Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Wake-Up Call

We received this beautifully written and moving story yesterday from our friend and neighbor, the singer/songwriter Cindy Alexander. It's an important reminder to all of us to pay attention to the signals that our body sends us, and not to neglect or minimize them.


I know that Chip is hesitant to share his story in fear of seeming dramatic, but leave it to the TMI Drama Queen (me) to be the one that truly believes that this is a story that needs to be told because it could save someone's life.

It all started about six months ago. Chip was feeling a lot of tension and tightness in his chest, back, neck and in his words it was "like I needed a massage all the time." When the sensation didn't go away, we made an appointment with our general practitioner for a check-up. The EKG and chest xray were clear, and although his cholesterol was on the high side, Chip was told that he should let go of the concern that he could drop dead of a heart attack, and was given a prescription for a muscle relaxer with a side note to drop the cheeseburgers and fries. Let me say here that Chip is always hesitant to take medication and never even filled the prescription. He continued to feel "tightness" on and off but wasn't concerned because he attributed it to muscle aches due to the daily lifting of our twin daughters.

Let me add that looking at Chip, you would never think he had health issues. He looks at least 10 years younger than his age, is not overweight, and plays drums for 4-5 hours consecutively, two to three nights a week.

Fast forward to last week. Chip was walking up the stairs - just a few steps. He put his hand to his chest and said "there it is again - that tightness." But this time it was much stronger. He told me he felt like he just climbed several hundred stairs rather than just plain several. That was it.... I made the next available appointment with a renowned cardiologist who has taken care of other members of my family.

Dr. Ron Karlsberg saw Chip this past Friday afternoon, May 7th. After taking a medical history (which includes the fact that both of Chip's parents had heart related issues and his brother had heart surgery at 50), a new EKG and some blood work, we were told our options. We could wait until Monday to do a stress test (since it was already late Friday afternoon and no one was available to perform the test), and if that came back positive he'd have to go for an angiogram. However, if he had any more chest "tightness" he must proceed directly to the ER where they would monitor him over the weekend and probably make him wait until Monday to do a stress test, we'd have to wait for the results, and then possibly do an angiogram. OR, we could take a new test (CT coronary angiogram) and see pictures of his heart which would reveal blockages (or the lack thereof) in 15 minutes. We were also told of the very slight possibility that the CT could miss blockages in certain areas. But after considering all of the options, coupled with our deep concern that something just wasn't right, within the hour, Chip was undergoing a test NOT covered by our insurance and not generally approved in medical community because of its ramifications on both the business and practice of medicine. Bottom line: It was the best $1500 we ever spent. We knew in FIFTEEN MINUTES that one of his arteries was almost completely closed. We were at Cedars about 20 minutes later and Dr. Karlsberg arrived a few minutes after. By 6:30 pm Chip was in the Cath Lab and by 8:30 he was recovering in a hospital room with two stents in his heart. Chip dodged a bullet. His life was saved. There is so much synchronicity in this story that I can't get into it....but we were ALL saved.

This was the best Mother's Day present I could have asked for: my husband has a new lease on life, and so does our family. We won't look back.


PS: On Friday, before we saw Dr. Karlsberg, Chip decided to test his heart by running up and down the stairs that run next next to our home - a good 40 or so of them. Point of interest: He felt NO chest pain and was not out of breath. At some point, his wallet fell out of his pocket. By the time we got to our appointment, he had no ID, no cash, no credit.... While Chip was undergoing his surgery, I received a call that someone had left a note on our door that they found the wallet, turned it in to a local school and it was locked up safe and sound. What a great day for Chip. Angels everywhere. :)

Cindy adds: "I hope his story will inspire others to listen to their bodies and not take a Dr.'s word before their own gut feeling." Thanks for the reminder, Cindy. We're happy for the happy outcome--on all counts! Our best wishes to Chip for a speedy recovery, And thanks for allowing me to share this story with readers of The Buddha Diaries.


TaraDharma said...

wow. wow. how fortunate that they headed back to the doc. I will add this to the many stories I know of personally where the 'patient' knows something is wrong and doesn't give up until the diagnosis is made. It as happened to me, and many others I love. You have GOT to be your own advocate. Both for yourself (you know, those nagging little voices that you don't want to cause any trouble, it's probably nothing -) and for the medical machinery that doesn't always have a quick answer (no reason they should).

Great story, all around!

robin andrea said...

An excellent story with the very best outcome. Always good to listen to your body.