February is Heart Health Month
February – for such a short month, 28 Days, it occupies such a large amount of special occasions – Groundhog’s Day, President’s Day, Valentines Day, Black History month, American Heart Month, and an occasion that is truly dear to my heart- Howard’s second rebirth day- February 20th, the day I underwent Triple Open Heart Bypass Surgery. Vital Surgery – that ultimately saved the life of Howard Steven Frydman.
February is indeed American Heart Month, President Lyndon B. Johnson, first proclaimed it in 1963, as a time to raise awareness about heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke.
Some say we have all the time in the world- maybe we do, maybe not, but it sure helps if you are able to read the signs. It is now a year later, in an effort to bring a one on one awareness to heart disease, I offer my own “Howard’s Heart Story”.
The signs- for over a year, honestly maybe a bit longer, I felt out of breath doing the most menial of tasks, making the bed, climbing stairs, tying my shoes – “wooh” – I was out of breath. And on top of that I was feeling a bit of pressure on the top portion of my chest and into my left elbow. Now I’m a pretty smart guy and I knew something was going on – but like so many, you also get to feeling you are “super human” – (too many Amazing Spider-Man comics) and it’s nothing more than being too darn fat and never really doing any exercise besides my usual jaunts to the casino, my theater and restaurant reviews and sitting endlessly at my desk as General Manager at BATV as I orchestrate the television station.
As usual, I was scheduled for my regular physical examination with my G.P. – the wise, enlightened and the one guy who can read his patient like a copy of the “New England Journal of Medicine” – Dr. Edwin Fierer. Yep he be a wise guy! So I pass my yearly physical, BP is fine, cardiogram looks perfect. So he asks, “how are you feeling” – scared, I stated I was feeling some upper chest pressure into my lower arm. “You’re saying all the right things” he remarked. Who do you want to see for a cardiologist? My response- “Patrick Corcoran, M.D., Cardiovascular Disease, Interventional Cardiology specialist and all around “Good Guy”!
So off I go to Doctor Corcoran’s office- my cardiogram is fine, B. P. is ok- I’m over weight- so let’s do a tread mill stress test- failed! Next a nuclear stress test – it measures blood flow to your heart at rest and while your heart is working harder as a result of exertion or medication. The test provides images that can show areas of low blood flow through the heart and damaged heart muscle- mine provides a False Positive- hmmmmm?
Another visit to Dr. C. – he decides to do a lookie-loo at St. Francis Hospital with an angioplasty on Friday, February 17, 2017.
The Angioplasty. Dr. Corcoran and team of four men and one woman perform the procedure. I am fully awake, literally I don’t feel a thing- but I hear Dr. C. say, “you should have been here yesterday”- I don’t believe it Howard but you are 99% totally blocked”, as he shows me the video image. It literally looks like a thread is tied around the arteries- blocking off the blood. I will need a triple open heart bypass surgery. Later on a nite nurse states I have the “Widow-maker”! Lucky me!!
O.H.S. – stands for Open Heart Surgery- mine was Monday, February 20th, 2017, 7am. I remember being wheeled into the O. R. – large open, cool, sterile. I am asked to scoot me behind from the day bed to a smaller cradle. The very last thing I recall is the beehive style operation lights floating above me. That’s it- I don’t remember anything else that took place – No sense of time, place or existence- when I awake I am reborn.
The process of healing begins immediately- according to my surgeon, Dr. William Martinez, “Howard your heart was healed as soon as I added in the new arteries- now let your body heal- and that will take time”. I wobble, I sway, I teeter- clumsily I make my way from bed to chair. Within the first 24 hours they have me out of the bed. I clutch the red heart pillow that I was delivered with to offset the pain of my breastbone being divided in half to expose my heart. Sudden movements, coughing jags to bring up sputum, a sneeze, but it’s laughter that hurts the most as it rattles and agitates the chest cavity. Yet, I have to move this body. A day later, with an aide de camp, oxygen at tow, I make my first debut to the wooden hallway that borders my then current 8th floor room here at St Francis- yes small baby steps. So this is my “Howard’s Heart Story”.
A year later on my own rebirth day I now so strongly offer theses heart alarm SOS’s. Please note the signs of Cardiovascular/heart disease/heart attack: chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations (irregular heart beats, or a “flip-flop” feeling in your chest) weakness or dizziness, nausea, sweating, chest discomfort, discomfort in other areas of the upper body – pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach. If you experience any of these warning signs. Mild pain or discomfort. Pay attention to your body and the signs and call 911.
Lessons learned- keeping your weight down by adding physical activity into your daily routine, a daily walk, or even better, joining a gym. Adopt a diet low in salt, saturated and trans fats and high in unsaturated fats (fish, avocado, etc.) like the Mediterranean Diet. Avoid Smoking. And lastly, in regards to Stress in your life – stay away from situations and those negative folks that try to take you Down by getting your BP “Blood Pressure” UP – the bottom line don’t let anyone take control of your life but you!! If I have learned anything from my heart ordeal to pass on to you this past year it’s that jobs, working late, meetings, should be secondary, – family, friends and you come first- take time to enjoy life- as they say, you could not do it for a better person – You! May God Bless and take care of yourself.
Happy Heart Month!