I took a short walk one Sunday morning, preparing for a 15K the next weekend in Canada. Halfway through my walk, I went to drink water from my fuel belt. When I squeezed the bottle with my left hand, I had no grip strength. I switched hands, drank some water, and finished my walk. When I got home, I thought, “Oh it was the heat and humidity of the walk”, but also considered that something may be wrong.
I mentioned my experience to my husband when he got home, and he wanted to go to the emergency room. However, I told him I was fine and felt better. For the rest of that day, my ability to grip came and went, still only in my left hand.
When I woke up the next morning, I felt fine, but my husband persisted to tell me to go to the doctor. By 8:00am, I was in the doctor’s office. I didn’t seem to be showing many warning signs, and the doctor thought it might be carpal tunnel. He advised that I get a brace to see if that would help, and gave me a referral to a nerve specialist. After leaving the doctor’s office, I debated going to work or back home. Spur of the moment, I decided to look up where the nerve specialist’s office was located, and it was literally across the street from my office, so I went to work. I called for an appointment and they next available time was 2:00 PM the next day. On Tuesday, I went back to work Tuesday, and felt no tingling or numbness.
At the nerve specialist’s, I underwent some tests. Suddenly, after a couple of tests, the nurse left to find the doctor. The doctor returned with the nurse and conducted a couple of tests, finally instructing me to sit up. The doctor asked if I had intended on going to the emergency room when the tingling started, but I told him the sensation went away. He then said, “I don’t want to scare you but you are having a stroke.”
I proceeded to the ER and upon arrival, they began their tests. While my EKG came back normal, the MRI showed that I was having a stroke. I stayed in the hospital till that Thursday. It turns out, I had previous strokes that they assume I had in my sleep over the prior 12 months. The cause of the several strokes were determined to be the medication I was taking. I have since changed my medication and added a couple of new ones to prevent any additional problems. This June will be my 2-year anniversary stroke-free.
Last year, I walked in celebration of my anniversary, and I can’t wait to do the same this year!
Shortly after the halfway point of last year’s Monument 10K in Richmond, Virginia Bill Hughes grabbed his daughter’s arm and exclaimed “Oh my gosh!” before collapsing.
Hughes’ daughter, Bethany Gordon, with the help of other runners, immediately flipped him over and saw that he was unresponsive. Gordon said, “His chest isn’t moving, so I started chest compressions immediately because I knew it was important to do it right away.” After Bethany completed about 12 compressions, an EMT who was running the race as well saw what had happened and took control of the situation. He, along with other race participants who were all health professionals, took turns performing CPR. Within minutes a police officer arrived with an automated external defibrillator, or AED, a transportable machine that can shock the heart back to a normal rhythm. The EMT using this device got Hughes’ heart started once again, and within 15 minutes of his collapse he was on his way to the hospital which was only one mile away. Once Hughes regained partial consciousness in the ambulance he believed he was still running the 10K, and refused to wear an oxygen mask until he heard his daughter’s voice urging him to let the medical personnel help him. Hughes remembers thinking to , “Why is this happening?” He wanted to complete the race!
Once he arrived at the hospital Hughes had regained full consciousness and a battery of tests began. After about a day and a half his doctors determined that Hughes would require a triple bypass due to the three blockages in his heart. Two days later, doctors successfully performed the triple bypass. A full week after his cardiac arrest he was released from the hospital and gradually through cardiac rehabilitation Hughes recovered and returned to work part-time. He adopted a health-conscious diet and began exercising regularly. Fifty days after his cardiac arrest, he was strong enough to return to the race course to finished the race from the starting point of the horrific heart attack, accompanied by family, friends and rescuers. Although initially apprehensive to pick up from where he left off, Bill completed the race in 81 minutes, by both walking and jogging. He crossed the finish line with his family and some of his rescuers.
Experiencing a life-changing event such as cardiac arrest has given Hughes an appreciation for CPR training and how quickly those around responded when he collapsed. CPR can double or triple a person’s chance of survival, especially if performed within the first few minutes of cardiac arrest. Hughes knows that staying active and eating healthy is important at any age. Hughes has revamped his diet by adding fresh fruits and vegetables and significantly reduced his intake of foods high in saturated fat. He also urged others to know their family history and to be proactive about your heart health, as he lost his younger brother to a heart attack at the age of 54. “This really opened my eyes to the importance of your family history,” Hughes said. “I had all those warning signs from my family, but I didn’t really take it seriously.”
On December 10, 2011, I had my first heart episode lasting 45 minutes at the age of 26. After blood work, EKGs and six hours of waiting in an emergency room, it was ruled a heart attack and I was airlifted to the Cardiac Care Unit of Washington Hospital Center where I remained for 3 days of extensive testing before being transferred to a regular hospital room for 3 more days.
