Thursday, January 26, 2006

Widow Maker

I wrote this piece for the chronicles on my first rotation of my second year of residency. This patient eventually left the hospital, although, her quality of life was never the same again.

There is a young fifty eight year old mother of two currently walking the tightrope between life and death in my Coronary Intensive Care Unit (CICU). She had a massive heart attack earlier and was rushed to the angiography lab where one of the critical arteries supplying blood to the heart failed to appear on the monitor- it was completely blocked.

The “Widow Maker” was the affectionate name we give to a stenosis of this vessel. It’s all in the name, they say. Most commonly, this fatal stenosis usually affects fifty something year old men, fatally. But diseases never read textbooks and Ms. R had no idea of this horrible monster forming in her arteries. Now it threatens to end her life.

I told her family that the situation is grim, they cried, I had nothing to say to comfort them at all. She has a very slim chance of survival and they better be prepared.

At the moment she’s nearly maxed out on all the possible medication we could give her to raise her blood pressure and the only thing standing between her and the other Unit in Sky is the love of god and a resident with 14 months of experience.

I am scared.

Back to work!

For more information on the Left Anterior Descending arterys' nickname go here. Coronary artery disease is among this nations top killers. It is silent and deadly. If you experience symptoms of angina please go to you doctor to report them and have the appropriate work up.


Blogger Kim said...

Oh man....

Another thing that filled me with dread when I was in Coronary Care: a patient with an anterior MI who started having issues with second degree heart block.
Not only did you have to deal with pump failure, but conduction disturbances at
the same time.

Now this is in the old days, before angiography/angioplasty and calcium channel blockers were experimental and John Travolta was just a kid on a sitcom but as coronary care nurses we knew:

Hypotension, elephant on chest, tachycardia, diaphoresis and SOB = anterior

Epigastric/sternal pain like indigestion, bradycardia, vomiting and first or second degree heart block (third degree for the unlucky) = inferior

If I'm ever going to have an MI, make it an inferior one.

11:10 PM  
Anonymous Joe said...


Yikes...been there, done that.

My block wasn't (I believe) in the wideo maker, as it was on the right (my left) side. They did need to defib me at the house three times, then once again at the second hospital. I don't recall any of that. That was all a year ago, and I'm doing a lot better. I have a great cardiolgist. And far more admiration and respect for folks like you and for the amazing ways you keep people like me alive.

5:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a walking dead man. I'm totally asymptomatic but I encourage you to read on. At 50 I had what one would call an "executive" physical. Part of that was a nuclear stress test (rather than a typical stress test) since there had been an occaisonal irregularity on my EKG's since I was about 20, and there is some CAD in my family history. The test revealed what appeared to be blockage, the next step was a cardiac cath which revealed a 100% blockage in my LAD, yep the REAL widowmaker and this was/is completely blocked. I have a medical background and while the cath was being performed I watched and spoke with the MD who was performing the procedure. After the initial shock to both of us, he attempted to get a wire through the blockage and was unable to make any headway, the calcification was solid, and apparently had been that way for years. Today at 53 I'm still ticking away, still asymptomatic, and now I go to my cardiologist regularly, I do all of the "right" things and take loads of expensive meds, but hey I'm here and that's a good thing. There are no other vessle abnormalities whatsoever. OK so there you have it, there is life after the Widowmaker comes to visit. I'm living proof.

10:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I was shocked when the Dr told me this morning that my 53 year old husband suffered a massive heart attack and referred to it as the widow maker... I googled it just to see if anything came up and was shocked... (glad I didn't know this before I knew he was ok) luckily it didn't do any damage to his hear that it won't repair on it's own, and his other arteries look fine...
too odd...

10:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have left coronary artery failure 100% blockage
RFA- 6ER Jl4 JR4
Right function is barely getting by with 80% and 40% blockage at two seperate sites
Most of of my heart is getting by on collateral flow.
I have preserved systolic function thanks to 20 years of mountain climbing and a high level of fitness. I found out about this when I could not climb a hill one day, I finished the climb and walked home.
I will climb again after triple bypass.

