This story could have ended so differently. His heart doctor said he could easily have just fallen over dead.
But not of a stroke or a heart attack. Who knew there was a third major cause of death from heart disease? Heart failure. We did not.
What is it about men that they don’t want their wives to know they are sick?
One morning as he was getting dressed he suddenly just passed out. He fell against the bathtub enclosure and actually cracked it. Even then, he didn’t tell me about it. Did he think I would never notice the crack?
When I asked him what had happened to the bathtub he said he had fallen. I had to really probe to find that he had actually passed out. But he insisted it was “no big thing,” just a momentary fainting after puffing on his inhaler too hard.
A few weeks later he told me he had passed out again, and by this time he was frightened enough to tell me it had happened still another time as well.
I insisted we go to the ER, though even then he still thought it was “no big thing” because THERE WAS NO PAIN.
The heart monitor was wildly fluctuating all night long at the ER. He was asleep, but I was wide awake and watching the monitor. They did an angiogram the next morning and found his arteries were fine. So they did an echocardiogram and that’s when we got the news.
His heart was only working at 10% capacity.
We were very lucky he had had some warnings with the passing out. His heart doctor told him later he could easily have just fallen over dead. “Sudden Death” they call it. OMG, what a terrifying statement!
Heart failure? Did the doctor mean a heart attack? And why was there no pain, no warning?
Passing out WAS the warning. He hadn’t been overly alarmed about passing out because there was no pain – and there would be with a heart attack, right? He thought his COPD was why he was tired and had had some trouble getting enough air. He had brought his formerly moderately high blood pressure under control with diet and exercise just this year, so he wasn’t worried about his heart. And he had had irregular heartbeats all his life. He had been diagnosed with sleep apnea, but the mask hurt and he didn’t wear it when he slept because he didn’t understand the danger to his heart and lungs when he’d basically stop breathing for a bit.
We hadn’t heard about heart failure. That’s why I am writing this article. You should know about this common cause of death.
The heart is a pump, and the heart and lungs function together to bring oxygen to the body from the lungs, send the blood around the body to nourish it, then filter out CO2 and return that to the lungs to exhale, again and again, every second or so throughout life. The heart muscle contracts to move the blood into and out of the lungs and the body.
Short Story as I understand what happened – He has had arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) his whole life. Arrhythmia is a major risk factor for heart failure and adding the COPD and the sleep apnea further complicated the blood – oxygen exchange and stressed his heart muscle. It had weakened dangerously and was not pumping enough blood to his organs. This had also led to fluid collecting in the lungs and poor oxygen exchange, which explained the shortness of breath and the passing out.
For healing, he used a regimen that included actually wearing the C-PAP for apnea when he slept, visualizations, prescribed medication, rest, a rainbow of veggies Mediterranean diet, Omega 3 oils, coconut oil for cooking and no caffeine or alcohol. He supplemented with magnesium, CO Q-10 and trace minerals and kept insisting he was healing.
A common treatment for heart failure is to implant a pacemaker, but his doctor agreed to wait on that and see if everything else he was doing would work – but only if he wore a defibrillator vest day and night that would zap him if he went into cardiac arrest. It was bulky, inconvenient and he hated it, but he agreed. It only went off once, other than annoying beeps when the pads slipped, but that once made it worth it.
For 8 months, his heart function remained below 30%, the cutoff below which a pacemaker is recommended. But at ten months, success! His heart functions at 42% and he will not need the pacemaker! Celebration time!!!
Congestive heart “failure” is really a reduced functioning of the heart muscle such that not enough blood is pumped between the chambers and the lungs and into the body. It is a major cause of both death and disability. And still, we didn’t know about it and you may not have either. There can be many contributing factors including heart arrhythmia, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, diabetes, sleep apnea and lung disease.
If you have any of those diagnoses and you
- are dizzy, weak or pass out,
- are retaining fluids,
- have shortness of breath
- have chest congestion
- have a new kind of cough,
ask to be evaluated for congestive heart failure. Don’t wait! We were lucky to catch his in time.
May you be as lucky!