Workin’ Too Hard Can Give You a Heart Attackackackackackack

Len Gutman (October 25, 2012)

It’s Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011 and I am lucky to be alive. I don’t mean that in some symbolic sense, but rather in the real, honest-to-goodness medical sense. Let me say it again so there is no confusion — I am lucky to be alive.

Ten days ago I had a heart attack. I can’t tell you if it was a big heart attack or a little heart attack because my cardiologist said there is no such thing as a little heart attack. Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way first. I am 45 year’s old, I jog about three miles, three days per week. I eat very little meat (some fish) and the occasional grass-fed burger. I do not have a stressful job (or life for that matter). I am relatively thin (Prior to last Saturday I was 5-9, 158 pounds). Yet I had an 80-90 percent blockage in my Left Inter-ventricular Artery.

The fact is we cannot escape family history. My father had a heart attack, his father had a heart attack, and his father before him probably had a heart attack as well. After my father had his open-heart surgery about 8 years ago I went to the cardiologist for the first time and he told me to take a baby aspirin every day and come back to see him in five years (I did not). My cholesterol has been high for years, but I have been dutifully taking statins along with my aspirin and I figured with my lifestyle I was doing all the right things. Clearly I was not.

But this blog post is not about looking back, but rather it’s about looking toward the future. Thanks to the good folks at Medtronic I have three capable stents propping open my newly cleared artery and I’m taking a host of drugs to nudge my heart back into solid working order. My cardiologist says I can run a marathon one day (though I will not, thank you) and as long as I take my meds and eat right I should die of something other than a heart attack. I will follow his instructions to the tee and am fortunate to have a wonderful life partner for this journey who has already proven in these past few days that she is a more than capable low-fat, low-sodium chef!

But I have some fucking things to say!

  • First and foremost, I love my wife Leslie and my son Connor more than life itself. This too is not a symbolic statement — I mean it. I am no longer afraid to die, but rather my only fear is leaving my family too soon. I promise to take care of myself even more than I did in the past to ensure my family has the pleasure of having me around for all of life’s amazing events going forward.
  • Colors seem brighter to me now and food tastes better. This may be psychological or may be a result of the sinus surgery that may or may not have had a role to play in my condition. I don’t really care.
  • I am no longer going to find excuses (time, money, etc.) for not doing the things I want to do. We are planning a trip to Europe next summer and not only are these plans still on, you can bet we are not going to skimp on the hotel rooms. Expect to hear about my kayak trip someday soon. I imagine my 2005 Honda Accord is not going to be my primary form of transportation much longer. Life is just too damn short.
  • Aside from family, the most important thing in the world is friendship. I have nearly 600 “friends” on Facebook, and many if them have checked in on me over the past week. My close friends have called or come to see me. You can’t put a price on that. If you haven’t called or come to see me yet, please do. My “door” is ALWAYS open. I love you all and am lucky to have you in my life.
  • Despite my near death experience, I am sorry to report to my religious friends that the old adage that there are no atheists in foxholes is not true in my case. I believe even more now that life is random and that there is no god. I’m great with this and will continue to live a moral life because it’s the right thing to do.
  • If you are over 40, get yourself checked out by a cardiologist. I did so many right things, but because I did not follow up with my cardiologist I have permanent damage to my heart which would have been prevented had they found and corrected the blockage prior to my “event.” By the way, my “event” didn’t hurt. I had all the signs (radiating heat, pain down both arms, cold sweat, indigestion and anxiety). I worked through it, denied it was a heart attack, and waited two days to go see a doctor and only then because Leslie insisted. She saved my life, as did my primary care physician for calling 9-1-1 last Monday morning. The nurses at the hospital told me lots of men ignore the tell-tale signs of a heart attack so I am not alone, but my cardiologist said 50 percent of men who have a heart attack at my age die immediately or within six hours. I played Russian roulette and I will never forgive myself, but I am not going to dwell on it. Stay present my friends.

That’s it for now. I’m sure I’ll have lots more to say going forward. I will be taking about six weeks off work per doctor’s orders, and during this time I will eat right, go to cardiac rehab to strengthen my heart, catch up on reading and films (I still have 75 films on the AFI list to get through and no damn heart attack is going to keep me from this ridiculous quest). I expect after a little while I will be able to meet up with friends for lunch or coffee and I will cherish every moment of those meetings.

