In the past few weeks there have been three letters about heart attacks and its symptoms. One was a letter by Sheryl Love, the senior director of development for the American Heart Association in Florence.
In all of these articles, much attention was given to the traditional symptoms and warnings: chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath and weakness. I think it would be a service to describe my heart attack.
I am 75 years old and in excellent physical condition. I can work most guys half my age into the ground. In the course of my job and my normal activities, I walk a lot, and I walk at a good clip. A while back I noticed that I would get a tingling in my jaw when walking fast. It would go away when I slowed down a bit, so I just chalked it up to my age.
On Feb. 15, I was watching a movie at home and fell asleep in the chair. I awoke at about 10:30 p.m. and had an ache in my jaw and in my left arm. I chalked it up to falling asleep in the chair, and, since it was late, I went to bed.
The ache got worse. I then remembered an article I had read in the Morning News a couple of years ago about silent heart attacks, and said to myself, “Weber, you’re having a heart attack.” I got up, took an aspirin and told my wife I needed to go to the emergency room.
On the way there, the pain went away and I thought maybe I had made a mistake. But I decided to get checked anyway. The attendants in the emergency room determined that I did indeed have a heart attack.
I never had chest pain, shortness of breath or weakness; only the ache in my jaw and arm. Further testing revealed that I had three arteries that were 90% blocked and another that was well on the way.
On Feb. 18, I had a quadruple bypass. Because I had recognized the heart attack and got immediate treatment, I had no heart damage. I was walking 12 hours after I came to, went home on Feb. 22, and went back to work on March 4. I needed no rehab. My only restriction was a 20-pound weightlifting limit.
After my surgery, I noticed that when I was walking, I no longer had the tingling in my jaw. I then realized that it had been a warning sign, and I had not recognized it. By the middle of March, you would never know I had a heart attack except for the scars, and by May I was cleared to do anything I wanted.
LAWRENCE D. WEBER