“I had my first heart attack at the ripe old age of 32. I didn’t know that it was a heart attack because when it started, it was more like the pressure that comes with congestion. I’m young enough that even as the pressure, and eventually, the pain that came on, was not anything that made me think, ‘Hey, I’m having a heart attack.’ I had to work that day so, even with worsening symptoms, I showered, grabbed my stuff, and headed to the bus stop I used to get to my job. After I got on the bus, the pain started to ramp up, but I was still being stubborn (having no health insurance at the time may have also impaired my judgment), so I made up my mind to just ‘tough it out’ and go to work.”
“The bus felt like it was going way slower than usual, hitting every stop for full off and on loading of passengers. Halfway to my job, I could hardly breathe and the pain was getting to a point that it was scaring the shit outta me. Then I had this bizarre moment of clarity. When my heart attack finally ramped up to a whole new level, I thought, ‘If I don’t get help, I’m going to die.’ In my life, up to that point, I had moments that left me shaking and laughing (to deal with what had just happened) about dodging death.
The heart attack was something else, something unique. I’ve had more than one heart attack now, and the pain has been different for each as they have been in different parts of my heart. The right coronary artery feels different from the circumflex, and both were nothing compared to when my LAD (left anterior descending artery) was 99% blocked.
But there’s a chilling difference between the thought: ‘Whoa, I could have died’ after an accident, and the certainty when I was having my first heart attack, of like ‘If I don’t get help, I am going to die.’
Death, as in my mortality, didn’t seem quite as real when I had dodged it. But the inescapable presence of death, as a tangible thing, at that moment in time, let me know that it was coming for me, and it still has a visceral place in my brain to this day.
Subsequently, I’m much calmer and less bothered by the thought of death. I accept it as the one fair thing in life. The when, the why, and the how are rarely fair. But, everything dies. Hell, even our sun will die someday. I believe death and our mortality can either makes us good people or drives us to be the worst we can be.”