My 100,000 mile check-up revealed the need for a valve job

My 100,000 mile check-up revealed the need for a valve job

By John Barron

When it comes to our vehicles, we try do everything right, change the oil and follow a regular maintenance routine, but sometimes they still break down. An injector gets clogged and there you are, chugging down the 405 at 25 miles-per-hour, on the receiving end of numerous one-finger salutes.

Amazingly, our bodies are not much different, as I recently learned.

I have always been energetic, positive, outgoing and highly active. Besides my passion for fishing, I also enjoy shooting events, golf and playing the occasional practical joke. I try to eat right and would go to the gym several times each week for a lot of cardio and some strength training. My preventative maintenance program was firmly in place and working well. Then everything changed.

I started noticing that I didn’t have the strength or the air to run as far as I had been doing. My strength also began to decrease. At first I tried to blame it on getting older but the change was too dramatic for such a short period of time. Finally I decided to see my doctor. They ran a battery of tests to determine the problem and came back with news that wasn’t easy to swallow.

Despite all my efforts to stay healthy, a valve in my heart was not functioning properly. All of a sudden I found myself facing open heart surgery.

Open heart surgery is not something anyone wants to endure but I count my blessings each day that we have the ability to perform such surgeries. It wasn’t long ago when doctors would have told me to just go home and take it easy; essentially, telling me to wait for my demise. Now, after the surgery to replace my heart valve, I have been recovering nicely and am slowly returning to my normal life. Fortunately my drive to be fit and eat right helped to save my life and I can enjoy my time with my wife. I have a renewed appreciation for her because of all she has done for me through this time. I appreciate my family and friends even more. I am also more concerned about those people around me.

Even if a person has lived well, eaten right, exercised and taken good care of themselves, health issues can still arise. It’s easy to try to brush a loss of energy or shortness of breath off as I did as just being a part of the aging process. Many people will try to, “walk it off.” Most paramedics know that if they answer a call for someone with symptoms indicating a heart attack that they will deny having any issues so the paramedics many times will leave and only drive a couple of blocks away because they know they will soon need to respond to a second call from the same location.

There are a variety of things that can go wrong with your heart and circulatory system and it can be a bit confusing. A heart attack, for instance, is usually the result of a restricted blood vessel that begins to starve a part of the heart of oxygen. They symptoms can vary greatly from patient to patient. We’ve all heard about having chest pains and shooting pains in the left arm or in the neck. Another symptom can be a shortness of breath, but symptoms can be different for everyone. For some women having a heart attack, the only thing they will display is a shortness of breath, a feeling of restlessness or indigestion. The bottom line is; if someone is experiencing any of these symptoms call 911 and get help immediately. If you have an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) handy and have received the proper training, get it and be prepared to jump into action.

A stroke is when a blood vessel is blocked by a clot or the victim has an aneurism that is bleeding out into the brain, either way, the brain is not getting the oxygen it so desperately needs to survive. A few simple tests can help determine the possibility of a stroke. Ask the person to smile; if the smile is uneven it could be a stroke. Ask them to lift their arms slowly; if one arm moves higher or faster than the other then you should be aware of a possible stroke. You can also ask them to speak a simple sentence; if they are having difficulty speaking then the possibility of a stroke is high. In any of these scenarios, you first need to contact emergency services, keep them calm and be prepared to administer first aid if they stop breathing and try to have an AED handy.

With a heart attack victim you can assist the victim to take an aspirin that will thin out the blood and allow a bit more flow, but with a possible stroke, doctors do not recommend giving aspirin because if the stroke is caused by an aneurism the aspirin could worsen the situation.

A leading cause of death among adults older than 44 years of age is cardiac arrest, which is when the heart stops pumping normally and kind of flutters in the chest. When this occurs, it is not sending blood throughout the body, especially the brain. For every minute a person is in cardiac arrest their chance of survival is decreased ten percent. After ten minutes their chance of survival is almost nothing. The best thing to help a victim of cardiac arrest is a quick assessment of the situation and beginning CPR and if available, the use of an AED.

The use of an AED can be life-saving, and with cost going down on this excellent piece of equipment, you can now find them in shopping centers, national parks and even in some homes. AEDs can more than double the chance of survival for a person experiencing cardiac arrest.

Of course, the best thing a person can do to be proactive: take care of yourself, eat right, if you smoke, take steps to stop smoking and get some exercise. Even with all these proactive steps you may still face problems and then the best thing to do is seek the advice of a medical professional. I know some people who are afraid to see a doctor because they fear what they may hear. Remember though, it’s what you don’t know that can kill you. Find out what may be wrong and follow their advice and take whatever steps necessary to ensure you can maintain a high quality of life for many more years. Ultrasounds of your heart, stress tests, EKGs and more can play a part in ensuring your health, and occasionally surgery may even play a part, but life is too wonderful to disregard the technological advances that have been made in the medical profession. Use the technology, see your doctor, ask questions, follow their advice and you can extend your quality of life and enjoy your family and friends for many more years.

We have four boys and nine grandkids. They mean everything to us and if nothing else I want to stick around to watch those grandkids grow and torture their parents as our boys tortured us. That alone will be worth it.