OpEd in MetroWest Daily NewS, December 8, 2013.
NO LONGER ON LINE, SO HERE IT IS
Listen to your Body … Please 911 words
Martin G Evans
I first felt mild chest pains when walking in the old square in Wroclaw, Poland. It was an August afternoon after my lunchtime nap On this walk, my aim was to go through the square and under the highway to see and take some photographs of the Renoma art deco shopping center which was about 15 minutes away. By the time I had walked for five minutes from the hotel to the post office on the South East corner of the square I was experiencing some chest pains. Oh, I thought, it's that food and beer I had had for lunch – attributing, incorrectly, the cause to indigestion.
This seemed to me to be the issue because we had had a strenuous, at least compared to my typical sedentary life, two weeks in central Europe during which I had no problems at all despite long walks in Budapest, Krakow, and Wroclaw.
I sat down and rested and ,after a while,the pains went away. I continued my walk going through the underpass under the main road that circles Wroclaw old town. I got to the department store complex and some slight pain returned. I rested, took my photographs, and then returned to the square for an afternoon snack and then the hotel. During this time I experienced some discomfort but was able to complete my self-imposed assignments
The next day, the same thing happened at the same time. The morning walking around went without any problem. But after lunch and a nap and soon after I sallied forth for some more photographing: this time another art-deco building. As soon as I had crossed the square, I began to have chest pains. These behaved the same way as their predecessors, easing when I rested and returning as I continued to walk.
That evening, I casually mentioned that I thought I had some heartburn with all this heavy Polish food..
The next two days were symptom free. On the first, we had a road trip to Dresden so most of the day was being chauffeured around with only a couple of hour of walking. I had no problems at all. The following day we left for Boston. In the morning we walked round the old town for the last time. In the morning, the distance walked that would have triggered chest pains on previous days left me untroubled. The heavy lifting of luggage at the airports and the heavier lifting of our duty free purchases had no impact on my activity, neither did the six hour flight. I got home without incident.
The next day, Sunday, we then loaded the car for our trip to the my wife's family cottage in central New Hampshire. We arrived at Alton soon after noon. Our daughter and her children were delighted to see us. We took the new kayak out of its chrysalis; loaded it on top of the car; drove down to the beach; unloaded the kayak. All without any problem.
It was later at the beach that I had my next and most severe chest pains. I started to swim out to the raft, about half way out, I experienced severe chest pains and, if my memory serves, I think they spread to my shoulders. I managed to get to the raft and hung on for a while. I rested. I then started to swim back. Several times I tried to stand so as to rest my arms; but the water was too deep until I had gone a good way to the shore. Stupidly, I did not think of turning on my lack to propel myself with leg kicks. Accordingly I made my painful way to land using my arms. I was worried that I might have had more difficulty but there were lots of people around who could have helped me.
I didn't mention the pains to my wife. That is one of my big regrets. I should have told her. She had a right to know. These pains were an important signal; but I did say that last summer I could swim to the raft and then swim some more parallel to the shore and that I couldn't do it this time.
On Monday in the afternoon I had to go down to the crawl space under the cottage and was crawling around in pretty unusual kind of position; again I felt some pains in my chest. That night at dinner, after the main course was over and the kids had vanished somewhere, I allowed that maybe I had a touch of angina and explained when I had experienced it. Before I could finish speaking, my daughter, an ER physician, had packed me into the car and was driving us to the local hospital in Wolfeboro.
There, after many tests, the medics found out that I had cardiac problems. This was a complete surprise to me as I have had low levels of bad cholesterol all my life and even though both parents had, had heart problems, I thought that their influence on my health would work through the cholesterol level and not through other genetic routes.
I was transferred to the Catholic Medical Center in Manchester for surgery.. They found several blocked arteries. They put a stent in one and since that time I have felt quite well; though, of course, I have changed my eating and exercise habits. Thanks to Medicare, my out of pocket costs have been minimal.
• Listen to your body.
• Act on its messages immediately. I know now that I should have done that in Poland, but I find the idea of being in a hospital where I don't understand one word of the language absolutely terrifying.
• Tell people about what is going on clearly and precisely – especially your loved ones.