Men – Life’s Priorities

We all know that as men, there are times when we can be stubborn and even dismissive when it comes to being proactive regarding our health. It’s either, oh it will go away on its own, that will never happen to me, or I’ll schedule that appointment tomorrow. We are all at some point guilty of not making our own health a priority, unfortunately that mentality sometimes comes at the greatest price imaginable. By not taking the opportunity to invest in and maintain our health we could be potentially missing out on years of creating experiences and memories with our loved ones. This is even more important if you know your family medical history with certain health issues, for me – cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, strokes, and cancer.

We are husbands, fathers, and providers for our families. We are also sometimes very driven with our careers and are focused on that next promotion, raise, or some form of recognition for a job well done. I’m not saying that being focused on your career advancements isn’t important, I totally understand that we all have to make a living in order to provide financially for our families. The point of this article is to bring a bit of perspective and hopefully help you think about how to create a healthy balance between career accomplishments, maintaining your health, and how the smallest of things can sometimes outweigh everything, even though they are sometimes hard to recognize when they happen.

I collapsed, my heart stopped beating, and I stopped breathing, I had just suffered a massive windowmaker heart attack.
Men – Life’s Priorities

Speaking from personal experience, life has a strange way of shaking one into reality, you must take the time to recognize it when it happens. It’s one thing to play something off such as a simple cold or having aches and pains as not being a big deal with your spouse or children, but being honest with yourself very important. It could actually be the one simple act that saves your life. I get it, I am man, hear me roar. I myself have been guilty of either not mentioning how I feel from a health perspective or watering it down to a point that nobody even thinks twice about it. We become masters at hiding these things because we, in our own minds, have created an image of ourselves that we are for some reason compelled to maintain at all costs. If you take one thing away from that last sentence, let it be this, you’re not a superhero, you can’t catch bullets or leap buildings in a single bound. While you may be the definition of a superhero to your family, in reality you are just a normal human being that from time to time needs a tune up just like the vehicle that you drive. If you never check the oil or any of the other fluids, it’s an inevitability that at some point you’re going to either need a new engine or possibly a new vehicle. Think of your body in the same way, it’s an engine that needs to be maintained and taken care of in order to maintain peak performance. The difference between you and your vehicle is you have the ability and mental capacity to take yourself in for that tune up.

Some lessons in life are hard to learn and can be extremely costly, like blowing the engine or the transmission in your vehicle. Our intelligence as humans has continued to evolve, advancing in great strides at finding ways to accomplish or create, but I have yet to see a coupon that says buy one heart get another half price. The realization that your life can end in a matter of seconds is a difficult thing to accept when you think that you are bullet proof, or say to yourself that will never happen to me. I decided in 2012 that I was hanging up my “that will never happen to me bullet proof vest”, because that’s when I was shown it can and will end with about as much effort as it takes to flip a light switch.

On April 21, 2012, at the age of 39, life took an opportunity to show me just how short and fragile it really is. I collapsed, my heart stopped beating, and I stopped breathing, I had just suffered a massive widowmaker heart attack. I was simply in the middle of having a conversation at 8:06 am that Saturday morning, not out fighting crime in a cape or dodging bullets. I had to be resuscitated multiple times, first by manual CPR, then by the paramedics, who arrived roughly 10 minutes after I collapsed.

I was later told that my 14 year old son stood over me and watched them shock me with a defibrillator multiple times trying to restart my heart and that my 6 year old daughter who stood at my head had asked “What’s wrong with Daddy?”. In all they spent almost 45 minutes working on me and then explained to my family that my heart had restarted but there was no guarantee they would be able to keep me alive. I remember being told of a conversation that took place between the paramedics regarding which hospital between the two that were closest they were going to take me to, which was very short as one of them stated he’s not going to make it unless we take him to OPR. If you are not familiar with a widowmaker heart attack, in this case it happened due to the left anterior descending artery(LAD), which pumps fresh blood into the heart so that it gets the necessary oxygen it needs to pump properly became blocked, the artery in my heart was 100% blocked.

