Happy 5th Heart-iversary to me!

6 May

by Carolyn Thomas

Five years ago today, I was hospitalized for a myocardial infarction – heart attack – or what my doctor referred to as the “widow maker”.  (Note the gender-biased semantics here, heart sisters: docs don’t call a cardiac event caused by this fully occluded coronary artery the “widower maker”, do they?)  I am, frankly, surprised to be here writing this today. For much of those past five years, I did not actually believe I would make it to this anniversary. As they say: before heart attack, every chest pain is just indigestion. Afterwards, every chest pain is another heart attack! That’s five years of being afraid every day. Such is reality.

Happy heart-iversary to me, and to all of you who are survivors, too!


See also:  Should heart patients make a ‘Bucket List’?


42 Responses to “Happy 5th Heart-iversary to me!”

  1. Cathee May 9, 2013 at 1:52 am #

    Hello Carolyn…
    I am so glad you are still celebrating and I am finding your blog to be very beneficial!

    I am 58 (until my birthday on May 19th) and had a heart attack on March 6, 2013. The odd thing is, two weeks earlier and out of the blue, I decided to sign up for a free Heart Attack and Stroke Prevention class!

    I was in the middle of my one hour spin cycle class (heart rate at 170) when suddenly I felt “funny”. It was like flipping a switch…fatigue, shaky and heavy arms so I decided to stop and get off the bike. Also, I watched my heart rate drop rapidly from 165 down to 99 in a matter of seconds which I found strange and had never seen happen before. After 20 minutes of rest, I still felt different, so I drove the short distance home and called the advice nurse.

    My instructor thought I had low blood sugar, my husband thought I didn’t eat enough calories for breakfast. The advice nurse suggested I be checked out at the ER to be safe. Normally, I would avoid the ER but my intuition told me to go. My husband drove me and we arrived 90 minutes after the episode. They took a blood test, EKG, chest X-Ray, blood pressure and put me on an IV drip. By now, I was feeling back to normal, just tired. Four hours later, they took another blood test as I called my husband to hopefully, come pick me up. Instead, the doctor said… “well young lady, it looks like you DID have a little heart attack”. I had a rise in Troponin so I saw a line up of doctors and was admitted to the hospital.

    The next day I hit the jackpot and got to have TWO angiograms in one day! The first one was through the wrist, then later through the groin…with a camera for a better view and video. No blockages were found and no measurable damage to my heart muscle. I was told my arteries were “as smooth as a baby’s bottom”.

    However, I did have a TEAR at the left circumflex either caused by a spontaneous dissection OR a clot. I left the hospital on Plavix (hate it) and was told to take it for at least 6-12 months. I have been miserable on it and needed an additional prescription due to the side effects, stomach pain and/or beginning of an ulcer. Sixteen years ago, I did have a perforated ulcer and was told to never take aspirin or anti-inflammatory meds.

    I think I was in shock for the first few weeks because I had been doing what I thought to be all the “right things” to improve my health, not cause a heart attack. I had lost 50 pounds over the past year, had low blood pressure, was a vegetarian for 20 years, good cholesterol numbers, 22% BMI, exercised 5-6 days a week (had walked 100 miles in both January and February) and never smoked.

    My friends said, I was their leader, their shining example to get fit, look younger and feel great! Now they were really freaked out because if this could happen to ME (the one that looked so healthy), what was going to happen to them?

    I saw a new cardiologist post appointment and he is trying to talk me into taking 4-5 prescriptions FOR LIFE, stating the “proven” life long benefits. All I see are the negative side effects, the lawsuits and read the horror stories from users or loved ones. So far, I have not been the model patient. I would rather take a coated baby aspirin, supplements and see a nutritionist over taking medication. I do have a theory as to what might have caused the trouble (a possibility) but unfortunately no one, including the surgeon or two cardiologists) really knows for sure. I am scheduled for a stress test this Monday.

    All I know is, it has changed me. I have more questions than answers…and a grandson, born one month later on April 6th. 🙂 I do tell everyone about your wonderful blog and to watch Elizabeth Banks in “Just a Little Heart Attack”...funny, yet informative!

    Thank you again!


    • Carolyn Thomas May 9, 2013 at 5:21 am #

      Hello Cathee and thanks a lot for your comments here. You’re describing a textbook case of Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD). Hope you continue to seek answers to your questions. More info on SCAD here.


