Healthline: Can you give us a little background about your experience with heart disease?
Mike: Heart disease can be defined or described in many ways. Doctors don’t tell you, “You have heart disease.” They say, “You need to improve your cholesterol numbers,” or “We need to get your blood pressure down,” or “We need to get your stress level down.”
The test (angiogram) required to diagnose athlescorosis (blocked blood vessels) is invasive and can trigger arrhythmias or other life threatening conditions. I was asymptomatic, and no one recommended the angiogram that would have shown severe blockages in five major heart vessels.
On May 28, 2010, I was walking the one-mile route home from the firehouse and collapsed from a heart attack. Paramedics from my fire squad showed up and took me to Scottsdale Shea Healthcare. There, I had quintuple bypass surgery and was supported by Impella, a very small heart pump—to help pump blood throughout my body to maintain my organs—for two days. After two weeks in the hospital, I was discharged. A short four months later, my doctor told me my heart was functioning at full capacity and I could return to work.
I later learned the condition I had was called “Balanced Ischemia,” which hid the signs and symptoms that would have allowed doctors to discover my problem earlier.
Healthline: Does heart disease run in your family?
Mike: My family is healthy, and my parents and grandparents do/did not have heart disease.
However, I started seeing a cardiologist three years ago because of my type II diabetes, hypertension, and age. My desire was to gain more knowledge on how to train more effectively and increase my cardiovascular fitness.
Healthline: Once you discovered your cardiovascular issues, did the condition affect your relationships with your family and friends?
Mike: There was no effect on me or my family based on any signs, symptoms, or situations concerning my health. I consider pain inevitable, but suffering is optional. Because of our deep faith in Jesus Christ, my family and I believe that we are empowered to handle anything that comes our way.
Healthline: Did your condition have any effect on your career?
Mike: The effect the heart attack had on my career was minimal. I used all my accrued sick and vacation time, but thanks to a great department, brother and sister firefighters, I was able to survive financially.
I have returned to work full-time back at the firehouse, where I’ve worked for the past 25 years.
Healthline: Has your experience changed your overall outlook on your health and/or on taking care of your body?
Mike: My overall outlook on my health is that it is a blessing from God, I am going to continue living my life. My life is not going to live me.
Healthline: Knowing what you know now, what kind of preventative measures (if any) do you wish you would have taken earlier in your life?
Mike: None. I have no regrets. I don’t know why I experienced this event, but I refuse to live in this world wondering “what if” or “if only.”