I collapsed, my heart stopped beating, and I stopped breathing, I had just suffered a massive windowmaker heart attack.

I was on life support for almost 2 days when I woke up in the hospital wondering where I was at, having absolutely no clue what had happened to me. The first thing I remember was being shown a picture of my amazing 16 year old daughter standing beside me, she was ready for her prom that same Saturday night and there I was on life support with tubes and wires everywhere and she was standing at my bedside. There were some amazing friends and neighbors that made it their mission to ensure she didn’t miss her prom, for that I am still thankful.

I was fortunate enough to be able to meet and thank the paramedics and firefighters that responded to the 911 call a few weeks later. After I was back on my feet and out coaching a baseball game, the head coach from the opposing team pulled me aside and asked me how I was doing, we had known each other for several years. He happened to be a Captain with the fire department and still had the text message that was dispatched during the 911 call, it contained my address and the words non breather. I don’t care how tough you think you are, I saw that text message over 9 years ago and it still gives me the chills just thinking about the reality of what had happened and just how fortunate I had been.

After life somewhat returned to normal, I really never did, I had survived something that in reality should have technically ended my life. Things that I thought were important before either became insignificant or moved so far down the list they would likely never see the light of day again. I worked hard at changing some of my not so healthy habits and adopting new healthier ones. I did not want to waste the gift that I was given and often struggled with questions like, why did I survive? I obviously credited the quick thinking of the paramedics and the cardiologist that removed the blockage and put the stint into my heart, which allowed blood to flow as it should even though the heart attack had permanently damaged 15% of my heart. There was more to it for me though, I probably had way too much time to ponder my thoughts, researching survival rates, life expectancy after a widowmaker heart attack, etc. I have always been someone that looked to the data for answers because true and unaltered data has no opinion, nor does it try to sway you into a certain interpretation. It simply tells a story, whether you like the story or not.

In December of that same year I was in San Diego on vacation for Christmas visiting family when I could tell something was off. It’s actually pretty amazing how quickly your whole mindset changes regarding shrugging off the slightest of changes with your body. I ended going to the emergency room just to be sure that everything was ok, much to my dismay it was not. The damage that was done to the 15% of my heart muscle during the heart attack caused issues with my heart’s electrical pathways.

I collapsed, my heart stopped beating, and I stopped breathing, I had just suffered a massive windowmaker heart attack.
Defibrillator (Porkchop)

The ruling was, you’re not going to be medically cleared to fly back home without having an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), implanted into your chest. This little gadget that the electro cardiologist referred to as my first responder, I have affectionately named it “Porkchop”, has two leads that were inserted into my heart in the event that it needed to be restarted or brought back into a normal rhythm. I was told that it delivered the same amount of electrical joules as the larger, let’s rub the paddles together and yell “Clear!” when it goes off. Now, let me tell you not one part of that sounded like fun at all, especially knowing that Porkchop couldn’t yell “Clear!”, it was just going to light me up like a Christmas tree. Doesn’t that just sound like a fantastic surprise? So, let’s add that to the pile of data and wait for it to go off. I had a conversation with the cardiologist and he told me that he just had a mad patient come back in and tell him to remove his defibrillator. Just out of idle curiosity I said, ok, why would he want it out? He said it felt like he had been kicked in the chest by a horse with both back legs at the same time, talk about an attention grabber. I grew up on a farm, I’ve seen people get kicked by real horses and let me tell you I had to agree with the other patient. The cardiologist simply told him, it’s the horse or the alternative, I knew what alternative meant so I figured I’ll just try to play nice with the horse and stay on good terms. Knock on wood, so far so good, I had the defibrillator implanted on New Year’s Eve of that year and although it has gone off several times, I have not felt it’s full force. I always know when the cardiologist’s office calls and greet me with how are you feeling, I just cut straight to the chase and ask what happened. It tends to keep the conversations much shorter.

