The Widow(er) Maker - LAD Blockage (AKA Sudden Death)

Please read the last sentence FIRST!

Just in case you did NOT do that:

"If you are going to tell me how crazy I am GO AWAY. I AM CONTAGIOUS".

We are a club of survivors who are more than lucky to have lived through the day of the LAD closing its walls, blocking up and stopping all human function forever.

The Widow Maker - the HORRIBLE and nasty with a 5 minute WINDOW etc etc etc.

Or DIE.

We can tell you the date of our heart event, the hospital the procedure was done, how many stents or bypasses were performed, the percentage of the blockage of arteries, the length of our hospital stays and the days of their rehabilitation before we returned to work.

It's a reminder how deadly the disease is and the improved chances for recovery and longer lives with a healthier lifestyle.

Statistically, the American Heart Association ranks heart disease as the No. 2 killer and stroke No. 3, respectively, in the United States.

Survivors who had surgery to repair blockages remembered the euphoric feeling, while undergoing surgery, of blood rushing back through the unclogged artery.

A widow maker blockage of the left anterior coronary artery has all the signs of a standard heart attack and the same cause – myocardial blockage.
The severity and location of the blockage is its deadly trademark. If you are lucky and can tolerate it, a stent (or a few) is/ are inserted pushing the arterial blockage against the arterial wall allowing blood flow to resume. You may also have to be decalcified. Like a drill through the smallest arteries. To make SPACE, and heaven help you if something goes not as planned. No second chances here.
If it works you live.

If not you die. Fast.

The warning signs observed the day before are the typical feelings of severe indigestion and pressure.
Pressure on the chest, to the jaw and shoulder - all warning signs to DRIVE to the ER, get a friend or family member to call your cardio or MD to prepare the ER for your arrival. It CAN save your life, as the LAD is not a place you want to wait around to block up MORE. Or for one of those paper thin walls to give in. Result is SUDDEN DEATH. That's it folks.

Funny - EKGs do NOT record a heart attack. Even wearing a holster for a week - NORMAL.

We have all heard of young people (any age actually but more shocking when they are in excellent health, work out, are not overweight and who have NEVER had any heart problems ever) - DROP dead.
On the toilet, in the bath, wherever.

I lost 3 uncles 2 cousins and another cousin age 49 (that I know of) to this. Almost lost me, and I still might (yuk) drop. Nah. I am too pesky. Too adventurous, and I have a LOT of living to do.

It is a good idea to check the family tree for "people who died young" or were found dead for no reason. They may have had total or near total blockage of the LAD.

After I had my first procedure my mom called me and said: "Darling we are so so sorry, it's not your fault - its IN THE FAMILY".
"We feel so bad, we should have told you" ---- No mom, no dad....... it is NOT your fault.

One took a nap after a meal.
Another was on the throne.
The latest was standing at the sink in the bathroom. He was an MD.

It's inherited.

I am not an idiot but I SHOULD have realized I was at high risk for SOMETHING.
You sure spent enough $ on my education and I HAVE worked in this field for years. Duh me.

Having survived this I feel bloody lucky despite my moans and complaints and periods of fatigue and FATigue from the medications. I am nearing 8 months post op (4th op) and the arteries look fine and are functioning great.

Thank you to my doctor my cardiologist who was the only person smart enough and brave enough to take the risk of operating on a tiny woman with a hell of a lot of attitude and yes, I DID sign a DNR.

I have seen the results of bad interventions or what happens when the surgery goes awry. If I am going to survive, it must be as ME and not a veggie. On a ventilator with brain damage. Nope.
Switch me OFF.


And FYI I am not manic or depressed, delusional or crazy. I am just me - the one who jumps around like the road runner on speed. (I do NOT take anything other than my prescribed meds and I LOVE being outside!!)

If you are going to tell me how crazy I am GO AWAY. I AM CONTAGIOUS.


