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"It's not your head this time, it's your heart that holds your fate"...

Jack's picture

...please allow me to plagiarize these lyrics from a song by The Boss, whose title at the moment, I can't recall.

Let me explain, my initial thoughts about discussing this subject on rsn2 were pretty much, "I'm really not one to share my ailments with a group of people whom I have tons of respect for, primarily, because I hate to sound like a complainer". In this particular case, however, I believe that line of reasoning is rather absurd, if not downright selfish. Alas, to share, being finally persuaded by the gentle urgings of Blake & Elizabeth, to do so, is the right thing.

A little background, I began skating in 1992, went through the normal progression:

Recreational: Rollerblade Lightnings

Citizen Speed (as it was called at the time): Bauer XR-9 (5-wheel frame with a rec form very thin shelled tall plastic boot)

Speed: Indoor and Outdoor: Bont Hustler w/Labeda Extreme Edge, Miller Short Track HighCut w/Mogema D. Parra, Miller Short Track Low Cut w/Miller frame, plus a couple of others whose names I forget

Raced fairly actively in the mid to late 90s, both indoors and out, were I usually won in my age group (outdoors only), my indoor performance never met my expectations.

From 1995 to 2003 I averaged anywhere from 400 to 1100 miles a season on skates, plus, to a substantially lesser extent, running and biking. A personal involvement in 2004, i.e. "I got a life", severely curtailed my mileage output. While still very active, I found coming into the 2005 season, a subtle, but obvious, lack of desire to just get out and train. In fact, I hardly wanted to skate just for fun. I did two T2T training rides and very little besides that other than some running. Now, in retrospect, I realize the chief culprit was simply a lack of energy. It snuck up on me so slowly at the time, however, I simply thought it was the aging process. To put some perspective on all this, I turned 56 on July 21st.

Fast forward to approx. 2 1/2 months ago. While running, I started experiencing an aching pressure in the upper left quadrant of my chest and arm. I had been having these symptoms for about 6 months prior, but to a much lesser extent. This time, however, it wouldn't quit hurting until I began walking. The interesting part of this, is the fact that this pain was never evident when I skated, regardless of how hard I pushed myself. At the insist suggestion of Eric Armstrong, a fellow skater whom so of you know, I went to my internist to request a stress test. As it was to turn out, I owe, quite possibly my life to Eric for that fortuitous suggestion.

After relating my history to my Dr., he agreed to refer me to a cardiologist. Dr. Henry Smith and his staff administered my stress test which included the radioactive dye with photos before and after the treadmill. My treadmill run lasted 14 minutes, my BP was at 130/80, my heart rate at a 6 mph run on a 18% incline was 160 to 175, and my EKG was perfect. I walked out of the office that morning feeling pretty darn smug. At 5:00 that afternoon, however, my world view, took on a totally new perspective. Dr. Smith called to tell me that I had a 70% blockage in at least one of my coronary arteries. My initial response was, obviously, disbelief! I had experienced no symptoms whatsoever on the treadmill, in fact, I only quit because my arms were tired of hanging on to the stabilizing bar. The photos, as it was to turn out, didn't lie. After a consultation, it was decided to do a coronary catherization. The catherization was really a not unpleasant experience, just ask for plenty of relaxers :-) It did confirm the doctor's suspicions, and my worst fears, I had (have) five major blockages including one in the main jane left coronary artery which is at 85%. Not good, not good at all. This was related to me by the cardiac surgeon, Dr. Bryan Bartle, in tones that implied, "to delay treatment is to not have full realization of the possible consequenses". Hence, Monday morning at 5:30a I'll enter Moses Cone hospital for a quintuple bypass. Prayers, Good Karma, and Positive Vibes beamed in that general direction will be deeply appreciated.

Of course, in hindsight, it all makes sense. The fatigue after work, declining stamina, even not thinking as clearly as I used to. There were also little twinges, you know the usual stuff you experience as the years go by. Heart disease, not me, very low teens body fat, I'm 5' 7" and weigh 140 lbs. for pete's sake. Unfortunately, heredity got the best of me. My father's side of the family was loaded with this stuff. My relatives lived in Ohio so I hardly ever saw them, how was I to know?

If one person who even thinks they may have coronary issues, reads this and decides to get themselves checked out early enough to save their life, or to prevent surgery through lifestyle modifications or drugs, it will have been worth the effort. Truth be told, I would have most probably gone on my merry way until something disastrous happened had it not been for Eric, thanks again Dude.

If anyone is interested, when I return home, I'll be happy to relate the whole experience. I know that this is absolutely necessary, and ultimately will allow me to regain some of the energy level I possessed in year's past. That's motivation enough to endure.




skatey-mark's picture

Will be thinking of you on Monday...

Holy crap!

(After further relection...)

Holy crap!

I'm glad you decided to share your story.  I think stories like this are good in that maybe it can help someone else too.  I certainly wouldn't wish blocked arteries on anyone (well, at least not anyone that would read this - lol), but maybe if someone was having similar symptoms, this would encourage them to go get checked out.

For those who haven't met Jack, he's in phenomenal shape (at least he was last time I saw him!)  and not someone you would suspect of having heart problems...  This goes to show you that exercise and diet aren't everything -- that damned DNA can still get you.

Get well soon Jack...  And please let us know how it all goes once you're feeling up to it.  Hopefully we'll see you out skating again very soon!

- SM -

roadskater's picture

Five Bypasses on the Highway to Exercise and Recovery

Hey Jack, I'm glad you started writing. I can't wait to read more about your story. Many of us know how healthily you've lived, and it's a great lesson to all of us to not just try our best to live in healthy ways, but also to get checked and keep following, questioning, testing, reading, learning. It's especially important as we get older to not lose contact with doctors and tests, no matter how hard it is, or expensive. And among those of any less income, it's all the more important to keep insurance if at all possible! Unfortunately, people of lesser income or in jobs without any help with insurance often are tempted to, or actually do, let insurance lapse. There are times I've been without insurance and it is frightening. We're thinking of you even if you're not reading right now, and looking forward to reading your story, as it can save lives, and especially to your skating or biking along with us again soon! Skateylove, Amigo... Blake
eebee's picture

Prayers, Good Karma and Positive Vibes...

...going out to you today (and the rest of the week, and the time after that until you're back on your skates), Jack. Thank you so much for writing about what's going on with you. Oh and why didn't you tell us it was your birthday last weekend??!!  Happy belated Birthday. Since hearing your story, I have given a lot of thought to what I eat, how much I stress out (and if it's worth it), and going to the doctor's (and if it's worth it). We'll be thinking of you.
roadskater's picture

Jack Update Monday

I got word today that Jack's surgery went well and the doctor feels his prognosis is great. He's still in the Intensive Care unit, but hopefully I'll get word when he's out and into a room. From what I heard today, Wednesday would be the first time that might be good to see him, or Thursday, perhaps. In any case, if you're listening in at some point, Jack, we're thinking of you and looking forward to hearing what's going on. Skateylove, Blake

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