Life After My Heart Attack…The Road to Recovery

After a very close call immediately after my heart attack I'm rehabbing

This is part 3 of 3 blog posts that I am using to tell the story of the massive heart attack I had on Thanksgiving Day (2018). If you missed them, go back and read Part 1 and Part 2.

As I’ve said time and time again, I am so grateful. However, I did have a heart attack. A massive heart attack. My heart was damaged, and my life will never be the same. I spoke with someone who had been through this with a family member and his description of what you feel after the fact was spot on.

Surviving a Widow Maker Heart Attack by Jackie Bledsoe | JackieBledsoe.com

He said, “You feel like half of your life was just sucked out of you.” I’ve felt that. I’ve felt discouraged and sad and depressed. Thinking of how I may not be able to do some things, some very basic things. How I’d have to be on multiple medicines for the rest of my life.

I was told I could not coach basketball and I could not pick up anything more than 5 pounds. I thought I may not be able to play basketball anymore or run. The list goes on and on.

The things that hurt me the most were not being able to coach my boys’ teams and their teammates who I’ve grown to love so much.

And realizing there were things I may never get to teach my boys how to do like cut the grass or shovel and my wife or our oldest son would have to immediately start doing all the “man stuff” around the house.

That was hard to take.

Some touchy moments

I was on “bed rest” and could not move my right leg as that is the leg I had one of the catheters in. I didn’t realize how serious that was until I inadvertently moved my leg while trying to get comfortable.

Something felt funny in my right groin. I thought nothing of it as I was actually moving my left leg. However, my wife was once again there for me. She said the nurses said to push the button if anything felt different in that area.

So, I pushed the button and they came. I’m thankful I did as I had a hematoma. In my situation, fresh from a heart attack, it is serious. Once they saw I had a hematoma 4-5 nurses or hospital people rushed in.

Two of the people that came in were men (I had not seen a man in the room other than the EMTs and my cardiologist since I had been there). The two men began to put what felt like their entire body weight of pressure on that area to stopped the hematoma and the blood that was filling up in that area.

My understanding is in my situation there is a possibility of bleeding out if a hematoma happens there. Once again, God’s grace and mercy were present.

Basic things were exhausting

I had a ton of visitors in the hospital afterward. Many of whom I was totally surprised by their visit. I realized how bad of shape my heart was in each time someone came in. I would get excited and have a lengthy conversation and then I was dead tired, pretty much out of breath and somewhat lightheaded.

That was strange, eye-opening, and scary. I’m going to get technical here, but a key measurement of the health of your heart is the ejection fraction. This is the percentage of blood that is ejected or pumped from your heart each time it beats. A healthy heart is a minimum of 55% up to around 70%.

My heart’s ejection fraction was measured at 37% after my heart attack. This explains why I would get so tired from doing basic stuff like talking or walking. A couple of weeks after being released I tried to walk from one side of Target to the other but had to tell Stephana I couldn’t do it and we had to get me back to the car.

Basic exercises were hard at first, but now getting easier

Things are slowly getting better

Two weeks from my heart attack I was set up with a cardiac rehab program. Three days per week, for one hour, I go to the rehab center and do basic exercises while connected to heart monitors and watched closely by exercise specialists.

Rehab has been humbling. I started out with a 6-minute walk and was only allowed to do four-pound weights. I really like the specialists who help me and the other rehab patients. However, I am by far the youngest person there. Most people are probably in their 60s and 70s. It’s humbling.

But I’m getting better and stronger each day. I’ve now been approved for running and interval training although initially only for 1-minute intervals with 3-minutes of walking. Running for one-minute had never been such a big deal before, but now it’s huge!

Lessons learned and next steps

Next up is to continue my rehab and turn that into a regular exercise program when rehab ends. I’ll also continue with a heart-healthy (low sodium and low cholesterol) diet and continue my meds.

I’ll have my first follow-up with my doctor on March 1st (see the update below). My heart health will be evaluated and prayerfully my ejection fraction will have improved and I’ll be back to playing basketball and all the physical activities I was doing before.

Update: Because I had an unexpected ER visit due to chest pains in February I saw my doctor then. So this initial follow-up date has been pushed back to April 8th (for an Echocardiogram) and May 23rd for my cardiologist follow-up.

I’m also praying that I can wean myself from the meds by this time next year through continuing healthy meal planning and prepping as well as regular and consistent exercising.

I am loved and so are you

I’ve learned a lot from this experience. At the top of the list is learning how much God loves me and each and every one of us. It brings me to tears imagining Him busting through whatever is necessary and fighting whatever was trying to take me out.

And then He sent person after person to show His vast love for me and my family. From visits to encouraging words, and constant prayer. Literally, people and churches and ministries from all over the country have been praying for us. We felt that and the love it came from.

On top of that people have fed us, given us gifts (monetary and other needs), stepped up to take our boys to their practices and games, and even showed up when we didn’t have anybody there to support them.

Being coached by my oldest son (aka my other rehab coach)

Overwhelmed in a great way

The list goes on and on. There were so many Facebook comments, and text messages, and voice messages that it took me weeks to get through them. I literally just found some recently that were lost in the shuffle.

Above all else, I know without a shadow of a doubt there is nothing greater than God’s love and people allowing it to be expressed through them.

I’ve learned a ton about the human heart and I’m still learning. I’ve learned about our bodies and how food impacts your body. I’ll be sharing more and more as I am making changes based on what I’m learning and the results of taking action.

Lead with love and live on purpose

At the end of the day, I’ve learned or been reminded that we only have one life here on earth. We are all going to die at some point.

When I do, I want to know I’m leaving this earth having given my best to myself, my family, my friends, and everyone God placed in my life. I want to lead with love those God entrusted me to lead. And I want to live with great purpose.

This life is precious to us, to those around us, and to God. Let’s treat it like that and treat it like every day is not promised. After what I experienced I know I will.

Question: What kind of legacy will you leave with your family? What are you doing now to lead your family with love? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

This post was Part 3 of my story. If you haven’t already, go back and read Part 1 and Part 2.
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