Sandy

Edited April 15, 2012 at 10:57 am

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20 replies. Join the discussion

The "Widdow maker" were the exact words my surgeon used. A little different than your experience because there is no family history of this... My only symptoms were short of breath and a funny heart rhythm doing easy tasks. I was so fortunate to have a GP that did not like my symptoms even though EKG and cholesterol were normal. I am 23 days post op and battling the depression a little more than I anticipated. Logically I know that I am already in better shape heart wise (5 bypasses) now than 24 days ago. I can walk further without discomfort but wow does my brain want to go to the bad place of "why me?".

I do have a new lease on life from this, I am still in shock that it really happened though and need to work through it. I very much appreciate your attitude for recovery, that is where I want to get to. Please keep posting your thoughts, your honesty comes through loud and clear.

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Wow. I hope that my sincerity comes through as clearly. You are going to go through a lot more, and you are so lucky to have a GP who knew something was NOT right and saved your life.

Logic has nothing to do with it. I was out of bed and in the shower the next DAY followed by all the ICU nurses, I locked myself IN and scrubbed off the smell of being in surgery, and I continued until I was d/c ed! I walked out!

I was full of the joys of spring and back at work in 1 month, and 3 months later hit the ground with a bang, tired grouchy passing out etc. No thyroid no vitamin D in the blood who knew?

Good news is that post op longer term (7 months) and a lot of med adjustments I am almost me on a veggie diet, and still refusing to leave.

The best of the best to you!!

Sandy

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I am now almost 12 weeks post-op CABG. Hang in there. We all fall into the "bad place" from time to time. Keep fighting! Took me a long time to realize I was not going to be "all better" in 6 weeks or 8 weeks. Once I accepted the fact that this recovery was going to take time, I was able to handle it better. When I find my self falling into the "bad place" i just look for Sandyzk12's posts...Thanks Sandy!

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Aw thank you for real. I take that as a wonderful compliment.
You are correct too about the time it takes, it is like losing your arms and legs but worse, and I won't be looked at as disabled EVER, hell NOPE!

Sandy

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Sandy,

Hey! I thought you got the "raspberry and 'sarse?". I was about to send an email tonight but found you are back here!
I have to pull you up on something young lady. Quote "it is like losing your arms and legs but worse, and I won't be looked at as disabled EVER, hell NOPE!" Unquote. It would have been better to use the word "impairment". I have dealt with many people with disabilities and these people have no hope of recovery. At least, we have a second chance and things will get better with time.

Great to see you back.
Cheers lady,
The UTE!

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I am replying to you Sandy because a wonderful RN at the VA Hospital San Diego Cardic Center by the name of ROSEMARY, after scanning my Mexican eco, decided to put me on the treadmill without an appointment and by passed all the normal proceedures usually required to get me my CABG and beat the widow-maker. I had only a shortness of breath before eco and never had an attack. Most of the doctors I have talked to do not like to use or even try to understand data that is not from their jurisdiction. Too bad. Some have probably died because of this. Cheers to you and cheers to me.

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Hi,
I never had a heart attack - I was complaining to my GP about a burning sensation in my throat.
I had an EKG which came back as 'abnormal'
Next was the Nuclear Stress Test which showed my heart wasn't receiving enough blood.
Next was the Angiogram - I had a cardiac arrest during the proceedure.
After I was resuscitated I was told I had two 90% blockages in the LAD and one 70% in the RCA.
I had my triple bypass in Oct 2009 and now feel great and I thank everyone involved for saving my life.

Yes a blocked LAD is silent and deadly and the sad thing is that there's a lot of people walking around who have no idea they have blocked arteries. :(

