Editor’s note: Mike Ashland loved running. But after he moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Oregon, and began working on a home renovation with his partner, he found himself more and more exhausted. Medical tests revealed that without his knowledge, he had suffered a massive heart attack that destroyed nearly half of his heart muscle. Within a month, Ashland went from being a marathon runner to a critically ill heart patient. With no job and no health insurance, he found himself facing the most serious crisis of his life. Ashland chronicles his perilous journey in this blog.
I was told that heart failure was a wild ride. Up one day, down another. Today is my third day down after a weekend that seemed so hopeful. I’m still running a fever, and it’s pretty much all I can do to get from one room to another.
Went to OHSU yesterday, and after four hours, two chest x-rays, seven vials of blood drawn from both arms, and an exam by my world-famous cardiologist, the best he could say is, “I think you’ve got some kind of bug.” A bug. I was sent home to take Tylenol and get a lot of rest.
During the chest x-ray I recognized the technician — the one who came out and held me up when I was too weak to stand one awful Friday in ICU — and told him how much it meant for him to come out give me his strong arms when I needed it. He is a big, strong, incredibly tender and kind man. Just one more exquisitely human person on the OHSU team.
My chest pains are back with a fury. But I think they’re muscle pains and not my heart. If I get too short of breath or feel that awful pressure on my chest I’ll be quick to head to the hospital. It’s just one of those life and death decisions you have to make almost every day. Is this my heart? Am I starting a heart attack? Is that a pain in my left arm, or a kink? How long should this hurt before I get scared? It’s part of the ride.
I had to go to a Washington County office in Hillsboro Tuesday. While I was there, whatever is happening to my body hit me full force. When the woman I was meeting with left the room, I laid my head on the desk to rest. Afterwards, the half block walk to the jeep took me about 20 minutes. Like a movie scene where a destination that seemed so close begins to stretch away, the closer I got, the less I thought I could make it. It wasn’t chest pain or pressure — just exhaustion. So I’ve pretty much collapsed for the last three days. Tomorrow will be a better day.