My Husband Survived a Widowmaker Heart Attack: 12 Things About Heart Attacks You Need to Know by Donna John

Heart Health
3 months ago

My Husband Survived a Widowmaker Heart Attack: 12 Things About Heart Attacks You Need to Know

In 2016, my husband had a widowmaker heart attack. Because of what we describe as “divine intervention,” he survived. When he had the heart attack, he was in the right place, at the right time, with the right people. An ambulance arrived within 16 minutes, and he had a stent inserted at 29 minutes.

How much do you know about widowmakers, or heart attacks in general? Here are some things to know from the Texas Heart Institute

  1. A widowmaker is a 100 percent blockage in the main coronary artery.
  2. Without medical help, the survival rate of a widowmaker is zero, thus the name.
  3. Don’t be misled by the name – women can have a “widowmaker” as well.
  4. Heart attacks can be caused by plaque in an artery; a blood clot that blocks an artery; “vulnerable plaque” that ruptures and causes a blockage in an artery; and coronary artery spasm, where an artery spasms and narrows, blocking blood flow.
  5. There are two types of heart attacks, the most severe being an ST-segment-elevation myocardial infarction, or STEMI, where the coronary artery is completely blocked and the heart receives no blood and begins to die (widowmaker). A non-ST-segment-elevation myocardial infarction, or NSTEMI, means that the coronary artery is only partly blocked.
  6. An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) shows if you are having a STEMI.
  7. For men, chest pain is only one of the possible symptoms of a heart attack. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, sweating and nausea. Symptoms of a heart attack for women are different.
  8. The outcome of a heart attack depends on a few factors – what artery was blocked; if heart rhythm was disturbed; if the heart got blood from another source; and how soon the person received medical attention.

Here are a few things I learned going through the experience with my husband:

  1. The mental recovery after surviving a heart attack is much harder than the physical recovery.
  2. Don’t think you can’t have a heart attack because you’re in good shape and eat healthy. My husband had lost more than 40 pounds, was eating all the good stuff you’re supposed to, taking vitamins and exercising regularly. He was working out when he had the heart attack. (Read Trainer Bob Harper Had a Heart Attack: What Does This Mean for the Rest of Us?)
  3. Don’t dwell on the fact that most people do not survive a widowmaker. Every time we got a new nurse or other medical caregiver on duty, here came the “you shouldn’t be here” comments. Well meaning, but anxiety building. Talk to friends and family about this, too.
  4. It'll take time, but life will get back to "normal." One day you'll wake up and realize you didn't think about it today. As soon as your doctor gives the all-good, get out and do the normal things you did together. 

My husband lived. With all the medical advances many more are joining the “I Survived a Widowmaker” group. Eat healthy, if you smoke quit, exercise and try to reduce the stress in your life. That’s really all we can do. And if you’ve survived a widowmaker, take it as you still have things to do on this earth – and live your life to the fullest. 

