My name is Sam and I worked as a hospital administrator/manager for more than 25 years. I have seen my share of heart trauma patients and responded to countless Code Blues. I never thought that I will one day be a heart patient myself. I considered myself a healthy individual because I did almost everything from playing soccer, tennis, running, and dancing but as the years rolled by I started having what I called chest discomfort (tightening of the chest muscles) which goes away when I stretch the muscles. This chest discomfort progressed to a burning sensation like a very severe heartburn. Because the sensation did not radiate to any other part of my chest, arm, neck or back; I thought that it was acid re-flux. I have had episodes of regurgitation in the past and when I drink cold water the burning sensation will go away. This was how I dealt with the burning sensation by drinking water and it worked for me.
Every year I undergo a physical health exam either for my job or for my personal well being an on each visit presented symptoms as a burning fire in my chest to the doctor who will refer me to cardiology for diagnostic tests and possible follow up. The test results were always remarkable the doctor will tell me. I even wore a Holter monitor on more than two occasions and still no indication of possible heart problem. I accepted the outcome of the tests but a part of me still felt something was still wrong but it never occurred to me that my heart was the problem.
The burning sensation comes on suddenly and very infrequent sometimes at the beginning of a walk, a run or climbing the stairs and lasted for about 3-5 minutes and then goes away on itself own or if I drink water. Despite this I was still able to live a normal productive physically involved life style all these years, but everything changed one Friday night in August of 2019 when I felt the burning sensation. This time around drinking water or stretching the muscles of my chest did not relieve the discomfort; I could not sit or lay down flat on my bed to sleep. I thought the sensation may have been from the spicy dinner that night. I finally took one tablet of 325 mg of Aspirin and after some time I was able to sleep. The next day was uneventful and I was fine. On Sunday morning my inner self advised me to go to the hospital and check out what happened to me Friday night. I was hoping that I will not be anything with my heart but I ended up spending about 20 days between two hospitals. Blood tests indicated that I may have had or still having real time silent heart attack with no limiting physical symptoms or chest pain. An emergency diagnostic cardiac cath revealed that the three major vessels of my heart were blocked…I was very fortunate to have been referred to very humane but take no prisoners cardiac thoracic surgeon Dr. Jennifer Ellis of Bellevue/New York University Hospital. She helped me take the ultimate decision to undergo the bypass because I was vacillating between having Stents or the bypass. I was scared of such an enormous invasive procedure but i am glad that I opted for the bypass thanks to Dr. Ellis. She was Professional personified, treated my family and I with dignity, empathy and courteousness.. Dr. Ellis is an excellent CT surgeon that sprinkles her practice with a good dose of quality patient/doctor relationship. She makes you feel like a prince or princess when you are under her care.
The procedure ended up a quadruple bypass because a fourth blocked vessel was discovered.when the surgeon opened me up. My symptoms over the years did not follow the prescribed signs of a possible heart attack. Even though I worked in hospitals and health care centers over many years and my wife a Cardiology Nurse Practitioner we still did not recognize that what was happening to me all these years were silent heart attacks. The only reason or rather two reasons that am alive today is that a doctor in the ER ordered a specific blood test that showed an elevation of some enzymes that are adverse to the heart and 2. the successful surgery and excellent work of Dr. Jennifer Ellis and her team. I am on the road to a full recovery achieving milestones one after the other.
My family and I owe Dr. Ellis and her team a depth of gratitude for giving me a second chance in life. Research shows that black men are more likely to die of heart attack especially on their first encounter. The heart is the most vital organ for life and once it ceases to function then there is no life. Lesson learned and shared; “take every and any chest discomfort seriously” especially if you have high blood pressure and high cholesterol. You can ask your doctor to test your blood for the heart enzyme.