The Widow Maker

Wednesday, August 20, 2014.  A beautiful day in the Cyclades, an island chain southeast of Greece, in the Aegean Sea.  My family and I were on day 8 of a 9-day vacation.

We were on Kamari Beach, a black-sand beach, on the island of Santorini.  It is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

It is 10 o’clock in the morning.  We are sitting under palm-covered umbrellas on this beautiful beach.  The girls are drinking iced pomegranate juice, brought by a beach waiter.

A beach waiter.  Life is really good.  There is not a cloud in the sky.


I decided to take a dip in the water.  The water is crystal clear.  I can see fish swimming right up to the waters’ edge.  I put one foot in the water, and…

Chest pain.

Bad chest pain.

What went through my brain next was “Is this a heart attack?  Am I having a heart attack on the beach?”

Then I caught my breath, walked back to my chair, and didn’t tell anyone until we got home on Friday.


On Friday, (two days later), while walking our dog, I told Theresa about the chest pain.  I didn’t try to minimize it.  In fact, I had been having more symptoms.  Skipped beats, little bits of pain.  I tried to exercise, and my workouts  were terrible.


To make a long story short, the next few days looked like family physician>cardiologist call>evaluation>EKG> scheduled for a cardiac catheterization.

On September 11, 2014, I went to the hospital for my cardiac catheterization.


I won’t bore you with all of the details of the catheterization.

I had two blockages in my left anterior descending artery.  One blockage was 50%, and another was 60%.  Each blockage, by itself, would not have been so bad.  But because there were two blockages close together, blood flow was affected.


The left anterior descending artery (the “LAD”) provides blood and oxygen supply to the ventricles.  The ventricles are the pumps that supply blood to the rest of the body.  Without a left anterior descending artery, the ventricles shut down, and life stops.

During the catheterization, two stents were placed in my left anterior descending artery.

The left anterior descending artery has a nickname:  “The Widow Maker”.  It has that nickname, because when it closes, the victim dies, and only the widow (or widower) survives.

My cardiologist hates that nickname.


There should be a complaint department for situations like this.  A window with a bell, where I can go and ring the bell and say “I want to file a complaint!!”, like Monty Pythons “Complaint Department” sketch.

My complaint would be that it isn’t fair that I have a heart condition, because I am a vegetarian, and I exercise at least 3 times a week, and my cholesterol was only 190, and wah wah wah, like a little baby.  That’s what I would say (except for the wah wah wah part).

Except that no one cares.  I know this is true, because  I’ve shared these complaints with several people, and nobody cares.  At all.  Not even a little bit.  Even my dog rolls his eyes when I start complaining.


This is as good a time as any for a random movie quote.

The movie quote of the day comes from “Shawshank Redemption”.  If you haven’t seen it, go watch it.

In the movie, Andy Dufresne says to Red “get busy living, or get busy dying”.

My morning in the cath lab reminded me….it’s time for me to get busy living.

That is what this blog is about.  It is one way for me to express that my life is worth living.  Right now.

If it seems like I’ve been writing a lot, it’s because I’ve got a lot to write about.  And I experience a lot of joy writing this.

I hope you enjoy it.  I do.


And now for some unwanted advice.

If you have chest pain, any time, anywhere- ask for help.  Don’t be stupid.  I have done stupid things all of my life, and not telling anyone about chest pain is in my Top 10 list of stupid things I’ve done.  There is a reason the left anterior descending is called “the Widow Maker”.

When people learn that I have two stents in my LAD, they tell me about other people that they know, who died of LAD blockages.

So if you have chest pain and you ask for help, and it turns out to be gas pains, blame me.

But if you have two blockages in your LAD- get it fixed.

Then listen to Andy Dufresne, and get busy living.

Good advice, Andy.



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