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2:06 PM  
Anonymous michelle said...

my husband just experienced the widowmaker, and thank God he's alive. It was 100% blocked and is now stented. He's only 38, so we know age is not a safety net. He was on Lipitor, but obviously not enough and also had family history that played a strong role. Don't ignore any symptoms.

11:38 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

My husband survived the widow maker about a month ago. Thank God for stents and for Dr. Cohen and the amazing team in our local ER.

Nancy, not a widow, near Philadelphia

5:39 AM  
Blogger Adam said...

My Dad miraculously survived this heart attack earlier this month. Not only did he survive it, but he is now ready to go golfing on friday(about 3 1/2 weeks after nearly losing his life. He coded in the ER and that is the only reason he survived. He has no damage to his heart or brain and is back to being himself(albeit with a little more respect for the fragility of life.


1:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Your understanding of heart attacks due to blocking of the "widow maker," or LAD, reads like bad scare literature. You were a resident, and maybe when you become a bit more experienced you'll realize that there can be much hope after an attack due to a clogged-up LAD. While treating your patient was no doubt an eye-opening experience back then, you should be glad that she made it out, and realize that she can have a very fulfilling and active life once she leaves your capable hands, as is the case of the father of poster Adam above.

Your hands are less capable in the blogosphere, and I suggest you revise your tone so that the thousands of Americans who hear the words "widow maker," google it, and then arrive at this site do not feel like they're reading about an intense opening scene from /ER/.

I wish you the best of luck in improving your tone not only in your writing on the internet, but also when speaking about coronary defects with the families of patients in the future.

7:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

October 13 2007 @ 10pm I forgot to take out the trash for the morning pick up.I got up from bed walked to the garage opened the door took two cans of trash out walked back to the door and started sweating somehting terrible and felt very sick to my stomach my jaw started aching and then started throwing up as i walked back to the bedroom my wife asked whats wrong i said i didnt know ireally didnt know i figured at this point i may need to go to the hospital which is minutes away so we loaded up the kids and drove to the emergency room she stoped at the door i got out of the car and walked in the lady behind the desk ask whats wrong i said i didnt know she sat me down in a wheel chair and began to take my blood pressure and looked at my wife an said he has no pulse or pressure he is having a heart attack iwoke up two days later in intensive care not knowing what had happened and was told i had the widow maker heart attack i had one blockage at 100% and one at 99% she said if i hadnt forgot to take out the trash i wouldnt have woke up the next morning because i was lucky to just survive the massive heart attack i would consider myself the luckiest person in the world i suffered the most signifigant damage to the lower part of my heart but there is hope it may with drugs and hard work i will live past my 39th birthday

11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a registered nurse and on Nov. 15, 2008 I developed chest pressure that I could barely tolerate. I spent several days in the LAD was 100% occluded, RCA 90% and circ 80%.I was only 5 blocks from the ER.... I am very fortunate to be alive and am thankful for each day that I have.

1:00 PM  
Blogger aajn4 said...

My Dad has his widow maker blocked and can only be helped by a triple bypass. He has one schedule for the end of January but went to the hospital with bad chest pains(my dad does not say when he has chest pain. His cardiologist said to wait to hear from the surgeon because he would probably need the surgery done sooner which they wanted to do but my dad insisted on waiting. The surgeon could not make it so the cardiologist let him go home for now. Now keep in mind the surgeon called and told him he would be up there to see my dad but now can't make it.
Is that ethical to send my Dad home even though he really wanted to? How can they release him knowing his condition?

7:59 PM  
Blogger bruic said...