The resulting tests showed a 70% blockage in my heart despite low cholesterol, active lifestyle (I was training for a half marathon when this happened!), and no indicators as to the origin of the blockage. Due to my age the doctors chose to take a medicinal route of treatment and I was sent home to recover my strength with regular cardiologist appointments in my future.
Then one month later on January 17, 2012—the day I had planned to start rehab—I had my second heart attack. Thankfully the medication I had been taking kept my heart rate from getting as out of control as it did for the first episode, so the MI itself wasn’t as painful as the first time. Nonetheless, I remained in the hospital for 4 days for more testing. The result: the blockage had worsened to nearly 90% and a stent had to be placed to keep the artery open and prevent further complications.
One year later, my cardiologist confirmed that all the damage to my heart from the two incidences had repaired itself. There is no physical evidence other than the stent. Today I remain on the same medications, which work progressively better over time, and am back to running and all of my previous activities.
LHH Executive Leadership Team Member: Anne Dailey, Partner, Troutman Sanders
The day Anne had her stroke, Sunday, January 12, 2014, she had gone into her office to catch up on some work. While working, she noticed her left hand couldn’t hit the shift key. As she tried to stand up, she fell to the floor and her entire left side was in paralysis. She was able to call 9-1-1 and she was taken to George Washington Hospital. There she received “stroke reversing” medication and worked on getting better. With the help and support from the GW hospital team, her friends and family, Anne was up and running an 8K race in downtown DC just eight weeks later.
Before her stroke, Anne had no previous heart condition, she had been mindful of what she ate, and she exercised regularly. “It was scary. Even though I’m mostly recovered, I know that it could happen again. I’m taking my medications, follow my doctors’ directions, eating well and getting exercise—I can’t do any more than that.” The embolic stroke she suffered at age 39 left her with some minor complications, such as continuing stiffness on her left side. Having already developed healthy habits before the stroke, such as regular exercise and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, since the stroke Anne is even more committed to her health. “I am thankful to all of the doctors who helped me get back to myself, and to all of our friends and family who supported me through recovery.”
John Harrity, Managing Partner, Harrity & Harrity, LLP
John is a patent attorney who runs a successful law firm with his twin brother, Paul. On May 2, 2016, John suffered a severe heart attack. John’s episode was a shock to both his family and colleagues. Particularly, because John exercised every day, had a fairly strict diet, and at the time of his attack had maintained a mere 11% body fat.
Without his colleague’s performance of lifesaving CPR, doctors say the “Widow-Maker” would have taken John. John faced a fierce fight, surviving various blood clots, infections, and organ failures. In addition, John experienced paralysis, and had to relearn how to perform basic functions, like walking. Fortunately, John is now on the road to a full recovery.
Prior to his heart attack, John inspired a colleague, Sandy, to build a healthier life for herself. He shared with Sandy a wealth of information about how to make positive lifestyle changes. Sandy made the necessary changes to her life. Nearly a year later, Sandy has lost 80 pounds and is in the best shape of her adult life. In June, a month after John’s episode, Sandy completed her first 5K – The 26th Annual Lawyers Have Heart – and she did it for John.
2016 #DCHeartWalk Lifestyle Change Award Winner: Bruce Henry, Henry & O’Donnell, P.C.
Bruce Henry has improved his lifestyle by increasing his physical activity, managing his risk factors, and working every day to inspire others to change for the healthier. The morning of his heart attack, Bruce was lying there thinking “this must be what it feels like right before you die.” The surgeon didn’t even know if he would make it to surgery. He made it through surgery, but not without complications. After being discharged he had to go back to the hospital for another three days due to an MDR infection. On top of this, Bruce was still recovering from knee surgery performed prior to his heart attack. Going through all this made Bruce realize that he met many common risk factors such as smoking, feeling stressed, and being overweight. Once realizing this, he decided that he needed to make serious changes to his life. While riding in the ambulance, Bruce prayed, “I will never smoke another cigarette again if I could survive.” Bruce made it through, and kept his promise by quitting smoking cold turkey.
Realizing the rehab was not enough for him, he started going to the gym daily, and slowly built up to longer and more challenging workouts. Bruce participated in two 5K runs last year (including LHH) and lost 70 lbs. Prioritizing diet and exercise, isn’t always easy, but Bruce sets goals and sticks to them! He says, “I’m not trying to run the Boston Marathon, I’m just trying to stay alive.”
With the love and support of his family, Bruce has been able to make these significant changes. “My deciding to reform my ways has influenced others to take corrective action. I don’t want to preach to others – that didn’t work for me. But I tell people not to wait… Don’t wait to learn the hard way. I could’ve missed my son’s wedding, or my daughter’s engagement. My wife pleaded with me to change my ways but I didn’t listen. I must have thought I was invincible but I was wrong,” said Bruce. Family is why Bruce has committed to such drastic lifestyle changes. He also wants to credit his survival to the American Heart Association’s accomplishments of advancing cardiac technology and patient care.