Friday, April 20, 2012

Healing Heart

This is my new mission, to heal my husband's heart.  At just 37 years old he is now the proud owner of two stents in his left descending coronary artery.  A quick google search will tell you that artery is the 'widow maker' and his was over 90% blocked by soft squishy plaque.  It was so clogged that the top part of his heart was not beating at all and the small amount of blood flowing through his artery was just enough to prevent permanent damage to the heart muscle.  In so many ways all I can say is we are totally and truly blessed, lucky and all that jazz.  A heart attack in that area is usually fatal and people that do survive almost always have a poor quality of life if too much tissue is destroyed.  We have a second chance at life, and we need to make the most of it!

I am working on the 'heal his heart' plan of attack. Since he has an inflammatory disease we figure the first order of business is to reduce inflammation. We are looking into a cow share, but until then we will buy lean cuts of meat if it is conventional, grass fed for less expensive things like ground beef, but also GF for fattier things as a change of pace. I figure if we are already paying $10 a pound for a rib eye, what is a few more dollars to get it grass fed since we only eat them on rare occasions anyway. We are going to eliminate bacon and other fatty pork and chicken products and limit chicken in general. He'll eat mostly beef (fat trimmed if not GF) and seafood. Obviously no grains, and very limited starchy veggies, stick to the less starchy veggies for variety.

He had already given up sugar other than berries on occasion. And will continue with no sugar/low carb to help reduce his triglycerides (they were over 500!- yes this is extremely high, but they had been over 2000 at one point) We are resigned to the fact that he may need to take Tricor or Triglide forever. Since his overall cholesterol was high, but not insanely high at 244 I am not sure he needs the statin, but he wants to take it for a while until he is healthier. I would prefer he didn't but that is something that he has to research on his own. The hospital is was in did not do a measured LDL, so because his triglycerides were so high we don't know what his LDL is. His HDL is low at 31.

Before and After stent placement

Looking at the images you can even see how his other arteries were taking up the slack for the blockage.  It is very dark above the blockage, and that vessel is very thick.  After the repair it is thinner and not as dark.  On the full image you can see that the LAD is non-existent lower on the heart in the before picture and very visible after.  When the doctor inserted the first stent, the plaque was so soft it oozed through the mesh and the artery was still blocked too much, so he placed a second stent inside the first.  This seems to have worked to restore the blood flow.  It has also completely eliminated his chest pain.  His pain was NOT typical of a heart attack or even angina, so everyone thought it was not his heart.  They thought maybe an ulcer or something from the medications he takes for his psioratic arthritis.  One doctor decided to send him for additional testing as a baseline since he has such a strong family history of heart disease.  The nuclear stress test revealed what the regular stress test and EKG did not, he had a large area, 40% under stress, that was not receiving enough blood.  The NST is scored, just like anything else, and the cardiologist said anything over an 8 is concerning, my husband's was 33!

So, we are working to do everything we can to prevent another trip to the cath lab.  Can we be 100% certain it won't happen again?  No of course not, but we sure as heck can make sure we do everything we can to keep him healthy.  He will always have some amount of inflammation, which is the root cause of heart disease and plaque accumulation.  This means our primary focus is to reduce the inflammation.  The good part is that the way he needs to eat for that will also help restore his lipid levels to a safer range.  

In his own words, 

Once again I want to thank everyone for the well wishes and prayers. The cardiologist called it the widow maker. The top half of my heart was only getting enough blood to prevent tissue damage. It was not beating. Only the bottom half was beating. I'm lucky that the one doctor at Bassett scheduled me the nuclear stress test at FMH. Two trips to the ER and one to primary care and told my heart was fine. I could have bought the farm from this at anytime.

Yesterday was the first day of the rest of his life.  I hope that it is a long and healthy one!


mamamia said...

Praise God for one doctor who looked beyond what the others had, and for modern medicine to help restore your hubby to good health!

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