      • Cathee May 9, 2013 at 9:23 am #

        Yes! I read your article…kind of scary! After my case, the surgeon did some research on the subject. He informed me that women, under high aerobic activity, can experience a spontaneous dissection. But also, it was the very FIRST time I took a spin class right after taking Adderal. I usually take class 6-8 hours after taking ADD med but on this day, I took a noon class instead of an evening class. I read that in woman with no blockages, taking a stimulant or amphetamine can cause a coronary vasospasm which in turn can lead to a heart attack. I was never informed to take it after exercise and no warning regarding this is on the label. I thought maybe the stimulant, along with too high a heart rate led to a vasospasm. I will not make that mistake again. I wear a heart monitor and now know my target heart range. Live and learn.


  2. timethief May 6, 2013 at 8:32 pm #

    May you have many more happy and health heart anniversaries. And thank you so much for creating this excellent blog and sharing from the heart and about the heart here with us.


  3. cave76 May 6, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

    And many many more! Heart-iversaries and cupcakes!


    • Carolyn Thomas May 6, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

      You know, I’m going to my daughter-in-law Paula’s gala concert tonight (she’s singing Haydn’s Nelson Mass with her Victoria Choral Society) and we just might have to stop for cupcakes afterwards…. Thanks so much, Cave.


  4. Deborah Walker May 6, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

    What they all said!

    This is a huge accomplishment for you, personally, and the result, your empowerment, is a benefit beyond measure to us all. If I were you, I’d celebrate these anniversaries with more flair and joy than any birthday.


    • Carolyn Thomas May 6, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

      Great idea, Deborah – and I DO love to celebrate my birthday! Thanks for your ongoing support.


  5. Kathleen May 6, 2013 at 11:33 am #

    Happy anniversary, Carolyn. Congratulations for making from that terrible experience this insightful blog, one that many of us have adopted as a healing place.


  6. Nora May 6, 2013 at 9:17 am #

    Hi Carolyn,
    I couldn’t be happier for you I hope you have something special planned for today. That cupcake looks mighty good!!!

    Our paths would never have crossed if we both hadn’t had our heart ‘event’, but I’m grateful that they did as you are doing so much good because of your heart attack. You will never know how many people have been positively affected by your presentations & there is no doubt that lives have been saved because of it. I pray you will be able to continue for many more years.

    Actually you have been on my mind as I’ve been wanting to tell you about my behaviour during a medical adventure I recently experienced. Late at night about a couple of weeks ago I began having an allergic reaction to who knows what (hopefully to be determined by an allergist) & had to call 911 – something I’ve never had to do before! That afternoon my grandson was here so the place was a bit of a mess with books, legos, craft paper, crayons etc etc still not put away as I was too tired to be bothered & told myself I’d put it all away in the morning.

    Well, you guessed it – while I was sitting there waiting for the medics it dawned on me what a mess my place was. So in spite of feeling anxious & weird, didn’t I start trying to tidy up!!?!

    Suddenly I caught myself thinking of the woman in the video who was having a heart attack. I couldn’t believe what I was doing & naturally stopped, but was chuckling on the inside at the absurdity of it all. Gosh, we women – what pride, eh!! Will we ever learn??!! After the drama was over I thought – I’ll share this with you as I know you will be amused, as I was at myself!

    But on the serious side, those medics are amazing as they were here pretty fast & that’s the way to go to ER as you by-pass everyone. I was home in 4 hours with a mystery on my hands as to what caused it. I’m booked to see an allergist in June, so I hope they can pin it down as there was nothing out of the ordinary in my life that day. Very strange.

    So have a wonderful, celebratory day, Carolyn, & enjoy this marvelous weather while we have it.


    • Carolyn Thomas May 6, 2013 at 9:27 am #

      Thanks Nora for your kind wishes and also for the belly laugh! You were behaving JUST like Elizabeth Banks in her wonderful “Just a Little Heart Attack” video, weren’t you?! Good luck with solving your medical mystery.


    • Michelle May 6, 2013 at 8:52 pm #

      Happy 5th Heart-iversary! I found your blog through a Ladies Home Journal article. Best thing that ever happened to me.

      I haven’t had a heart attack, but have A Flutter. Through one of your posts, I found Dr. John Mandrola who I follow also.

      Thank you so much for keeping us informed.