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I had just gone to my cardiologist for my thallium stress test I knew something was wrong. Being a smoker and just a horrible family history including losing two family members within the last 4 months ( stroke & cancer) had got me back to see him in 5 years. Plus i was having pressure on an increasing basis. I passed the test with flying colors he said but i told him i thought it was wrong i was still having angina. He said it could be the muscles in my chest wall ? So i asked what do i do if i get bad pains again He said go to ER and have aspirin available." But dont worry See you in 3 years your heart is strong as a bull". A month later I was in the ER via ambulance ride at 130 am THey settled me down with 02 and nitro i was chewing on aspirin and xanex while waiting for them. Funny I said to myself when i went to bed that night "this could be a long night" They scoped next day 95 % blockage in two connecting arteries and 50 % in the widow maker and i had in fact had a micro heart attack.I dont ever want to feel the pain of a BIG one thats for sure. My God. They gave me the option stent or CABG They would nt tell me which to do i had to decide i had 3 hours to give them an answer . I called my primary who is a very good friend and has known me for 20 plus years and he told me CABG based on my medical and family history NO Discussion I said OK. 23 days later i was walking my daughter down the aisle in Miami flying in from NJ Its amazing how one day of sun on your face can make you look almost normal when in fact i looked like Gi Gi the grey ghost
As aside note do any of you carry aspirin in your car with you ? I do It s my little mental safety net
Bottom line listen to your body and play it safe I had had a pizza that night with peppers i could have chalked it up to one to many slices if i had I would not be writing this. Because of the fast response and some luck i did very little damage to my heart tissue

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Oops - apologies!

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Sandy, I'm like you in that I had a widow maker blockage in the LAD that could not be stented. I had cabg about 2 months ago. I am now feeling more energetic and uplifted than I have in the past 10 years. Apparently, God isn't ready for us to go yet! I would add to your warning: you may not feel pain in your chest or jaw. My angina went for a whole year untreated because it was only in my right arm, and the health professionals only ask, "Do you have any chest pain?" I didn't know angina could be in places other than the heart. My surgeon told me he had a patient whose angina was only in the bridge of his nose! I guess any unusual discomfort should be checked out to rule out heart problems! Thanks for your spunky post, Sandy.

Marti in Missouri

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What a group we have! I am proud to be in such company, we are survivors. I like hearing the stories of how our situations occured. I am 12 weeks post op on cabgx4. I can't believe it's been 3 months already. I also was a fortunate one. I had all the stress tests that failed to show any heart problems. When my cardiologist suggested the cardiac cath, I refused. I did not want that kind of invasiveness, besides, I felt fine. It wasn't until 6 months later that I started feeling chest discomfort, and only when I was doing something strenuous. Not pain, just felt like when you cough when you have bronchitis. The body has it's ways of telling you that something is wrong. I went in to see my cariologist who insisted on the cath. I had my suspicions of what was wrong, and I started prepping my wife on what could happen. I recieved the news while laying on the table during my angiogram. The nurse kept telling me that I needed to look at this as a blessing. Blessing, I thought, she wouln't be the one having her chest cracked open. Now I see that is was a blessing. I had 70% blockage in my LAD, and several other blockages that were 90-95%. Had I not had my operation, it would have just been a matter of time. We all know or have heard of someone who just suddenly died. In this brotherhood (and sisterhood) of ours we are truely blessed. I was also fortunate that I didn't have the depression (my Dad said that he cried like a baby after his. yes, it runs in the family). Look at this as a second chance, and enjoy the moment.

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Krus Yes you are a lucky man I would have jumped at the cath because i knew something was wrong but my old cardiologist was to busy buying his wife a new Lamborghini for her birthday : MY new cardiologist told me that . He said Im driving a maxima with 120 k miles whats wrong with this picture ? I love the guy he is so down to earth and straight forward He can punch you right in the mouth while smiling and you laugh with him because you know its true . NO BS Im going next week for stress test he wants he wants me to do it so im not arguing

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Hi Sandyzk12, Love your work! I also met the widow maker and have the little metal springs in LAD,Ignorence or stupidity im not sure more so deniel, last thing THE LAST THING I thought of is Heart Attack,and now so lucky to be here,
Please pardon the grammer and spelling mistakes,I dont usually correspond but its fantastic to read your views and always perks me up, Best regards Paul

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Hi Sandy,

This is my first reply ever. In fact, I found this site because my sister suffered an anoxic brain injury and I was searching for information and support. I was reading your posts and I wish you the best in getting better. Replying like this is out of character for me, but I've been learning a lot about nutrition lately and have come across a great documentary called Forks Over Knives. You may already be aware of it, but in case you weren't I felt compelled to let you know about it. There is a heart surgeon, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, who has proven that heart disease can be stopped, reversed and even eradicated if one follows a plant based, whole foods diet. His initial research was done on just over twenty people who, in many cases were given little hope for a long future. Most of them had had multiple by-passes and couldn't be helped surgically any further by the time they began working with Esselstyn. I hope this reply doesn't come off in any way other than its intended, I just want to offer some information that you may not have.