This is 17 February, 2009. Last Saturday, Valentines Day, I started by climbing a 30 ft. ladder to work on my roof. I own a contracting company, and went to work later in the morning. I have felt chest "twinges" for years, and periodically complained to a few doctors. Despite being a heavy smoker, I passed several stress tests easily. I went to dinner for the occasion with my wife, and then laid down back at home because I did not feel well. Within an hour, I awoke with a very heavy, steady pain localized in the center of my chest. I got hold of my wife, (an RN) to take my blood pressure, but before she could even get her cuff, things went downhill so swiftly, that I could not even dial 911. My son took over on the phone and my wife rode with me in the Rocky River squad wagon to the hospital. At 10:55 PM I was in my kitchen, at 1:00 AM I was in my room at St. John Westshore with my new stint, no pain, and a new lease. Monday morning, I was released to go home, contact my doctor, and get my new rules.
This particular hospital has established a special team of CC nursed and doctors who are on call, who drop everything to show up for any kind of heart attack or stroke. Between a well equipped squad, who hooked me up to a machine that goes direct to the hospital, and the doctor and nurses who attended me--I owe them everything. Amazing though, Saturday night I had 100% blockage of the so-called, (with good reason), "widow maker", and Tuesday morning I was in my office. Here's to St. John West Shore Hospital, Westlake Ohio, with the fastest door to balloon time in Ohio.
Brian Ruic

12:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Feb 12, 2009 4:33 pm, I got a call at work, My husband was at the cardiologist, he was having a heart attack and being taken by ambulance to the hospital. By 6:20pm he was out of the cardiac cath lab with cleared occlusion and stenting of his lad. He is a very lucky man. 40% blockages in other arteries, not sure why they couldnt get it all, but we love our life saving physician.

My husband had crushing pressure for 3-4 days prior, we thought it was due to a new medication, Flagyl, tried to see the doc, not unitl Tuesday they said, told of the chest pressure (not pain he says), they said go to ER.

Of coarse we didnt go. My husband showed up at the doc office, they walked him to the cardiologist, and lo and behold, we should have gone to the ER a few days prior.

Please, anyone else out there, do not make the mistake and wait. I am planning on making my appt with PCP to get to the cardiologist myself.

5:33 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

On may 9th after 4 days of chest pain with no other pains I went to the er. I was put into the hospital and had angiography/angioplasty on may 11th One stint lad with 95% blockage. I feel lucky to be alive. I hope to live a lot of years to come. This is not the end of your life just the begining of your second chance.

10:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a widow maker attack in September of 1999. They lost me 5 times and barely revided me the last time. They stablized me long enough to place the stent.
I have been prblem free since that time. Friday, 19 June 2009, I am having a heart cath performed to check my stent. No problems really, just kind of a ten year check up.

2:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of my best friends just died. He was the picture of health and only 41 years old. He was slender and he always ate right. Doctor said it was what they call a widow maker. He complained of chest pain and played it off. He went to sleep and didn't wake up. He left his wife and 8 year old daughter behind. Please keep his family in your prayers,,,

12:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I died of a widowmaker on April 3, 2008. When I realize it might be my heart, causing me to feel so bad, I had a needle like pain digging into my left breast, I reached into my lunch box and took a Bayer, just bit into it and let it melt under my tounge. I turned my car around and headed back to the hospital that I had passed a few minutes before. I had the attack driving, just minutes later. I had two miles to go when I realize that I couldn't make it, because of traffic. I asked God to help me get to the Hospital. I felt a calm when I crossed in front of the Hospital. I walked in with my insurance card in my hand. A lady saw me coming and met me at the door, I couldn't talk, I just tapped my chest with my fist. She took off with me. They did two ekg's and neither told them anything. My blood pressure was 196 over 94, so they knew something was wrong. They dropped nitro under my tongue three times, I got comfortable. I had been there 20 minutes. They put a heart moniter on me.(They only work with good batteries) The last nurse was walking out and turned to ask it I wanted a pillow. I said sure. The clock over the door was straight up 7AM. I lay back. flat, I was comfortable, I closed my eyes and thought, I made it, I'm in place. I died, I never saw the clock again until 8 minutes after. The nurse returned with my pillow to find me blue. It scared her, she didn't know how long she had been gone to get the pillow. The moniter didn't work. She ran out, got a Doctor just outside the door reading my chart. He came in, hit me with his fist in my chest. They said I gasp and my upper body came up off the table and started asking me question, checking my brain damage. I slightly remember them asking question. They move me to a different table and shocked my twice, as I was told. Coming back was much harder than leaving, my eyes opened, I had mask on my face, I couldn't breath, I took it off, someone pushed it back down, I pulled it off again, they pushed it back down. I took it, put my hand over it, with all five fingers just under the rim and with some outside air, I caught my breath. The Doctor was sitting beside my calling my name. I rolled my head over to look at him. He said, you just had a massive heart attack and we brought you back. Little did he know, I had the attack while driving, I just stop breathing 20 minutes later. It was a widowmaker. My choles and blood pressure had alway been good. I had always known that my Granddad and all of my uncles had died instantly. They stented me and sent me back to work four days later. I had no damage. I had Bayer and God on my side.

8:50 PM  
Blogger unkown said...

I am a 54 year old Male who lived through the "Widowmaker heart attack". August 11, 2009 at 9:30 P.M. I started feeling odd pain in my chest. I did not have any of the normal signs of a heart attack. My wife, who works in the health industery, asked all of the questions she asks the patients when they are having a heart attack. I answered all of them no. She said I had indigestion becuase I had eaten a large dinner that night. I waited 10 minutes and woke her up again and told her I thought I needed to go to the ER now. She then drove me to the ER in the closest city with heart labs. I was taken right into the ER and hooked to machines and she came in and they told her I was in the middle of a heart attack. This got both of our attentions. I was having a heart attack in the Widowmaker. Thirty minutes after I arrived I was in the Cath Lab. I had a stent put in that night. I needed three more, but was to weak for the other three. I went back two weeks later and I had already plugged the stent up again. Two weeks later I had 5 bypass surgery and Mitro valve repair done. One month later here I am writing this. I survived with God's hand on my soul. They say only 10% survive the Widowmaker. I am glad to be in the 10% club!

1:47 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

I was 47, having terrible back pain (angina), an irregular ekg and then a cath that showed 100% blockage on the LDA and couldn't budge it. Doc said I had a heart attack but gave no plan, just bp pills. 2nd opinion confirmed heart attack with "considerable" damage. Six months later I saw Doctor #3 and he had me in surgery in 2 days as half my heart was not beating. During surgery, they flopped over a mamarory artery and the whole heart came back with no damage. 2 years after surgery I was off all pills. Played softball for 7 more years before my feet gave out. BP is fine and total cholestral is 153

1:24 PM  
Anonymous gary lynam said...

I recently returned home from a "Widow Maker" bypass over Thanksgiving. I'm 57, there's no heart disease in my family, my wife and I eat a heart/diabetic friendly diet and my symptoms were very slight in being winded with exercise and slight shoulder discomfort. All of which I could easily attribute to working out and having a chest cold. Fortunately my wife was convicted that there was something more to this. Even more fortunately for me...I listened to her. My physician fast-tracked me to a nuclear stress test. Sure enough, 99% blockage of the LAD but everything else looked great. The care and attention I received at Sierra Medical and the Sutter Hospitals made me feel that I was cutting to the front of the line at Disneyland. It turned out that surgery was a better solution for me using a mammary artery graft since stints don't hold up well with diabetics. All went very well and I can't say enough positive words to commend Dr's Sanjay Ladlapalli, Robert Kincade and Daniel Sewell. I'm also blessed to have had people praying for me coast to coast and for such a caring wife.

12:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep, I had the widow maker. 99.999 percent blockage of the left main artery feeding the left ventricle. I just posted an article about my experience in Climbing Magazine and the Mountain Gazette, called "Luckiest Man Alive and the Widdow Maker.

So here's the gist. I was experiencing pain in my right lung (that's right) some in the center of my chest, and was out of breath on 5 mile hikes, rock climbs and extreme skiing.

When I finally went into the ER and got a 12 lead EKG, my EKG came back with a normal sinus rythm, my bp was 128/78, heart rate was 68, no blood enzymes, and a clear chest x-ray, and at the time no pain.

Lucky for me I ran into (house) who looked at me and sent me in for a catheter dye test. Oops, that turned up the Widow Maker.

The article in Climbing Magazine and Mountain Gazette give this news a bit more life! Cheers to our mutual survival!

5:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, So very blessed to be alive. I too found out I had a blockage in my LAD on July 9th, 2010. Here's my story of Gods amazing grace.

On June 28th 2010 I unfortunately/fortunately suffered fall down some steps resulting in a severe tear to my right quadricept mucscle/knee area. I was away from home on business when this happened. My wife came to where I was in NJ to bring me home to get my knee taken care of.

With the 4th of July weekend looming, trying to get an orthopedic surgeon to look at my knee proved to be a challenge. I managed to see a doctor at Johns Hopkins on Friday July 2, 2010. My knee surgery was scheduled for July 13, 2010. As things would turn out, I would not make that 13 July knee surgery date.

A few days earlier I suffered major pain in my lower right leg (in time we would discover the pain was from blood clots forming in my right leg from the knee injury).

On Friday morning July 9th 2010 I was teleworking from home due to my knee injury when I felt my heart fluttering in a way like it never had. I could not get my breath, I began to sweat profusely. I was barely able to summon my wife for help who lay sleeping in the same room. When she came to me she said I looked grey and like I was having a seizure, I saw myself in long dark swirling tunnel, with a very bright light at the other end, I then felt myself coming back to consciousness. My wife called 911 and I was taken to a local hospital then later transferred to Christiana Hospital in Delaware.

By the way! I am a 56 year old male. Only previous known heart concerns was mildly elevated cholesterol and milady elevated blood pressure. Previous EKG's showed normal to include one I had a few days earlier as part of my knee pre-op physical.

I was stabilized at Union Hospital in Elkton, MD where I live and transferred to Christiana Hospital in DE shortly thereafter. Because they really did not know what was going on with me, they took me immediately to the heart cath lab where Dr Varma Cardiologist interventionist proceeded with heart cath procedure which revealed a 95 % blockage in the LAD affectionally known as the "widow maker." I was stinted but was still not out of the woods.

A bad as the LAD finding was, what really was most immediately life threatening for me was what was diagnosed as a major pulmonary embolism. My knee injury had decided to send major blood clots to both lungs. Treatment was begun to address the blood clot issue?

I am now at home, still no knee surgery, but thanks be to God, prayer, great doctors and nurses, I am feeling much better. I am a retired Army Officer, Never had the slightest indication that I may have a major blockage to my heart, especially in the widow maker?
I've read your stories and have and am more convinced of Gods loving care, providence and healing.

As I look back I see Gods loving hand, while I do not believe He caused my fall, I do believe he worked mightily through it to bring my LAD blockage to light in way short of a major (possibly fatal) heart attack would have revealed?

God has left me here for a special purpose, one that I want to be sure I cooperate to the fullest extent?

Take care,


1:45 PM  
Anonymous Roy said...