      • Carolyn Thomas May 6, 2013 at 10:51 pm #

        You just never know where a magazine article or a friend’s recommendation or even just discovering something via Dr. Google will lead us sometimes, right? So glad you found me – and Dr. John Mandrola, whose writing on cardiology is both wise and engaging.


  7. Deb May 6, 2013 at 8:06 am #

    Congrats! I recently passed my 1st heart-iversary from my SCAD, and I can’t wait to tell everybody I’m celebrating my 5th!

    Many of your articles keep me going, thank you so much. It’s you and others that have had “events” before mine that give me confidence and remind me there is a reason I am still here.

    Thanks again and congratulations…


  8. Mandy May 6, 2013 at 6:44 am #

    Happy Anniversary! Cheers to many, many more!


  9. Carrie May 6, 2013 at 5:59 am #

    As the song goes…and many more! Congrats on reaching this milestone my heart sister!


    • Carolyn Thomas May 6, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

      Thanks for your kind words – from one Mayo heart sister to another.


  10. Elaine Schattner, M.D. May 6, 2013 at 5:47 am #

    So glad you’re doing well, Carolyn! and many more –


  11. Dr. Anne Stohrer May 6, 2013 at 5:46 am #

    Happy re-birth day, Carolyn. And many more. ♥


    • Carolyn Thomas May 6, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

      So nice to hear from you, Dr. Anne. How’s the book idea coming along?


  12. JetGirl May 6, 2013 at 5:34 am #

    Congrats, Carolyn !

    What is it about May, anyway? I hit 4 years on May 12th.

    I so wish I’d never needed the CCU and ICU frequent flier program. But, I wasn’t supposed to see 2011 and then 2012 (according to SOME of the medical geniuses I’ve run across). Just ran across a new one who described my medical case as “hopeless” and “a slow decline ending in an ugly death.” AWESOME!! And he came highly recommended . . .

    Seriously, how do I attract these medical savants??



    • Carolyn Thomas May 6, 2013 at 1:41 pm #

      Happy Heart-iversary in advance to you, JG! (When’s your birthday by the way? Some research suggests we’re more likely to experience cardiac events close to our birthdays – as mine was). By the way – that medical genius of yours? He’s an idiot.


      • JetGirl May 6, 2013 at 10:56 pm #

        Not so close to my birthday . . . But a good theory – of course I WAS a preemie 🙂


  13. Mary May 6, 2013 at 5:24 am #

    Happy Heart-i-versary to you ~ from the bottom, sides and top of my heart ~ and spirit ~ to yours. xoxo


    • Carolyn Thomas May 6, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

      Oh, Mary. How lovely to hear from you. I will never forget our sunny afternoon visit in Palo Alto together with SwissDots. Thanks so much!


  14. Magda May 6, 2013 at 4:52 am #

    Congratulations and happy anniversary to you. And many, many more to come!!


  15. Lidia May 6, 2013 at 4:38 am #

    Do you think we’ll ever stop waiting for the other shoe to drop? 😉

    Happy heart-iversary! Wishing you many many many more. ♥


    • Carolyn Thomas May 6, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

      I sure hope I’ll stop thinking about that other shoe one day… Thanks, Lidia.


  16. helensamia May 6, 2013 at 4:27 am #

    Oh a very happy happy anniversary!


    • Karen May 6, 2013 at 5:53 am #

      What a great day for your heart i versary! I call mine rebirthday!

      Congratulations and continue to look forward to the next one.
      I love, love, love your writings😍


      • Mirjami May 6, 2013 at 7:58 am #

        Many happy returns of the day!! I would like to drink a glass of Champagne with you!


        • Carolyn Thomas May 6, 2013 at 8:28 am #

          A big “Thank You!” to each of you for your warm wishes today! ♥
          I often refer to my blog writing as “cardiac rehab for my brain” – and my heart. Your kindness is appreciated!


          • Lynn Kelly May 6, 2013 at 11:26 am #

            Heart Sister, I am so glad you are still here to share your wisdom, writing, and insight with us. I’m at 9 years now and kind of amazed that I’m living to get old! tee hee


            • Carolyn Thomas May 6, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

              Another heart sister from Mayo Clinic class of ’08! Nine years is quite the milestone, Lynn – and it IS amazing, isn’t it?


        • Carolyn Thomas May 6, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

          Thanks Mirjami – I think a glass of champagne is good for the heart, no?


    • Carolyn Thomas May 6, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

      And thank you very much, Helen!


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