About every 40 seconds, someone has a heart attack in the U.S. Those seconds that follow a heart attack matter greatly and the action that you take.
As a healthy 65-year old, I was one of those statistics suffering a “widow-maker” heart attack. Grateful to have survived, I am determined to help share the information that saved my life, in hopes it can help educate and save others.
On April 11, 2020, I was enjoying a Saturday morning at home. I decided to organize a few details for the upcoming week in my home office.
Suddenly, excruciating pain hit me in my chest and began radiating down my left arm. I went to my wife, Colleen in the nearby family room while profusely sweating.
Within seconds, I was drenched in sweat. Well-versed in reading physician’s studies, Colleen believed I could be having a heart attack and immediately proceeded to get me two (325mg) aspirin. She instructed me to sit back and chew before swallowing the aspirin.
Meanwhile, our son, Bryan got the car ready to drive me to Scripps Encinitas which was only 4 minutes away, and he made the drive in a swift 3 minutes.
Upon arriving at the hospital, the skilled Scripps team confirmed I was having a massive heart attack. They immediately went to work giving me additional baby aspirin that reduced the pain and prepared me for the cath lab.
After what seemed like traversing several hallways and saying many, many prayers, we arrived for a procedure to repair my heart. In the hour that followed, the team discovered the “widow-maker” artery was 99.6% plugged and received a stent.
Two other arteries received an additional two stents. I later learned my heart stopped during the procedure, which I recalled a jolt but no pain. I survived the procedure thanks to the quick action of his family, the skilled Scripps Encinitas staff and Cardiology team, and the help of God.
The following morning, as the team of doctors monitored my recovery, I was told, “You realize, your wife saved your life by inserting the aspirin and also getting you here so quickly.”
Later that day, the cardiologist and technician performed an echocardiogram on my heart and grew silent for over a minute.
He then looked at me and stated, “This is remarkable, I cannot detect any heart damage! Amazing!” He indicated the aspirin and quick trip to the hospital saved me. I added, “God was a major factor.”
Heart attacks can happen to anyone, those with or without a pre-existing condition. While I was never diagnosed with a heart condition, there is heart disease within my broader family.
I am grateful my family knew that aspirin helps inhibit platelets, the tiny blood cells that trigger blood clotting after plaque ruptures during a heart attack. Using aspirin isn’t an old wives’ tale — it is a proven life-saving tactic.
So what are the recommended steps to swiftly do during a heart attack?
- Keep 325-mg aspirin both upstairs and downstairs in your home, for quick access.
- A Harvard study indicates that while baby aspirin may be recommended for a daily dose, an additional 325-mg tablet is needed during a heart attack. Don’t use an enteric-coated tablet, as it will act too slowly.
- Chew then swallow the aspirin. A study in Texas found that chewing was the fastest way to be absorbed by several minutes compared to other consumption methods.
- Time is essential. Call 911, or if you live close enough, get to the hospital immediately.
- Be proactive and talk to your physician about your heart on annual checkups and if recommended, ask for an EKG with a follow-up report.
Life is good, and I am blessed beyond belief to be alive!
Michael Wagy, Encinitas