Marking ten years of living

I was planning to save my thankfulness for this week?s column rather than last week?s pre-Thanks?giving issue.

Dec. 3 marks 10 years since I received two stents in my left coronary artery (often called the widow-maker). So I am thankful every day that I am still among the living. Here is my column of Dec. 8, 2004:


It will never happen to me. At least that?s what I thought until this past Thursday. Maybe in my 70s, but not in my 50s.

For the past few months I have had a burning in my chest but made myself believe it was only heartburn and would eventually go away. I should have put it together that it happened only with exertion and subsided when I stopped.

Maybe I did think it might be heart trouble, but just didn?t want to deal with it. I wanted it to be something else because we had so many things going with our newspapers and the two book projects now completed.

Luckily, I was scheduled for a routine colonoscopy and last Wednesday visited physician Randal Claassen to set it up. As we talked, I described my heartburn. He asked a few questions and then decided I needed a treadmill right away.

Thursday morning I went for the treadmill and lasted about three minutes before the burning started and then became intense.

He asked me when the last time was I flunked a test. I said I couldn?t remember. Then he said I flunked this one big time.

The clinic made an appointment for me with cardiologist Layne Reusser the next morning and told me to go home and avoid doing anything strenuous.

I woke at 3:30 a.m. Friday thinking about all of the things undone and tried to make a mental list of what was most important. I planned to do those things right after the appointment. That didn?t happen. The next thing I knew I was in the ambulance on my way to the Kansas Heart Hospital in Wichita.

Four days later, I am back home with two stents in the left main artery feeding my heart muscle because it was 99 percent blocked. I was told it was a time bomb waiting to go off.

My advice: Listen to your body and don?t wait until it is too late. I?ll be laying low for a while and my new lifestyle begins now.

I could have skipped writing my column this week, but I hope I can help someone else avoid the path I was on.

Heartfelt thanks go to everyone at Hillsboro Community Medical Center, including Brenda Brown, Ken Johnson, Donna Diener, Jaynette Miller and Dr. C. Also to Wendy McCarty, Brenda Brown and Mike Wadkins for the smooth ride to Wichita.

I was extremely impressed with the great care I received at Kansas Heart Hospital. The people I can remember are Janet, Carmen, Marilyn, Tim, Margaret, Marj, Linda, Dr. Duick and Dr. Reusser.

Life for me begins anew at 58. It?s an emotional time for me. My perspective is changed forever.


There was this dog that had an operation; when it was over he could talk. It was so unique that the dog was booked on all of the TV talk shows. Finally, they had to quit having him as a guest. All he would do is talk about his operation.

I will spare you the details of mine unless you really want to know.

If you wish to share your comments or ideas, my e-mail address is joel@

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