It Took 5 Suspected Heart Attacks to Discover My Real Condition
Code Heart ER Room 1!
As I could barely speak, my poor wife, along with our two daughters, sat there trying to explain what was going on to the doctors. Once done, the doctors — who at this time filled the room — rushed my family out. I thought, here we go; I was about to have to fight for my life.
The day, September 30th, 2018, was no different from any other day. I worked a little at the office during the day and watched football most of the afternoon. My oldest, Hadley, has an odd obsession for watching football, asking after every play if the team with the ball won the game. Nevertheless, it allows me to watch something with her other than Octonauts or whatever puppy show it is for the day. After the kids were asleep, we were ending the day watching MasterChef; feeling completely normal.
Then the pain came — an excruciating pain I have never felt before. “My chest,” is all I could say as I tried to stand. My heart, which felt like I had just torn a muscle playing ball, was racing uncontrollably. That all-known fear of pain down the left arm was there. My body was numb, extremities cold and tingling. Vision, nearly gone. Barely able to speak, my wife trying her best to calm me down. The only thing I could think about was: I needed to get to the hospital, and get to the hospital fast.
As my wife woke the sleeping kids and got them semi-dressed as fast as she could, I did everything I could think of to slow my heart rate. Boy, did I fail miserably. The pain only worsened, and to the point where I could barely stand. Finally, in the car, we rushed to the hospital. Luckily, the hospital was only a couple of minutes away.
Now back in the ER, they whisked away my family, and the team of doctors started to work. Everything from that point became a blur. Waking to a doctor saying my name, he began to talk with me about everything. Blood work this, blood work that, levels this, levels that. All I was waiting for was the dreaded words: ”You just had a heart attack.”
I’m only 33; how could I have had a heart attack? I cycle, I run, I work out; I’m healthy as healthy can be. Then, the words came: “your heart is fine. Everything is normal.”
What the hell? What do you mean, everything is fine?
He then went on to explain that my potassium levels were low, and sometimes low potassium can mimic heart attack symptoms. I thought, “yeah right. Something is wrong.” Nonetheless, we had to leave; nothing was wrong.
Thinking everything was going to be getting better, then the second attack, third attack, fourth attack and finally the fifth attack. On the fifth attack of whatever was happening to me, we finally started to run tests. I mean every test in the world. Prodded and poked, scanned, stress test — anything they could think of. I was confident we would now finally find out what was wrong and we could get this past us — us because it was affecting my family at this point too. Our lives were starting to revolve around being at the hospital.
The results came back, showing not that everything was just fine, but that I actually have another artery in my heart that is just as big as the others. Meaning, I could have a blockage, and my dang heart would still keep beating because of how large the extra artery is. So… my heart wasn’t just fine, but it was extra fine. Something that should have been a huge relief… wasn’t. It was a blow to me in a way, what the hell was happening to me. Something was wrong, and I knew it. That’s when the next words shot through me with such a piercing pain, and I didn’t know how to handle it: “I’m recommending you to so a psychiatrist,” my wife said. My mind is what’s messed up here.
How the hell did I get here? How the hell is something wrong with my mind? I’m a strong-willed man, someone who has gone through a lot, but has always gotten through to the other side. I mean, I’ve seen a lot, but c’mon, I don’t need to see a psychiatrist.
I’m fine, but I’ve never really slept well after my first deployment. I’m fine, but I don’t show very much emotion to anyone. I’m fine, but I have a hard time empathizing with people. I’m fine, but I feel like nobody can relate to me and what I’ve gone through. I’m fine, because I don’t dream about things, but I don’t dream at all. I’m fine! Then it hit me: dude, you’re an idiot. You’re not fine, you’re struggling with something, and it is something you don’t understand. I don’t understand it, because I refused to be someone who could get it — I was still unable to say the words at that point. However, as I thought about the last visit to the ER, which started all these tests, I had only been released a couple of hours before the fourth time. I broke down in the parking lot of the hospital. When I say I broke down, I mean I broke down, uncontrollably broke down. I had, for the first time in my life, been broken. I was broken by something I refused to accept, didn’t understand and simply thought other people with it were weaker than I. I was that proud of a man, and I refused to accept the help I needed.
When I think back to the hospital parking lot, I didn’t want to go home. I didn’t want to go home because I was afraid of what I was going to do. If this was it — if this was how I was going to have to live the rest of my life — I was done. I didn’t want that. I didn’t want to live like this. That’s when I told my wife: “I have to go back. If I go home, I just don’t know what I’ll do.”
The hospital admitted me and then we ran the tests. The same tests I told you about before came back negative and even came back that I had an extremely healthy heart. The psychiatrist’s comments: that’s when it hit me. I still struggle to say the words: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety. For some reason, I keep thinking it makes me weak. Which is why I started writing: to be brave, and to give words to my feelings. Hopefully, the words will ease my transition into acceptance of the things that I have done and gone through. Through these words, I hope someone else might recognize the same thing, that we can all struggle with something and that there is no shame in reaching out for help.
My name is Kevin Jewell. I am a Hall-of-Fame College Baseball Player. Former United Special Forces Green Beret. I have two amazing, beautiful, healthy daughters. I have a wife who I have been with for over 16 years and our marriage and friendship is second to none. I have a great job that I love. I have a support network that extends throughout the country. If I can struggle, and struggle to understand, anyone can. I am here to help by telling my story.
Follow this journey on the author’s blog.
Getty Images photo via stevanovicigor.