Saturday, April 3, 2010
I think one of the most terrifying things about heart disease is the medical language. If you've never had anything wrong with you, congrats. If you have, then you know what I'm talking about. All of the sudden you find yourself on a crash course of anatomy and medical lingo. Doctors tend to have a rapid fire way of speaking over your head. Lucky for you I'm a blogger, not a medical professional. I like to break things down in my head into easy to understand language. I fully understand the "big words" and research everything that relates to what I'm told. I just don't speak that way. Very few of us do right?
When it's cold outside I have chest pain. I asked, and was told I was having "arterial spasms related to the environment." Yeah... So you're telling me I'm cold and shivering and it hurts. Why can't they they just say that? Lots of reasons. I can say it though and I try to. So let's start shall we? I'm going for the Widowmaker first. Let's go!
I think this is the worst nickname of all time. Congratulations artery, you get the grand prize. The Widowmaker is what doctors call the left anterior descending artery or LAD for short. Can you guess why it has such a grim name? Yeah, I'll bet you can.
My husband blanched white when my cardiologist explained it to him in the hospital. If you're going to have a heart attack, this little guy isn't the place to do it. The Widowmaker is the artery that powers the pumping part of your heart. That's the left side just in case you didn't know. It's the side that's bigger and hangs lower. No pump, no person. As if this wasn't bad enough, the LAD is twisty, bendy, and hard to get to. It also, they don't really know why, seems to block up very easily. A small amount of plaque in the LAD can rupture and cause a catastrophic heart attack. Once it's totally blocked you have a precious 5 minutes before heart damage starts and the heart stops beating.
An example of a devastating LAD attack is Tim Russert the news anchor who passed away so suddenly. An example of a LAD survivor is, well, me. See how lucky I am? I was rushed to the hospital, having a heart attack, and was medicated and monitored. My LAD was only partially blocked at the time. It wasn't until I was on the table and the cathe was already threaded to my heart that the blockage reached 99%. My precious 5 minutes began and ended in my surgeon's tender care. It doesn't get any better then that. I was patched up and sent home.
Here's a picture of your arteries. See that red wiggly one on the right? That's the bad guy. The 2D picture doesn't do it justice but you can get the idea of how it wraps around and branches out. Tomorrow may be a good time to go into how to fix such a thing but for now, do me two favors. Be impressed. Be very impressed with cardiac surgeons and what they can do. Also, if you could take care of your own arteries I'd appreciate it. Now that you know you have a body part called the Widowmaker I hope you'll treat it with a bit more respect then I did mine.