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What it's like to have a heart attack

February 9, 2015, 4:58 pm | This story has an Influence Score of 1587

By @mariocantin

Originally anonymously posted on Quora.com

I was working in London and did a normal day's work on the day in question, feeling fit and healthy (well, as fit and healthy as a guy in his 40s with a sedentary job gets to feel, I guess).  As I left work I did feel a very slight shortness of breath, like the very beginning of a cold coming on, or maybe a chest infection.  I'm used to that sort of thing, once a year maybe, same as most people, and didn't think any more of it.

I went back to the hostel I was staying at and decided to go in to town and have a walk and maybe a pint.  I went on the Tube, feeling ok, maybe a bit tired.  When I got off I was in one of the London Tube stations which is quite deep underground - I forget which one - and has very long escalators up to the surface.  I ran up these - or at least strode up them quite fast - as is my habit, but when I got to the top it seemed to take an absolute age to get my breath back.  Again, I felt this was just a chest infection coming on, a nuisance but nothing more.

I began walking but just couldn't seem to recover properly from the climb out of the Tube station.  I started to feel a bit sick and stopped to sit on some steps for a while.  I kind of recovered ok at that time and decided to press on.  I went into a bar for a drink.  They had some amateur stand-up comedy going on.  I got a pint and sat down but just didn't feel like drinking it and just sipped a bit.  All around me people were in groups, cheering their friends doing stand-up at the mike (not a single funny one amongst them).  The little beer I was drinking was just making me feel worse.  I eventually forced myself up and stumbled past the person at the mike and out the door behind them and went into the toilets and splashed water on my face.

This started feeling very weird now.  I have many years experience of being very drunk, or being very stoned, or being ill, or just needing to get some fresh air.  I usually recover quite quickly, panic over, but this time I just couldn't seem to 'kick start' myself.  I just felt worse and worse, like I was having a really bad reaction to drugs or something.  This is after no more than half a pint of lager, nothing else at all.

With a massive effort I managed to get out onto the street again.  I still kept expecting myself to recover and get back to the hostel for a good night's sleep and be ok in the morning.  Instead, I had to sit down again.  I sat on some steps which happened to be outside a gym which people were going in and out of and someone very quickly asked me if I was ok. I was slumped with my head between my legs in a kind of faint recovery position.  All I could think was that I had to tell them I wasn't drunk!  They obviously believed me because they went straight inside and got the receptionist to call an ambulance.

By this time I was getting virtually no benefit from breathing.  I imagine this is what it feels like to be waterboarded.  I felt like I was half-drowning.  I would take deep breaths and it was like breathing through a wet face-cloth in the bath (if you've ever tried that!)  I didn't feel pain or panic, but it was really clear that something was badly wrong.  The thought of a heart attack never actually crossed my mind because, in my ignorance, I thought that a heart attack involved clutching your chest in pain, gasping a couple of incoherent words and collapsing unconscious, perhaps pulling a table over in the process.  There was nothing to indicate to me that there was a problem with my heart, more like my lungs weren't working.  (I have a slightly better idea of how it all works now, but I'm still a complete medical retard to be honest).

They took me inside the fitness centre place while we waited for the ambulance.  I was really struggling now.  I remember lying on the floor with my legs up on a chair, apparently trying to squeeze every bit of oxygen I could get from my body.

When the ambulance arrived I was quite calm but very unaware.  I felt I was answering their questions quite clearly, but they seemed to ask the same things again so I guess I was slurring or something.  This was the first time I heard any reference to 'heart attack'.  They gave me an inhaler spray which opens the blood vessels a bit and I was quite relaxed.  I remember everyone asking me over and over about chest pains and I really didn't have any, but they gave me morphine at the hospital, I'm sure. 

I was incredibly lucky to have had a heart attack within range of the country's centre of excellence for cardiac care at Guys & St Thomas' Hospital on Westminster Bridge Road.  Without me being that aware of what was going on (though never actually unconscious), they operated on me really quickly.  Straight up through the groin (maybe that's what the morphine was for - it was certainly the most painful part of the whole thing).  They found a blockage and inserted a stent (a little tube which props open a blockage) and it was like opening a window in a very stuffy room - I could breath again.  Or rather, the oxygen I was breathing was actually getting around my body again.

This was a Wednesday and they kept me in hospital till Saturday.  I slept a lot and had to stumble around a bit after the groin intrusion, but managed to go and have a shower and really was back to normal when I left.

Now, the next bit always makes people in real life go, Whaaat? but the thing is... I went back to work on the Monday.  This was not some kind of superhuman feat, I can assure you.  The fact is, I was fine, and I still am (though I imagine it could happen again any time really if I'm unlucky).  I have sprained my ankle in the past tripping over a telephone cable (when telephones used to have cables) and been completely disabled for a week!  I've twisted my back moving a washing machine and not been able to move off the couch for several days.  I'm not one for overcoming pain or illness through sheer force of will, believe me, but in the event, the heart attack gave me less of a problem than a mild cold.  That is, without a doubt, due to very prompt and supremely professional treatment, and a reasonable state of health to start with I guess, but it did get on my nerves a bit to be treated like an invalid by some people when I was perfectly fine... I mean not even a twinge or a bit of light-headedness.

I appreciate that I was very lucky, but there it is for those that are interested.  :-)


Source: www.quora.com. Link: http://www.quora.com/What-does-it-feel-like-to-have-a-heart-attack

Republished with permission, as per Quora's Terms of Service, under the subsection titled, "Quora's Licenses to You".


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