By Chuck Baier
On Sunday, March 1st, I was washing the car under a shade tree in the marina when suddenly I was just not feeling quite right. It only took me about one minute to realize what was happening to me. All of the classic symptoms presented themselves in a textbook fashion. I first felt like I had simply overdone it a bit and sat down in the car to rest. Very quickly things began to escalate. The pressure in the chest was increasing, the pain spreading to my left arm. I was having a lot of difficulty breathing and it was getting worse. I had this overwhelming feeling of dread and by now had broken out into a cold sweat. There was no doubt I was having a heart attack and it was serious. I was able to walk back to the boat and get Susan to tell her something was very wrong and we needed to go to the hospital and now. We considered calling 911, which should be the first thing you do, but decided that based on our location, by the time the ambulance arrived and diagnosed what we already knew, we could be at the hospital, which was not far away. It was a quick ride to Seven Rivers Hospital which fortunately has an excellent cardiac care unit.
On the ride to the hospital I considered that this might be my last day on the planet. I remember thinking that this would be very unfortunate since there were still a lot of things I wanted to do. I also remember thinking that if I didn't survive it would be very hard on Susan and my family and friends, and I didn't want to put everyone through that. We arrived quickly at the ambulance entrance and they wheeled me in and began working on me. All of the drugs, oxygen and hard work the doctors and nurses were doing seemed to be ineffective in stopping the pain and making my breathing easier. After about 20 minutes, the pain did ease up, but only a very little. An ambulance arrived and I was rolled off the table and into it so I could be transported to another nearby hospital that had the equipment and facilities needed to help me. It was short ride, but seemed much longer.
The doctors had determined that I had a 98% blockage in one artery, 95% in another and at least 40% in a third. That didn't leave much working plumbing. From the ambulance, I was moved immediately into the Cath Lab, placed on a table and the Doctor went to work right away. I was awake during the entire process and the next few minutes was an experience that I find difficult to put into words. The Doctor went in through a small incision in the groin area and ran a stent up to my heart. Once the first one was in place, all of the pressure, all of the pain and all of the symptoms just disappeared. I wasn't sure whether I was really feeling this or I had just finally succumbed. With the second stent in place, I truly felt that I could just get off the table, thank the Doctor and go home. It was absolutely incredible. But that didn't happen. I was kept in a cardiac care unit for three days to be sure my heart would be able to handle the increased blood flow that it probably hadn't had in quite some time. And also to make sure I had no reaction to the multitudes of medication I was now taking.