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Sudden dumbass death syndrome September 17, 2006

Posted by daveintexas in Work and Life and Love.

I hesitated writing about this.  I wanted to get it out.  I did not want to expose it to the world.

And then I thought “what better place than here?  you can write about it, and 3 people will read it”.

A week ago Tuesday I had a little “episode” of mild chest pain and dizziness.  It didn’t really hurt, but it felt weird.  Something I had not experienced before.

I have made some poor choices over the years.  I was way overweight.  I might have smoked some. 

I started turning that around 3 years ago.  Quit smoking.

As of this week, I’ve lost 75 pounds and probably have about 30 left to get to my target.

You cannot imagine how pissed off I was prepared to be under the circumstances..

Anyway, for the next two days I fretted about this pain and that.  I had heard too many stories about guys who went to bed “just not feeling right” and woke up dead.

I made an appointment for Friday, but by Thursday I was still jumping like a cat over “this pain” or “that one”.

You get paranoid.

So I drove myself to the ER (impressive guy stupidity, is it not?), walked in, and said “I think I’ve got some chest pain and it’s worrying me a bit”.

Well, welcome to the Machine.  There may be a hundred people in the waiting room, but if you come in and tell the triage nurse “my chest hurts”, you are in the express lane.

And by express lane I mean they immediately 1) pop an aspirin in you 2) take your bp and pulse, 3) do an EKG, and 4) take a lot of blood, to see if there’s any sign of cardiac trauma.  Then 5) you wait hours for the next test and a doctor to come tell you his opinion of the results.

Well I thought after the EKG and the blood work (which showed no trauma enzymes), I thought they’d let me go home.

I was wrong.  They admitted me into the hospital.

That evening, and the next day, I did more tests.  Separated by hours of boredom.  I went nuts.

Newton Minow was right, television is a vast wasteland.

When did these “stand up before a retired judge and explain why you are an asshole” shows become so popular?

I took more tests, and the results kept coming back negative (in my favor).  And at 5pm they let me go home.  And I was really ready to get out.

It’s funny, when you think you’re about to die, you want to hang out there.  Treadmill test might induce cardiac arrest?  Well hell, better here than at home pushing a lawn mower.  But when all the tests run so far say I’m fine?  Oh great, no big deal, I’m ready to leave now.

You feel a little chagrined, except everyone looks at your age and your history, and says “you should have come in on Tuesday”.

My one mistake.

Gentlemen (and ladies), those of us who are a little older and maybe have some risk factors, if you don’t feel well, don’t screw around.  People depend on you.

Go check it out.  You’ll hate it, I certainly did.

But you have an obligation to make sure it’s nothing.  So go do it.

My heart did not attack me.  According to the serious looking doctors, it won’t for a long time.



1. pupster - September 17, 2006

Glad to hear your OK Dave. Your story is a lot like my story, my chest pains are muscle tension (stress) activated, not heart related.

I am also trying to quit smoking and lose weight; I’d be interested in how you did it if you feel like sharing.

Thanks for the semi-live blog last week. I enjoyed it.

2. Steve B - September 17, 2006

I had some sort of “breakdown” a couple of years ago after literally working myself half to death. Seriously dizzy, heart palipatation, almost passed out. Turns out it wasn’t anything serious, but ever since then, I’ve been skittish any time I feel a little bit off. Get dizzy? A little short of breath? You start to panic and wonder if “this is it?”

You’ve lost that sense of invulnerability. It’s humbling, but sad.

3. harrison - September 17, 2006

Glad you’re alright.
It was probably that chili you spoke of a couple of weeks ago.

4. harrison - September 17, 2006

And that makes all three of us.

5. Elzbth - September 17, 2006

I guess you have four readers. Aren’t you lucky? I’m glad to hear everything turned out well, and I’m glad to hear you did the wisest thing and took yourself to the doctor.

6. geoff - September 17, 2006

I hate going to the doctor, and always put it off as long as possible. But stories like yours tend to make me want to butch up and take my health more seriously. I had this vague kind of plan, but your post today kind of crystallized my thinking. Here’s my deal:

I ignored my cholesterol level for a long time, despite the tests consistently showing that it is spectacular (in the 300 range). Over the past 8 months I’ve tried to watch the diet a little more (heh) and get some regular exercise. I’m going to give it 4 more months of hopefully intensified effort and check the level (4 months after starting it had dropped 10%). If I haven’t made any more progress, it’s medication time. Which I hate and have been trying to avoid all along.

So there you go – your post has catalyzed my decision to fix a deadline for results, and to resign myself to statins if need be. Maturity – feh.

I’m glad that you got yourself checked out thoroughly, and got the clean bill o’health. That’s reassuring for the long term. Cannonballs and lawn mowing for years to come…

7. Dave in Texas - September 18, 2006

Thanks everyone, I really appreciate your encouragement.

pups, I went cold turkey on the smokes, I was pretty much a pack and a half a day guy. The weight thing (much easier by the way) was a modified South Beach diet. Very effective for me, and good luck to you. You will feel better.

geoff, my cholesterol dropped some (it was 260) with the diet, but not enough. I take vytorin now. Some of us have genetic factors that make us cholesterol factories I guess. Good luck,

8. skinbad - September 18, 2006

Glad you’re OK, Dave.