Good luck and I hope you get back to your old life soon.

Chad

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Dear Chad

Thanks so much for your input and comment and advise. I have been on a harsh yet ok organic diet since my initial surgery and it has helped enormously, I see my cardio on Monday and will have blood tests to ensure that my cholesterol levels have dropped and I have stopped most of the conventional medications with medical approval. I have had terrible side effects to the protocol meds. I remain on Plavix and aspirin, vitamins including COQ10, fish oil (Loveza) whole grains, and an organic diet and working with a nutritionist and a very skilled cardiologist who is the first MD I have met who LISTENS to their patients. I wish you the very best and thank you for your input!!

Sandy

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Hi Paul

I have been really active lately and have not had no time to write or blog - however I just wanted to tell you how much it helps knowing that there are a few good men out there who are survivors! Thanks so much for commenting and don't worry about the spelling!

Sandy

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I'm a "Sandi" too!!
I have no family history that I know of......
My surgery was April 10th. Recovery sucks! I remember thinking that I never asked for this, my ribs opened, the scars, the pain.
I know i'm lucky to be alive. I know we all are.
Your a hero to me, because you've been there, done that, lived to tell your side, and your honest.
I'm looking forward to the day when I'm so damn busy back at work, etc. that I do not have time to write!
Until then, I'm still sleeping flat on my back(ugh!!!), and trudging along!
Sandra

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Hi Paul

Thank you for sharing your experience with me! I am NOT alone! I have 3 metal things in my heart too. Another blockage was found in February. I am back at work and have been promoted, so that's good! I am so lucky to have a caring employer. I am a therapist full time. I wish you all the very best!! Monday it's back to my cardio for the 6 month post LAD visit and fasting blood work etc. I have been having some intermittent chest pain for a month or so, hope that's its all in my mind!

Sandy

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You are correct - I had no idea. I have a huge family history of relatives dying young though and I work in cardiac rehab so one would think I would know better but tiny me? At that age? My cousin died a few months ago of the same condition. I think we owe ourselves the power to know our family histories Igood and bad )and promise ourselves to LISTEN to our bodies.
And I had to FIGHT for surgery and was told NO Its too dangerous your chances are 1 in 5 of survival which is a load of hogwash.
Get opinions and like you my EKG is ALWAYS normal and what really would have been the kicker would be for my family to find me
dead on the toilet. Most die in the bathroom. Yuk. I am NOT going ANYWHERE!!!

Sandy

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Hi Sandy

Am I talking to myself? Nope. You seem really young from your picture however I will definitely check your profile! This is a serious condition and I never took it seriously. I wonder sometimes if I had NOT gone to the ER and started the chain if I would have had a longer life with better quality. The statins and beta blockers made me fat and sluggish (I was 110 now !20) and I HATE that. Its a Sandy thing.

Thank you for your support and honesty too. I am back at work (one month after surgery - I am a therapist and the sole supporter of my family) and I was promoted 2 weeks ago. I hated recovering because I was so so soooooo bored, and I was thinking about me too much, it took a lot of 'balls" to go back to duty - however, my cardio tells me that had I NOT been so fit and skinny and feisty I would not have survived. I am seeing him again Monday and PG he will not scare me anymore, a good cardiologist who is honest and who listens to his patients is so hard to find. I am so glad I had a second and third opinion as no one would touch me.

As for work - I have days when I am too tired to do a thing. And days like today when I feel young and energetic and I walk every day and do aerobics and resistive weights (with supervision) and I am on the lookout for another bash, you never know.

Hang in there!!

Sandy

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