Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Editor's Notes: Things I learned from having a heart attack

By David Kennard,

Originally Published May 8, 2019 in the Summerville Journal Scene

I would be remiss if I let another day go by without giving thanks to the many people who sent well wishes, kind thoughts and prayers my way during the last couple of weeks.

Two weeks ago Thursday my wife forced me into the car and drove me to the hospital when I told her I was having some chest and arm pain.

Turns out I was having a heart attack.

Huh. Who knew? Certainly not me.

I mean I’m not the healthiest person around, but heck, I just ran a 5K a few weeks ago. OK, I use the term “ran” loosely, but still I finished in the top 10 in my age class.

And my last physical showed no signs of anything serious.

The doctor told me to add some regular exercise to my routine and lay off the Girl Scout Cookies.

So I did, sort of. I cut out the Thin Mints (but not the Samoas — I mean that would be ridiculous). Beyond that I went back to my regular routine of strawberry Pop Tarts for breakfast and several Cherry Pepsis (five or six) throughout the day.

Fun tip: As the father of four children, I’ve learned that there are two things that will bump you to the front of the line in the ER.

First, mention you’re having contractions;

Second, talk about your chest pain.

Granted, I’ve always been with a very pregnant wife when I’ve used the first tip, but Tip No. 2 came in handy during my most recent visit.

Many years ago when I was a young kid working toward his Eagle Scout rank, one of the things I learned was the signs of a heart attack.

Now, years later and serving as a scoutmaster of a local troop, I now know why Boy Scouts spend so much time learning how to recognize a heart attack.

Here’s the thing, I kind of thought something was up when I was in a staff meeting and I felt a little off — indigestion and some weird numbness in my arm. It went away after a while so I forgot about it.

A couple of days later it happened again so I sent a text off to my wife, who happened to be with a good friend — an ER nurse. She fired back, “Take some Asprin and call 911. I’ll meet you at the hospital.”

Right, like I was going to just leave work in the middle of the day.

After arriving at the hospital a little while later, I discovered I had a blood sugar rating of 500 mg/dL and my triponin levels were signaling heart attack.

In case you’re wondering, a healthy blood sugar rating is between 70 and 120, and finding triponin enzymes in your blood means your heart is screaming for help.

I cannot say enough about the nurses and doctors who jumped into action to ensure that no damage came to my heart.

I also can’t say enough about the Trident cafeteria staffer who refused to sell me a bag of Fritos without my nurse’s permission. They train them well.

Since my hospital visit, I’ve learned a handful of things.

Nurses are awesome. There is not room in this newspaper to sing their praises. Their dedication to their job and helping their patients is beyond criticism.

I certainly saw no one on the nursing staff playing cards.

Hospital food really isn’t that bad. I mean scrambled eggs and sausage for breakfast. I’ve eaten worse than that — OK a lot worse than that — on Boy Scout over-nighters.

Beyond the incessant finger pricks and blood pressure tests in the middle of the night, the worst part of my whole ordeal has been giving up Cherry Pepsi. Did I mention I drank a lot of Cherry Pepsi?

A trip to the hospital is one way to get out of a pressing deadline, but it certainly is no vacation.

And, despite bringing my laptop to the hospital to sneak some work in, it was difficult to type with an IV in my arm, a finger monitor clamped to my index finger and sore fingertips from all the blood sugar testing.

Probably the most valuable lesson I learned (and don’t tell my wife I said this) is to listen to my wife. I was perfectly willing to crack open another Cherry Pepsi and brush off the incident as indigestion.

Turns out that would have been a mistake. My wife earned her Eagle Scout rank that day.

David Kennard is the executive editor of Summerville Communications, which publishes the Berkeley Independent, Goose Creek Gazette and Summerville Journal Scene. Contact him at or 843-873-9424. Follow him on Twitter @davidbkennard.