What I’m looking forward to today: sleeping next to my wife, watching Arrested Development on Netflix with Connor, reading the stack of magazines piled on my end table, resting, visiting with friends…and of course…being ALIVE.

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21 thoughts on “Workin’ Too Hard Can Give You a Heart Attackackackackackack

  1. Len,
    I am very grateful that you are still with us Len. Thank you very much for the detailed and candor update. Sending you healing energies. Will swing by and visit very soon.

    Care always,
    Sara

  2. Len:

    Heard last week you were in the hospital and obviously am glad you’ve recovered to summarize with trademark vigor and wit. Nothing more to say other than it will be good to see you when the next opportunity presents.

    Oh, and that I know all about the heredity thing… remind me sometime to tell you of my age-39 adventure.

    Take care,

    Peter

  3. It’s amazing what it takes before we appreciate, at the level we should, all that we have. Very glad that you’re recovering and are able to provide a lesson to us all! Take care and have a hell of a journey ahead. 🙂

  4. Len — All I can say is “Wow”. So glad you posted this. I have been thinking of you and wish you a happy and speedy recovery.

  5. Len, I for one am very thankful that God has bigger plans for you (regardless of your feelings on Him, I believe this wholeheartedly). I hope this post freaks a lot of people out, and I look forward to hearing more about how you’re living it up (what kind of car are you going to get?)! Take care and give your beautiful wife a big kiss.

    There are a few doctors out there now who offer a heart attack and stroke screening that goes beyond a stress test on a treadmill. There are tons of people who do just fine on the stress test and are still heart attacks waiting to happen. Two doctors that I know are: Dr. Patel at http://www.azprevention.com in Gilbert and Dr. Glick at http://www.thehealthquest.com in Anthem.

  6. Holy sh*#%. I am shocked, but intensely happy that you’re still around and can share some of these wise tips with us. I am going to forward this to everyone I know, but ESPECIALLY my husband, who really, really needs to hear this. His father had an emergency triple bypass a couple of years ago, and while Eric takes care of himself, he doesn’t live for the moment or take enough time to enjoy the wonderful life we have together. I hope he takes your lessons to heart. Thanks for the blog, Len, and thanks for sticking around.

  7. Thanks to Geri for sharing your message. So sorry you were scared straight, so to speak. But glad to see you’ve gotten the message. I’d re-post your “If you’re over 40” paragraph over and over again. It think it’s got all the pertinent details that are worth repeating.

  8. Len, Thanks for sharing. I’m relieved and thrilled you are okay. I hope we can get together for coffee when you’re feeling up to it. Please give Leslie an extra huge hug. From my own experience, I know it’s not easy on her. Keep on healing and keep us posted.

  9. Len, I’m so sorry to hear about this but gladdened by how well you’re handling it! I’m not frequenting Facebook too much these days, so this is the first I’ve heard about your heart attack.

    I know we don’t talk often, but I think of you as a good part of my move to Phoenix. We need to catch up sometime soon. Take care! (And that’s not just an idle sentiment.) Pete

  10. Len,
    Sheesh! Great to hear that you are recovering and that you have gained a healthy perspective from all this. When you are feeling up to it, let’s meet at B&N or go out for a healthy bite!
    I’m calling the dr. today to schedule my overdue yearly appointment!
    Best and get well,
    Doug

  11. you outa know by now…

    I suppose I’ll be making a visit to the desert this winter. I can’t see my future with 1 less friend. If I know Leslie, she’s taking extra good care of you. Enjoy the new lifestyle! You have nothing to worry about,, only the good die young. 😉

  12. So glad to know that you are alive and kickin! Looks like your number wasn’t quite up. Get well soon and lets try and get a coffee or dinner date on the calendar. It has been way too long!

  13. Sending nothing but positive vibes your way. After all we went through with Ryan’s cancer, I can imagine a bit of your journey. Thank you for the reminder of how wonderful life is and all that there is to truly live it.

    p.s. We are enormous Arrested Development addicts!

  14. Len,
    What a story! I’m sorry you went through this. But, as you mentioned, it has given you a new sense of gratitude. I don’t wish this kind of eye-opener on anyone, but it sounds like you are handling it in a graceful way — by reaching out, telling your story, telling your friends and family how much they mean to you. Inspiring….
    Cecile

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