Lessons I Learned From My Heart Attack: When Life Hands You a Wake-up Call, Don’t Hit Snooze by Melissa Vickers


Lessons I Learned From My Heart Attack: When Life Hands You a Wake-up Call, Don’t Hit Snooze

Sometimes life throws you a wake-up call out of the blue, enough to rattle you to your core and provide incentive to make changes in your life and lifestyle. That was the case for me, just after midnight on July 4, 2023, when I woke to a horrible pain that felt all in the world like a rock was sitting in the middle of my chest. My husband wisely chose to call 911 as I slowly let myself admit that pain was where my heart is.

The ambulance arrived in minutes and pretty quickly confirmed my fear: “Yes, you are having a heart attack.” A second EMT commented, “It’s a good thing she woke up!” Gulp. A trip to the local hospital to meet a waiting helicopter and I was whisked away to a larger hospital 40 miles away, and, as I would hear later, apparently the place for heart attack care in all of Tennessee. A heart catheterization confirmed the 99 percent blockage, and the cardiologist deftly placed two stents in that one artery and took care of the problem. Whew!

This really did happen out of the blue. I didn’t have any hints that anything was brewing, like shortness of breath or fatigue. And we were already doing heart-healthy things like omitting salt on most things, eating lots of vegetables, not eating fatty food, etc. The biggest factor in setting the state was no doubt just the extra weight I’ve carried for years. I suspect the proximal cause for why it happened when it happened had to do with the kidney stone I had three days prior – so painful and stressful.

I have learned some important lessons in the six months since that heart attack happened:

  1. Modern medicine is amazing. The technology involved in identifying the problem, and even treating it is impressive. The doctor was able to put those stents in my coronary artery through my wrist rather than open-heart surgery.
  2. Medical technology is only part of the recovery equation. The nursing care I received was so sweet and helpful, like the nursing professional who told me as I was freaking out waiting for the stents to breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth any time I needed to calm down. She breathed along with me, maintaining face-to-face eye contact until I did calm down.
  3. It’s not just the medical technology and treatments that save lives. The technology that went into designing and creating the helicopter got me pretty quickly from a rural area to the best hospital in the state, and saved a longer – and perhaps wilder ride by ambulance.
  4. It’s not just the medicine/medical technology that provides healing. The outpouring of support from my husband, family, friends and Facebook friends wrapped me up in a warm blanket of “You got this! We’re behind you!”
  5. It’s never too soon to make changes in lifestyle, but it could be too late! I knew I needed to lose weight but trying to gather the gumption to take charge and do it was challenging. I finally had my incentive, even if it did have to whack me on the side of the head to sink in!

When a wake-up call lands you on a medi-vac helicopter on its way to treating your heart attack, you don’t hit the “snooze” button. In the six months since the heart attack, I have done 12 weeks of intensive cardio-rehabilitation under the watchful eye of an amazing team at our local hospital, and am now in “Phase III” of that rehab. Now I go twice a week and use the machines, though no longer wired for EKG while I’m doing it. And the days I don’t go to rehab, I get on our home treadmill.

We have cut back our sodium consumption even more – and have realized how much hidden salt is in everything. We enjoy cooking and learning new ways to make sure flavor comes from more than just salt. We’ve cut back on fat consumption as well. We’ve trended toward more of a plant-based diet, but both love salmon (and occasionally chicken) to abandon all but fruits and vegetables.

The results speak for themselves: in six months I have lost nearly 50 pounds (with “one or two” more to go) and my husband has lost 20, and happily eats the healthy foods I need. We’ve both come off of blood pressure meds. And we encourage and nag (as needed) each other to get on the treadmill. I honestly couldn’t have done this without his help and encouragement. He’s been my major support and has been up with me many nights dealing with assorted aches and pains, and the mental demons that often accompany the aftermath of such an event. And he’s still cute after all these years!

We both retired in the last three to four years, and have too many good years ahead to enjoy our kids and grandkids to not make these changes. Life is good!

Note: The content on 30Seconds.com is for informational and entertainment purposes only, and should not be considered medical advice. The information on this site should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, and is not a substitute for professional care. Always consult your personal healthcare provider. The opinions or views expressed on 30Seconds.com do not necessarily represent those of 30Seconds or any of its employees, corporate partners or affiliates.

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Donna John
So scary, Melissa Vickers . I am so sorry you had to go through that. I went through it with my husband, who had a heart attack at 46. I learned some lessons, too. Thanks for sharing yours with us.
Elisa Schmitz
What an incredibly frightening experience that led to wonderful changes. Almost a new lease on life! I am so happy for you, Melissa Vickers , and thrilled you’re doing so well. I love your love story, too. You two are a wonderful couple! Thank you for sharing this with our community. You are an inspiration! ❤️

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