark, so knew I had to get it right on the next try…
Blog Post 2—Why I Immediately Dialed 911 and I WANT EVERYONE TO REMEMBER THIS!!!
So, you might be wondering why I immediately called 911. A few months ago, on March 2, I attended the U.S. Chamber’s Annual Aviation Summit here in Washington, a gathering of industry and Government to discuss the state of aviation in the world. I have attended this several times since joining my company over eight years ago.
On one of the panels were the CEOs of the major U.S. airlines, one of them being Oscar Munoz from United Airlines. He started his speech with, “I’m going to tell you something that may save your life.” And then went on to tell a story about how he and friends were out hunting a few years ago in Michigan and a cardiologist in the group told them “I want you guys to remember something, if you ever just don’t feel right—AND YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHAT ‘JUST DON’T FEEL RIGHT MEANS’—you should dial 911 and tell them where you are.”
Oscar then said to fast forward a few years to 2015 and he is out for a run-in Chicago, comes back to his home, pours a nice glass of cold water, and suddenly “doesn’t feel right.” He remembers his friend’s words, immediately dials 911 and tells them exactly where he is, and passes out—which is where EMS found him. He went on to say that the call saved his life as he was home alone at the time.
So, when I suddenly didn’t feel right this past Sunday while riding my bike, I remembered what Mr. Munoz said. I called 911 immediately and told them where I was…
More in the next segment but I wanted my family and friends to remember this one thing from my story—especially you hard headed men—if you ever just don’t feel right—and you know exactly what don’t feel right means—immediately call 911 and tell them where you are.
Blog Post 3—Emergency Medical Technicians and an Angel
OK, back to my story: Recall I initially dialed 9111, which, of course, didn’t work. Fortunately, I dialed 911 correctly the next time, told EMS that I was having a heart attack and approximately where I was. Thinking I was about to pass out, I asked a seemingly random guy who appeared to be fixing his bike on the bridge about 15 yards ahead of me if he could please help me. He immediately jumped into action, had me sit down, and gave me water.
Brian (never got his last name but I will always be thankful for this brother or angel or whoever he was) then took over telling Emergency Services exactly where we were and vectored the ambulance to our location, which took 10-15 minutes max. Another lady was walking her dog came over to us as well. The two of them talked to me and offered encouragement until the ambulance arrived. As the EMTs were putting me on the gurney, Brian said to me, “God loves you and I will be praying for you Fred.” Very comforting, truly. I will always remember these two people.
In the ambulance, the EMTs (all young people—two guys, two gals—with their act totally together) immediately took my jersey off and connected me to an EKG. About 30 seconds later one of them says, “Abnormal EKG, get him to the hospital,” and “transmitting EKG to the hospital now.” Sirens blaring and lights blazing, we head out as they start an IV in my right arm. Most importantly, one of them gave me four baby aspirin and ordered me to “chew and swallow these now.” I felt like we were in a movie and I was somehow the star!!!
On the way to the hospital, I was able to call my wife and tell her the situation—that Father’s Day and her birthday the next day were about to become very different from what we’d imagined. She and our daughter headed to the hospital (Inova Loudoun in Leesburg) to meet me there, but it would be a good 35-40 minute drive for them. Our son was off at camp and I talked with him later in the day. Thanks to the U.S. Navy and USNA, our younger daughter is somewhere off the west coast of Alaska doing an outdoor leadership program that involves sea kayaks and islands — her group is without communications, so she will learn of this story when she gets home next weekend. I also sent a text to our oldest daughter in England where she is in grad school and let her know and also talked with her later in the day.
What happened at the hospital next…
Blog Post 4—The Hospital and Prognosis—last for tonight!
Just in case anyone was worrying about what happened to my bike when I went in the ambulance, this was not the first time a biker has had a problem, so the policy is that if there is room in the ambulance, it stays with the rider. Thank goodness!
When we arrived at the hospital, I went straight into the ER where a team of doctors and nurses gathered around me. They were hooking me up to machines, putting nitroglycerin in my mouth, asking me health history questions, asking my name, birthdate, etc. Someone yelled, “Duty cardiologist is here and the Cath Lab is ready.” I may have been in the ER about ten minutes before I headed to the Cath Lab. As we headed out, I noticed someone dutifully pushing my bike about ten feet behind us, which I found to be a bit humorous. At this point, someone asked me about health insurance for the first time, which I was able to provide to them.
In the Cath Lab, which seemed a bit like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, the doctor awaited, along with a fairly large staff. They started working on me the minute I arrived. They entered my body though a vein on my right wrist. I was awake for nearly all of the two-hour procedure, although the valium (at least I am guessing it was valium but my medical friends can correct if necessary) did make me a bit oblivious. But I recall asking the doctor several questions and him explaining things to me while continuing to work on me. I recall him saying to notice this one point, how the flow was restricted and that the first stint would go there. I remember them saying words to the effect of “we’re done” and then my wife and daughter standing next to me telling me they loved me, the doctor explaining that I had three stints, and then heading to the ICU. I think my wife took my bike to her car at this point!
The care I received was amazing and every person on the hospital’s medical staff was so incredibly nice and patient with me. Real pros, and compassionate ones at that.
The enzyme levels that tell how severe the damage is to the heart remained very low (3.9 they told me, which is apparently low), so I’m told the damage is very limited and I should have rapid recovery, resting the remainder of the week with perhaps some dog walking, and then slowly reintroducing work and exercise the following weeks. The reason I am in such good shape a cardiologist said was because:
• I called 911 immediately.
• The EMTs responded perfectly, especially in giving me the baby aspirin that he believes probably dissolved or dislodged the worst blood clot.
• Proximity to a hospital.
• Rapid procedure to emplace stints.
Thanks for reading and don’t forget, “If something doesn’t feel right, call 911 and tell them where you are.” Blessed!
Reprinted with permission from “Fred”