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Elisa Schmitz
What a terrifying experience for you, Donna John . I am so glad your husband had a positive outcome. Thank God for Divine Intervention! Thank you for this helpful information. My dad had several heart attacks and ended up with quadruple bypass surgery a few years ago. The surgeon said much of his problem was genetics. So grateful for the advances in health care to save those we love. ❤️
Teacher Karen
What a story! So glad yours had a happy ending. Lifestyle makes a difference, but our DNA impacts our health and wellness too...and when it's a negative impact thank goodness for all the medical advances available!
Donna John
That is so true, Teacher Karen . It was a scary time, but we got through it. He's doing great.
Teacher Karen
That's wonderful!
Stacey Roberts
I can only imagine it must suck the energy out of you to recant this experience, but thank you so much for doing it. This is one of those things that a healthy person is at risk of just like what someone who’s considered unhealthy is and that’s what makes this one so dangerous.
First time I heard of this was from a doctor we’d just established with, in his late 30’s. He ate well, was an avid hiker and had a glass of wine occasionally. It was while on a hike he knew something wasn’t right so went straight to the ER. If he wasn’t a doctor, he’d be dead, but he knew the symptoms. He just never thought he’d be the sufferer.
And thank you for addressing the mental toll this takes, which is as important to be treated as the physical injury.
God blessed you are!
Donna John
The mental side of it was unexpected for me. Physically, he was OK straight out of the hospital. But mentally, it took a long time before things got back to "normal." So glad your doctor was OK! Thanks for sharing his story. Stacey Roberts
Ann Marie Patitucci
Donna John : Thank you for sharing your story in order to help others. I'm so glad to hear that your hubby is ok. Thanks for shining a light on both the physical and the mental effects following a heart attack.
Meredith Schneider
Donna John thank you so much for sharing this. With the scare we had on Sunday I was a mess. I can't imagine how it would of been if he was in a worse condition. Sitting there waiting, wondering, thinking and crying. Like Ann Marie Gardinier Halstead said, thanks for sharing both sides of the effects. Love you! xoxoxoxo
Mindy Hudon, M.S., CCC-SLP
Thank you for sharing this Donna John How frightening this must have been!
Mike Prochaska
Wow that scary. Glad he ok
Roxane Goss
My husband wasn't lucky enough to survive his "widowmaker" heart attack. The entire situation wasn't handled properly and it was well over 1 1/2 hours before they even put a stint in. He passed after 2 days. It was one of the most traumatic situations I have ever survived myself. I am so glad that they are able to save more people that have them and I am so glad your husband survived Donna. What a valuable tip to share!
Donna John
I am so sorry, Roxane Goss . What a horrible thing to go through. Thank you for sharing your story with us, and one day may no one have to endure what you have. So glad you are part of our tribe. It's definitely a place you'll get support. Hope you consider contributing as well.
Roxane Goss
Thank you Donna John! That’s my prayer and hope too! I created a profile and have submitted my first tip and I’m waiting for it to be approved now. I hope to offer tips on grief.
I too survived a widowmaker. July 5, 2017. Ended up having a double bypass. It went well and was released from the hospital 6 days later...only to return to the hospital very lethargic and in Afib/Aflutter. So another 5 days in ICU/CCU. My trauma didn't really start until I had been home for 5 days after the A-fib issue, I went back to the hospital for an emergency gallbladder removal. The doctors were concerned because my heart hadn't been in rythym for too long. However, there was no other option. The gall bladder had to come out as the probability of it bursting was far greater a risk. My anxiety has gone through the roof! Exactly 4 weeks After the gall bladder incident, I went in to have 2 stents put in each leg. What was supposed to be an outpatient procedure ended up being another 7 days in the CCU. My left leg hemmoraged and my blood pressure dropped to 60/40. Once again, my anxiety was off the charts.
After I recovered from all that, I entered my first 5K in my life at my 3 month bypass anniversery. It was great, won first place for my age group and it felt wonderful! Did a 2nd 5K in November and was proud of finishing that on as well. As November neared the end, one of my very observant doctors noticed a spot on my left foot. Turned out to be cancerous. Ugh. December 4th, I had a huge chunk taken from my foot. Recovery for that has been slower than any of the other surgeries I'd just been through.
I had smoked for a good 30 years prior to all of this. I put them down July 4th, the day before my bypass. I eat so much healthier now than before and I'm feeling great and slowly getting back to my exercise regiment. Now my hope and prayer is I don't see the inside of a hospital at all in 2018!
Donna John
What a roller coaster story, Debbielain11 . And what a blessing that you not only survived a heart attack, but also kicked cancer's butt.

A 5K and first place? That is amazing and inspiring. Praying that you have a healthy 2018. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.
I am 64. After my Congestive Heart Failure diagnosis in 2009 my first symptom were feet swelling, energy loss and chest pains. Suddenly I got weak and dizzy and had severe shortness of breath. My blood pressure was 200/100, respiration was 28 with oxygen saturation of 88 percent. I was extremely short of breath. My doctor started me on blood pressure medications, Lasix and nitroglycerin, the medications helped but not much. In January this year my PCP referred me to Rich Herbs Foundation, i immediately started on their natural organic CHF FORMULA treatment. I had a total decline in all symptoms including the leg and feet swellings, shortness of breath, fatigue, weight problems, excess urination, chest pains and others. Visit Rich Herbs Foundation web page ww w. richherbsfoundation. com. The CHF treatment totally reversed my congestive heart failure condition and most amazingly i can go about my daily activities!
Donna John
Wow! So happy you found a treatment that worked for you. Will look into the web page you suggested. Stay healthy!
Donna John
I added it to the related links above. Heather Holter
Melissa Vickers
Scary stuff. So glad you were able to write the "he survived" version of this kind of heart attack. Mine wasn't a widowmaker, and I really had NONE of the typical symptoms ahead of time for either men or women, but just woke up with a "rock" on my chest. The EMT in the ambulance told the other EMT, "good thing she woke up!" It's amazing the technology and know-how that is available--if you're lucky. And yes to the mental part being the hardest. I still have "mental demons" from time to time with odd little triggers. I remember my first solo trip to Walmart and I got to worrying that I should have brought a bandaid or two in case I got a paper cut or worse there, given the blood thinners I'm on!! It's scary to meet your mortality so head-on!!

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