You're Not Exempt From Non-Heart Emergencies
Last updated: September 2022
How did my heart failure and previous incidents cause me to mistake a stroke for heart-related complications? That’s a good question and one I will answer for you so you don’t make the same mistake I did.
A new mindset
In the past, I have had two heart attacks and went into v-fib once nearly killing me. I have started to think that all of the events I will ever have will be related to my heart. You and I need to get out of that mindset. We have a whole body that can have issues, not just our hearts. It’s good to focus on managing the problem at hand, but other things can go wrong.
So, here's what happened. I was sitting on my couch watching TV when I felt my heart start to have a fluttery feeling (I get those feelings randomly). I have caught them on the monitors when in the hospital and it's usually just a few beats of v-tach that resolves itself. It has never been enough for my defibrillator to record the event or shock me.
This time was different
This time it was a bit different. The fluttering feeling did not go away as quickly and was a bit more pronounced. Almost instantly, I started to feel lightheaded and dizzy. This is how I felt when I went into v-fib. I prepared myself for a shock from my defibrillator. I was feeling my pulse and could only feel a beat every few seconds. At this point, I thought maybe I went into a-fib. Thankfully, my wife was here and was able to call 911 when I told her something was going on with my heart.
Quick progression of symptoms
In a very short time, I started to become very weak. I tried to walk to the bathroom but was extremely shaky. Thankfully I didn’t fall over. In my mind, I assume I looked like a newborn deer trying to walk for the first time.
Once I sat back down, I started to lose the ability to use my left arm and leg. When I was trying to answer questions to my wife for 911, it became very difficult to talk. I was only able to say a word or short phrase that felt like I was forcing myself to say.
Having a stroke
At this point, I realized I was having a stroke. I told my wife to tell 911 I was having a stroke. I have worked on stroke units before and knew that time was essential. When EMS arrived they thought I was having a seizure despite telling them what was going on. They did call ahead for a code stroke to the hospital.
Once I arrived, I had a CT with contrast which gives you the weirdest feeling throughout your body. They found a clot in an area where they were unable to do a clot retrieval. I was wishing the three-hour window for a clot-busting drug.
Before the drug was given, I was unable to move my left side and still had difficulty talking.
Within 10 minutes of having the drug injected, I was pretty much back to normal. I had no issues with moving my left side and my speech was getting better, which resolved pretty quickly after that. This incident could have seriously altered my life and my family's life. Thankfully I was aware of what was going on and able to get to the hospital quickly with the help of my wife.
Keep yourself safe
Just because we have heart failure, doesn’t mean we are exempt from non-heart-related issues. So please be aware of your body and keep yourself safe.
Have you experienced shortness of breath in the last week?