Mend My Broken Heart

A defining moment in life happened last weekend. Saturday morning workout at the gym. Aerobics with weights and stability-balls. I had attended these classes before so I didn't think much of it. Not until around the 45th minute of the session and just after a set of power push-ups. I suddenly felt chest-pains. 


I slowly sat up on my mat while others manoeuvered into planking positions. My posture gradually took on a fetal-position while my classmates braced themselves into rigid body poses. Dee, my wife looked at me curiously, wondering what on earth I was up to.

As the class ended and dispersed, some of the group members showed concern and asked if I was alright. I brushed them off with a smile thinking that what I had was merely pain from tweaked chest muscles. I anticipated a hot shower at home and a warm bowl of chicken-rice-porridge would help reboot my system. However, to just walk back to the car with wife beside me as support took some effort. 

Winter had come early this year. Remnants of warm air and leafy-green trees were a distant memory. Despite the bitter cold, the weekend was anticipated to be productive and fun. A meeting with a potential client, tea in the late afternoon with close mates, and even a remembrance gathering on Sunday for a lovely friend we lost a year before. I was ever so determined to not let lingering pain get in the way. But it was not to be. After the hot shower and one gulp of congee, I knew my body was out of whack. 

A quick visit to the walk-in clinic had me consulting with the doctor. He assured us that it was more likely a muscle injury (thank the heavens above) but he wouldn't take any chances and advised me to go straight to the emergency-unit at a nearby hospital (there goes my day). 

So with sunken heart and pain still in chest, Dee drove me to East General Hospital. Fearing the worst, the triage and registration unit of EGH made quick work of updating my file and blood test. Another few minutes in the waiting area and I was called in again for the final evaluation. The verdict: I had suffered a heart-attack.  

Broken hearted and discomfort ever so evident in chest, East General had me transported by ambulance to St. Mikes Hospital where their resident chief cardiologist with team and high-tech surgical machines were waiting. Hmmm, I never thought I would ever experience lying on a stretcher, speeding through town in an ambulance with sirens screaming and lights flashing. I must have been a serious case!

Out from the ambulance, through the corridors on a gurney, a quick briefing with the cardio-team and onto the cold, hard, operating table.  Truly the stuff of ER! I knew what was to become of me. A procedure called angioplasty would open up my blocked arteries and place stents/tubes to keep the vessels open. Oooh.. I felt them spread ointment on my groin... looks like they'll be pushing the probes and balloon contraptions through from my inner thighs! But wait.. I then felt the sensation on my right-wrist. Seems like they found a shorter route to my heart. Whatever option you choose, doc, just do your best to fix me. And thanks!

My bout with heart-attack turned out to be severe. Ten blockages, three stents, and another two scheduled to be implanted later in the month. Just looking at the report and diagrams made me feel ill. It's a miracle I was still able to walk and talk by my own will earlier that day. My cheerful and refreshed outlook upon coming out from surgery was not an indication of what I had gone through and what could have transpired. I try not to let this episode in life discourage me. Let it be a valuable lesson... even though I felt cheated since I had, to the best of my efforts, ate healthy and did regular exercise. 

The comments from the medical staff were all similar, and on seeing my fellow patients in Cardio Care Unit, I understood. I was too young to suffer from such an attack. My wiser and better-half thought otherwise. It was best that my disease was detected and treated at a relatively earlier age, allowing ample time to heal, rather than suffer the attack at a stage in life when I would be too frail to recover. Positive thinking will get you far.

The challenge ahead... reduce my sodium intake to the point where meals become tasteless. Trim the fat off my steak till the juices no longer flow. Eliminate my cream and cholesterol-filled desserts. Sacrifice my couch-time watching "The Walking Dead”, and instead take the time to walk briskly and lively. I've been given an engine overhaul, and this once sleek and shiny machine is now ready to ride again until all roads are fully travelled.  


I write the last words to this posting with so many people in mind to thank, many of them I didn't get a chance to know by first-name-basis. Thank you Dr Fountas for your quick response to my health risk. Dr Buller and The Team, kudos for your miraculous work. The paramedics of the EMS, hard-working and continuously upbeat. The numerous nurses who maintained high standards, despite some failed attempts to extract blood from my veins... I have a bruised needle-prick for every one that missed. And to the many friends that dropped by... I hope they didn't peek under my hospital-gown. Last but not least, to my better-half Dee, always the healthier, happier, more positive factor... forever beside me till the final call for visiting-hours.  

December 2013

© Prakoso Sastrowardoyo 2012