In 2006 I posted "I'm a walking ..." as the third post in this thread. It's been six years from the discovery of the blockage; I'm 56 now and still completely asymptomatic. The LAD is 100% blocked as it was when it was discovered and there are still no other signs or indications of any problems. My followup nuclear stress tests have shown no progression in disease, and my EF is right at 70%. I do about 45 min to 1 hr of cardio daily, and work with a trainer two days a week doing crossfit a very intense workout routine. My labs are better than most 20 somethings and I feel "fitter" than I was in my mid 20's when I played professional ball. The point here is that after survival of the widow maker event, you need to do everything you can that is prevention oriented to maintain your well being; having stents and bypass surgery does not give you a hall pass. Eat healthy and exercise regularly at the level that you can. Everyone here that is a survivor gets kudos from me ... just don't take any day or anything you can do to improve your situation for granted.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a 60 yr old male. I travel a lot out of town an during my last trip, I exercised as I usually do. I changed clothes and went for a walk, during the walk my elbow started to hurt and I felt a little bit of pressure near my clavicle. I walked for an hour and it stayed with me and when I got back to my room and rested it went away. I worked out two more times while away and in those times it always went away. I shrugged it off; however, when I got home the first day I returned to work, I started to walk across the parking lot to my office and the symptons returned. The next day was the same. I realized that this was not normal for me, I called my doctor and he referred me to a cardiologist. I explained the symptoms to him and he stated this are indicative of a blockage. On the following monday I had a Heart Catherizationa and doctor found my LDA to be 90 percent blocked. On friday I had a stent put in. I feel totally blessed and am so thankful for the professional staff that took care of me. Men dont shrug off anything.

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4:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is an antidote to all this, just as former President Bill Clinton. If you're willing to dramatically change your diet (and remove the cause of this disease), you can make yourself heart attack proof. See

6:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband survived a widow-maker heart attack at age 49. He had no prior symptoms but experienced chest pressure (not really pain) after my daughter had a car accident a few blocks from the house. I was away on business at the time. He dealt with the aftermath of that, took an aspirin, cooked dinner, then went to the hospital. His LAD was 95% blocked, and he'd had the heart attack. They stented him, and because of kidney problems kept him 3 days to get meds worked out. He was amazingly fine in a few days--better than he had been. The ONLY symptom before this was shortness of breath on walks, but because we were on new trails, he thought they were harder than he was used to and that he'd overeaten.

Skip ahead 18mths. He died in his sleep. He was walking, in better health, seemingly, than he had been in years, looking forward to starting an exciting new job, then . . . died.

He had not been watching his sodium intake as closely as he should have been and wouldn't listen to his wife or daughters. His drs. were pleased with how well he was doing.

I think what did him in was an electrolyte imbalance, along with the day before lifting something quite heavy that he'd been offered help with but went ahead and did on his own, which may have dislodged some plaque build-up we didn't know about (yes, he was on statins).

Thanks to all who've posted here who've helped me understand what I awoke to--my huband dying in about 5 seconds. I don't want anyone else to go through what I went through if I can help it by telling this story.

PLEASE, PLEASE, SURVIVORS, FOLLOW THE LOW-SODIUM DIET ASSIDUOUSLY AND DON'T THINK OF THE MEDS AS MAGIC PILLS. You have to take care of yourself, or you'll be leaving your partner to care for two children in college without your income. GET YOUR AFFAIRS IN ORDER NOW! Because (I don't want to scare you, just apprise you of the situation that I didn't fully appreciate either) you just never know with this. The fact that you're back to work in just a few days is so amazing that it can seem like everything's fine when it really isn't. You have to be careful.

Be well and may God be with you.

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3:05 AM  
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I am very sorry that the medicine can do nothing in such cases...

7:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband is in CV ICU recovering from a 99% blockage widow maker. He's 52, non-smoker, healthy; 3 mile hike in the mountains 4 days before this happened. He had no warning in the weeks beforehand, nausea, vomiting and perfuse sweat/hot flash at the onset along with right side chest pain. Took approximately one hour from onset of vomiting til arrival at the ER. Cardiac enzymes were clear, 2 EKG's showed ST depression instead of elevation so they thought it was viral with a possible chest muscle strain from the vomiting, but kept him overnight anyway. By 7am triponin was 29 and they were ready to life flight him to a regional cardiac center 100 miles away. Due tot he snow he had to go by CC ambulance. He was still having chest pain and they took him straight into the cath lab on arrival and found the blockage. If not for the good health that he has he would not be here. His cholesterol was 172, triglycerides were 173. He had a stress test, lab work and EKG 6 months ago for a job and wall was ok then. He was laid off December 31st. I wonder if stress can cause this to happen?? He is so weak he can barely stay awake. Ejection fraction is 25-30% and the cardiologist told him his life is forever changed and he needs to apply for his disability. I am an RN, but cardiac is something I have never worked, so it is going to be something we will have to take one day at a time. God has a plan and purpose for this I am sure.

8:29 PM  
Anonymous Bankruptcy Tulsa said...

Well, I didn't fully appreciate either) you just never know with this. The fact that you're back to work in just a few days is so amazing that it can seem like everything's fine when it really isn't, thanx.

10:07 AM  
Anonymous Health Blog said...

She has a very slim chance of survival and they better be prepared.

12:17 AM  
Anonymous said...

hm great I wish you the best of luck in improving your tone not only in your writing on the internet, but also when speaking about coronary defects with the families of patients in the future thanks.

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I just lost my 54 year old brother 2 weeks ago to the widow maker. He leaves behind a wife and a 23 year old son.

He smoked. His marriage was on the rocks. They had fiancial issues. He was depressed.

He went to bed and never woke up.

We miss him so much. He complained of arm pains but didn't take it too seriously.

Please keep an eye on yourselves, stop smoking, and be willing to go to the ER and have them tell you it was only indigestion - it is better to be safe (and alive) than sorry (an possibly dead)!

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Doctor, I was lucky, I walked into an ER and had a bit of pain, earlier that day, in the center of my chest when I breathed, and some shortness of breath, following a case of bronchitis I picked up while working in Canada.

I got so very lucky, and ran into "House," the chief of the surgical staff at Foothills Hospital who was not on his scheduled New Years vacation because of an injured ankle, due to a ski accident.

He asked me if I was hurting now, and I said no. He asked me what brought me in, and I told him about the pain in my lung and shortness of breath experienced the day before.

I then had a 12 lead EKG, blood test, chest x-ray, bp, heart rate, and O2 checked.

My EKG turned out to be a very nice normal sinus rhythm, BP 127/78, heart rate 68, negative for chest x-ray, and no heart attack enzymes in my blood either, including the fact that at the time I was symptom free.

My internist asked me again why I came in, and I relayed my story of how several days before I was out of breath skiing half a dozen double black ski runs at Breckenridge, but that for me this was very odd, because usually on a weekend would hike three 13ers and ski avalanche troughs, workout in a gym, and then take a hot tub, and not have difficulty walking around.

Lucky for me, instead of dismissing me and sending me home, this doctor sent me to a hospital for an angiogram, and as luck would have it, my doctor Nelson Trujillo was able to place three stents in my heart and open up the left main. I later had a triple bypasss.

My cardiologist looked in my eyes when I awoke and said, "you are the luckiest man alive."

I think there are reasons in life that we sometimes get a second chance, I think mine is in part to tell this story, in hopes of maybe saving one person's life.

Here is my message, if you have pain in your lungs, left or right, and are out of breath, and that is very abnormal for you, get checked out! Stints are easy heart surgery and a fast recovery, and if you are like me, they can save your life.

Bless you doctor for making this post! I hope one person who doesn't feel well manages to type in a search, like I just did, and reads your post and this message in time to do something.

One final word, before my surgery I somehow knew in my gut, that something was seriously wrong with my heart, even though my symptoms did not seem all that bad.

I think they could call my type of stenosis the blindsider widowmaker.

If you are a significant partner to a person with widowmaker, and have been worried about such symptoms for months, as a gift give them a ride to the nearest ER. Even if it turns out okay, it is better to know than to watch them die.

Chris Hill

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