Gale’s Story

Site created on August 2, 2020

Welcome to my CaringBridge website. We are using it to keep family and friends updated in one place. We appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement! Thank you for visiting.

I (Gale Whitman) had a heart attack last Monday morning, July 27, 2020. It was caused by a SCAD (Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection) of the left anterior descending artery. 

It was quite a shock/surprise as I'm relatively young (55) and healthy! I'm happy to report that I returned home from the hospital yesterday, Saturday afternoon 8/1/20, and that I'm feeling quite well. The cause of my heart attack was a dissected coronary artery, meaning that there was a tear in the lining of the artery on the front wall of my heart. The torn flap blocked blood flow to the bottom tip/apex of my heart, and there was some damage to that part of my heart tissue. Fortunately, my heart function is still good – at the low end of “normal” – and is likely to improve. I'm now on blood thinners, anticoagulants and a beta blocker (blood pressure & heart rate regulator) as my heart heals and regains strength.

I will take it easy for the coming week, and begin cardiac rehab the following week. That will be 2-3 times per week for 3 months, and will allow me to test my physical limits in a safe environment. I'm optimistic that I will be able to return to my normal active life!

It's great to be home; I'm so relieved to be free of the IV needles and to sleep in my own bed! I'm a bit overwhelmed with the new medication regimen, though, and it's tricky to transition home after 6 days/5 nights in the hospital. 

A friend set up a meal train for us to receive two dinners per week, and if anyone is interested in contributing, they can view the sign-up at the following link:

https://www.signupgenius.com/go/70A084FABAE22A02-meals


Newest Update

Journal entry by Gale Whitman

On October 24, 2020, I had an echocardiogram (ultrasound of my heart) done. As the technician moved the transducer around for different views, I watched the screen to see if I could detect any improvement compared to the echo I had before my hospital discharge. It seemed as though the apex/bottom tip of my heart had only improved slightly, if at all. In July it was described as akinetic (not moving), and now to my untrained eye, it still looked as though it wasn't contracting much with the rest of the left ventricle walls. 

I met with my cardiologist Dr. Emily Hass on October 29 for my three month follow up. She reported that she was "pleasantly surprised" by the echo results, and that my heart function had improved. The ejection fraction was now calculated to be 50-55%, which is within 'normal' range. There is a patch of my heart apex that sustained permanent damage; it's now described as hypokinetic (less movement than normal), but the good news is that no blood clots have formed in that ventricle, and I was allowed to stop taking the anticoagulant Warfarin (Coumadin).

Dr. Hass also told me that the muscular wall affected during my heart attack had -- as she expected -- thinned somewhat. She wants to be sure that there is no bulging there, as that could potentially become an aneurysm. Due to the limitations of an ultrasound exam, it was not possible to get a clear view of the apex of my heart, so Dr. Hass ordered a cardiac MRI. The results of the MRI will give us more (hopefully reassuring) information. My MRI is scheduled for November 18.

In other news, I have completed all 36 of my prescribed cardiac rehab appointments! (See the selfie I took with the exercise physiologists on my 'graduation' day.) As was my goal, I was able to add jogging to my workouts. I hate running on a treadmill, but it did prepare me to resume my every-other-day neighborhood jogs that were my routine before this cardiac adventure began in July.

Also, since the last time I posted, I painted a transformer cabinet mural in south Fort Collins. Painting is one of my favorite things!! I was so glad to get back to work for many reasons. See photos of my aspen mural I posted with this update.

I continue to learn more about SCAD (spontaneous coronary artery dissection), which was the cause of my heart attack. It is uncommon, but not rare. More research has been done recently to better understand the condition. I joined a SCAD Survivors group on Facebook, and it's nice to be in contact with others who've had similar experiences.

 

Thank you for your continued support! I'll keep you posted on the results of my MRI.

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