9. compos - September 19, 2006

Darned right people depend on you! I depend on reading your witty pontifications at Ace’s. Glad to know you’re so negative : )

10. kevlarchick - September 19, 2006

Stay healthy Dave. We wuv you.

11. Myron - September 19, 2006

Glad you are better off than a friend of mine. A few weeks ago he had chest pains on the golf course. They went away before the 18th hole so no worry. Had trouble sleeping that night because of pain. He went to the VA hospital in Sheridan, WY the next day. They told him they were going to fly him to Denver the next day for further tests. The next day (July 4th, by the way) he was put on a little medivac plane in Sheridan with a nurse and an EMT. About half way to Denver, he had a heart attack. They re-routed him to the big Mormon hospital in Denver because it was closer to the airport. 62 minutes after arriving at the hospital, he had a stint placed in one of the arteries.

And I know what it’s like kickin’ the smokes and working on the weight and cholestrol. Mine’s down to 150 or so from 225 plus. Better living through chemistry as DuPont used to say.

12. Michael - September 19, 2006

People depend on you.

In fact, we are depending on you for a pool party. So stay well.

13. Dave in Texas - September 19, 2006

Thank you everyone. I appreciate the well wishes, and kind words.

Oh hey Michael, I have added a codicil to the will, in the untimely event of my death, you all have to hold the wake here, and each do a cannonball in fond memory.

14. John - September 19, 2006

Dave, I had a similar experience. Turned out it was stress induced, but I felt better for not screwing around. You’re right – time is of the essence when you’re talking cardiac events. Hours are meaningful.

Glad you’re here. Glad you’re swimming.

So am I the third one reading this?

15. daveintexas - September 19, 2006

Thanks John. And I am pretty humbled by the number of readers and commenters. And I’m glad to hear you didn’t screw around with it either… good for you.

16. Michael - September 20, 2006

I’ll do a memorial cannonball that will drain the pool.

17. Melissa in Texas - September 21, 2006

Glad to hear it was a false alarm. Congrats on the smoking and weight loss.
I just turned 45. Man, that really snuck up on me! EEK!
Like pupster and John, I was experiencing palpitations, dizziness, tightness in my chest – just feeling all around “not right”. I broke down and went to the doctor. Drew blood, yada, yada. He listened to my heart. He told me that my heart was racing.
His diagnosis?
Stress. I needed to be “less stressed out”.
I am still not quite sure how to do that!
Anyway, glad you are still with us Dave.
You would be missed!

18. Michael - September 22, 2006

By the way, if you do croak, can I have the crap tree ornaments?

19. mikeyslaw - February 16, 2007

Since I don’t know your age, none of this may apply to you. When I was 52(10 years ago), I quit smoking and started exercising. And by exercising, I mean, really exercising. I began to work out with weights, and began a running program recommended by a guy named Jeff Galloway, with the intention of someday in the far distant future runnig a marathon. My cholesterol level was about 170 (considered high by many cardiologists now) at the time, and my triglycerides were about 100. (And my dad passed away at 53 from heart disease).
In 2001, just after i had run a 5k, and at the time, running about 15 miles a week, I had a regular checkup. I had no chest pain, no shortness of breath, no dizziness. My internist asked me how long it had been since i had a stress test. I told him my last 5k was fairly stressful, and my work was damn stressful. That didn’t count, he sent me to get a stress test. They thought the test looked a little odd, and sent me to a cardiologist. Three days later, in October, 2001,I had open heart and a single by-pass for the major artery on the left side of my heart that was 98% blocked.
One year later, 2002, almost to the exact day, I ran my first marathon(with my daughter), the Marine Corps Marathon, in D.C.
Since then, I have run two more marathons, and 12 half-marathons, and countless 5ks.
My cardiologist told me that I am the perfect example of the guy who runs a lot of miles, is running a race, and drops dead, because I had no symptoms, exercised, didn’t smoke, etc. My cholesterol level (i am on a cholesterol lowering drug) is now 120, my ldl (bad) cholesterol is 50 (most want it to be under 60 now).
I said all that to say, you did the right thing, brother. Get it checked out, even if you think it aint nuthin to worry about. A treadmill stress test will find 80% of the problems, if there are any. The other 20% die suddenly. An angiogram will find 99% of the problems.
Walking 30 minutes a day at a brisk pace will reduce tension, help cardio, and make you feel ten times better.
Glad you are o.k.

20. daveintexas - February 16, 2007

Thanks mikey.

Ken Cooper, I think, the guy that did the Aerobic center in Dallas… ?

There are factors besides stupidity. Anyway.

I will be 48 in Sept.

21. mikeyslaw - February 16, 2007

yeah, the cooper clinic is expensive as hell. ur primary care guy, or internist, can recommend you to a place for stress test, if u really want to find out what is what.
i love running, and exercise, but i got to tell you, even after 10 years, i still miss smoking a cigarette after a meal. oh, well. i would say after sex, but who the hell can miss something once a year.

22. Ruth - February 16, 2007

Something similar happened to my husband (at 29 y/o) and my sister at around 43 y/o. No heart attacks, just stress. They were glad they got checked out, even though it felt embarassing.

I’m glad you’re ok!

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24. bed frame poster - August 25, 2007

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25. lauraw - August 26, 2007

Well said.

26. time - September 5, 2007

Sportspeople are, are not our Rolemodels

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