This is a true story about my battle with heart disease. I was very heavily exposed to Agent Orange during 1967–68, my year in Vietnam. My heart troubles started almost as soon as I left the service. The VA Cardiologists I have seen (too many to count) have mentioned my heart problems could be related to my family’s hereditary. Regardless of how it occurred, I have dealt with this condition for 50+ years. I believe that’s a miracle in and of itself.
When any doctor looks at my medical chart for the first time, they are amazed! You see, I am a freak of nature by a couple of non-conforming standards:
One, I do not have any stitches in my chest, which means I haven’t had open heart bypass surgery, at least not yet. No stitches = no zippers!
Two, I have had five angioplasty operations in 22 years, but no external scars. I am very much a medical enigma, according to my cardiologists.
Ever since I was first diagnosed with heart disease in 1995, I have taken cholesterol medication and a variety of blood pressure drugs, among others, to help control my constant angina attacks.
My Primary Care doctors over the years have always consulted with my cardiologists to coordinate my medicines. They also made sure I was getting the right dietary and exercise instructions.
The first of my stent implants was in October 1999 to my right coronary artery, four years after I complained of chest pains. Along with exercise and diet restrictions, I stayed active, in shape, and had no further heart problems until October 2010. That’s when I learned my stent had closed and was again causing angina attacks. So, I went back to surgery. They were able to re-open the stent and had to insert a second stent, to open another part of the same artery that had narrowed.
This is a picture of a human heart. I am explaining my heart problems and how lucky I have been. I haven’t had open heart surgery, but I do have nine stents placed in multiple places throughout my heart.
After this second angioplasty, I had checkups every 6 months. The other stents were performed in February of 2013, May of 2018, July of 2019 when I had two stents implanted in my left coronary artery, the widow maker. In March of 2021, I had to undergo angioplasty to re-open a 100% closed right coronary artery in the back of my heart.
It took three different stents to various parts of the right coronary artery. But the 3-hour operation was, according to my cardiologist, a complete success. New medical technology has made it easier to repair 100% closed arteries.
My health has always been important to me. I exercise by hitting the “Y” at least 4 times a week in cold weather. During the other 3 seasons, I enjoy walking in a community park near me.
They have established three trails for walking, each about 1½ miles distance. I used to make it a point to walk all three trails each day, but I would lessen my walking on the weekends because we always seem to have some function to attend.
Now in my 70s, what happens to my frequency, distance, and stamina, is what seems to happen to everyone as we age. My body parts started surrendering to gravity. I have developed nagging arthritis in my neck, both knees, and hips. I can’t walk as fast as I did or go as far as I want. I have a good amount of trouble going up and down stairs, too.
Although I don’t go far, or fast, walking still helps me stave off old age. I can still use hand weights to keep up my agility and strength. Sometimes it is hard to put exercises together two days in a row, but I just modify my activity level. I do what I can when I can!
Now, my only goal is to stay healthy and active for as long as possible… with no zippers!
Thanks for reading!