Torrito went to visit his cardiologist today. I call him my cardiologist because he is on the payroll along with a primary care physician and a retinal specialist ophthalmologist. I see them every four to six months whether I need to or not. You need to continue to see them when you don’t need them so you can call them when you do. I have their phone numbers programmed into my flip phone.
Toritto had a heart attack in 1995; I was 53 years old at the time. More about that later.
My cardiologist here in Florida has a very German name. Very German. On my first visit I expected to meet someone who could play an S/S officer in a B movie. And indeed I did. He fits the part to a tee.
Until he opened his mouth. Out came Dublin. As Irish as a Terence Cardinal Cooke on St. Patrick’s Day.
“Where are you from?” asks the surprised Toritto. Seems the doctor’s parents left Germany for good after the war and settled in Dublin. Never judge a book by it’s cover.
Toritto was living in New Jersey back in ’95. It had been 5 months since he took a new job which allowed him to come home every night. He had tired of the travel as he got older; after his last assignment in Cairo for 6 weeks he decided he had enough. So he took a pay cut and joined the largest bank in Jersey at the time.
Having dinner with his wife and two girls every night was heaven. This night it was a spicy chicken dish she had never made before. Yum.
After a quiet evening it was off to bed. We made love. Nice.
As I fluffed my pillow under my sleepy head I felt it. Something strange. A small pain about the size of my finger. tip. I could put a finger on it and cover it. No massive chest pain. No elephant sitting on my breast bone. Just a small pain. It didn’t hurt a lot. But it was different. Something I had never experienced.
“Must be the spicy chicken” thought I. A last thought before descending into the arms of Morpheus.
Next morning I felt like crap. Felt like I was coming down with something. Flu perhaps? A low grade fever; indigestion, aches and pains. Oh well; new job means off to work, sick or not.
I get on the Jersey Turnpike heading north. It’s the usual. Everyone is driving 80 miles an hour in heavy traffic, right on the bumper of the guy in front while reading the Wall Street Journal propped on the steering wheel. You Jersey folks know of what I speak.
After a sick day at the office at 4 PM; “You know boss, I feel like shit. I’m leaving early” Off I go back onto the Pike heading home.
I take to the couch and use a couple of sick days. I call my local doctor and describe my illness – low grade fever, aches and pains. “Yes, Toritto it’s going around!” He sends a prescription to the local pharmacy for antibiotics..
A few days later I’m not feeling any better. Watching late night television I realize I am having trouble breathing while laying down. My wife had already gone to bed. I sleep sitting up in a chair. Next morning I ask wifey to take me to the emergency room at the local hospital. “I think I’m getting pneumonia” says Dr. Toritto.
Off we go. I am quickly examined (I guess I looked worse than I thought I looked). After perhaps 20 minutes a young comely female cardiologist come to my bed.
“You had a heart attack abut a week ago!”.
“But I didn’t feel the heart attack pains!! Where was the crushing chest pain, the pain in the arms or jaw??”
“You had a silent heart attack Toritto.”
Now she tells me.
My wife is looking worse than me. I guess she is thinking about waking and finding me dead in our bed, or on the couch or reading about the mass collision at Exit 11 on the Pike.
“I’ll never make that chicken again!”
“No honey! It wasn’t the chicken! It’s just that you’re so hot in bed!”
She never made the chicken again.
I was transferred that evening to a hospital with a real cardiac ward and began the tests. Cardiac catheterization; CAT scans, PET scans. There it is – a small blockage in a tiny artery on the front of the heart. – in a place very difficult to reach. I’m looking at it; watching the screen as my heart beats with a catheter inside of it.
Is it worth the risk of trying to clear it? Should a stent be inserted? Open heart by-pass surgery?
It turns out that the portion of the heart muscle serviced by this tiny artery is dead; the result of a failure to get timely medical attention. The doctors decide there is no point to taking additional risk to resupply blood to a piece of dead tissue.
Treat it with drugs. And so that is what we have done for the past 22 years. The medications include what I call a “governor,” which limits how fast the heart can beat, cholesterol medication, blood pressure medication, a diuretic and potassium because of the diuretic, an aspirin, nitro patches should I need them – all on top of two shots of insulin a day for my Type 1 diabetes.
This month I had a complete heart workup. Everything is still working; most of the heart continues to beat while the dead spot just flaps along. “See you in six months Toritto. Call me if you need me.”
I did have to scratch running the marathon off of my bucket list.