Fast forward a few years to July 4, 2017 – As my wife and I were about to leave to take the kids to get some fireworks, I was able to have the wonderful experience of a TIA, which is basically a mini stroke. No long term issues from that thankfully, on to fight another day.

I collapsed, my heart stopped beating, and I stopped breathing, I had just suffered a massive windowmaker heart attack.
Heart Ablation

Here we are now on June 11, 2020 – It has been decided that due to the continued issues with the electrical impulses in my heart we are going to do this cool little procedure called a cardiac ablation, which lasted for 6 hours. It’s like being hooked up to a gaming console and the cardiologist is playing asteroids with the electrical impulses that are basically getting stuck on bad pathways.

You’ve probably asked yourself, man, who did you upset. Well, as they say, you can choose your friends but your parents, not so much. You unfortunately play the cards you’ve been dealt and hope for the best.

Oh, but wait, there’s more. On to April 8, 2021, I’m sitting at my desk working away, no different from any other day. My wife makes me some lunch and I actually felt bad for the tacos for a brief moment – but it was short lived. About 2 hours later at 4:45 pm, I thought to myself, whew, what did she put in those tacos. I’m not one for getting indigestion or heartburn, but I rolled with the punches. Tums, nope, drank some milk, nope, decided to lay down on the couch for a few minutes, and yet again, nope. Nothing was working and then the proverbial light in my head went off, seriously? Again? I grabbed my blood pressure cuff, when you have a heart attack your cardiologist and sometimes your wife, especially if she is a doctor, likes you to take your blood pressure twice a day and then jot it down in a little notebook.

So, I thought, probably not a bad idea just to be sure and check. My BP machine was like, uhm, not sure I can count that high. Ok, malfunction, let’s try one more time, uhm, I’ve already told you Ken, I can’t count that high. Then I called for my wife to bring her cool one over and see what it had to say, it basically said you should consider a trip to the emergency room. After a few expletives, I grabbed my shoes and off we go to the hospital. We get there, I walk in and tell the nice nurse that I’ve either got a serious case of indigestion or I’m having a heart attack. Straight to the front of the line we go. Standard approach, give the man an EKG and see what it says. I didn’t want the nurse to freak out when she saw my EKG, so I informed her that my EKG is always abnormally normal due to my first heart attack. She saw fit to immediately correct me with, no sir, you are actually having a heart attack right now. Ah, well isn’t that just great, chaos ensues, everyone packs into a tiny room, then it’s off to the Cath Lab where I should literally have a plaque on the wall due to the number of times I’ve had to endure that cold metal table. In the end, another widowmaker, this time LAD was blocked 100% again but we added in the Right Coronary Artery, coming in at a 90% blocked. A nice conversation and 3 stints later, I had them punch my frequent customer card – I’ve got to be getting close to a free something, right?

I’ve carried you on this journey of my cardiac disaster to get you to the date of April 24, 2021. I was introduced to two of the most amazing people that I have ever had the opportunity to meet. Greg and Michelle Pryor, together they own Life Priority. Life Priority is a health supplement and vitamin company based in Overland Park that carries what I consider by far the best supplements that I have ever taken, everything is centered around my heart just in case you had not picked up on that part of the story yet, lol. Michelle is one of the kindest and most caring individuals that I have ever met. Once she heard my story she immediately educated me regarding things about my heart and specific ingredients in the Life Priority supplements that I could benefit from. I am a true believer in things happen for a reason and people are put in your path for a reason, hopefully both of those tilt to the positive side for those of you reading this. I can honestly say that since I started taking the supplements and vitamins that she suggested, I feel so much better than I have in a very long time. Now, I’m just trying to learn as much as I can from her so that I can continue to better my health. Yes, if you’re asking yourself, but did you ask your primary care provider and your cardiologist about the supplements and their ingredients? Well, absolutely I did and they both gave them a thumbs up regarding adding them to my daily regimen.

Each morning when I get up I start with my water and add in Muscle Memory, Mind, and Lift. I keep V-Guard 2 around just in case people start getting sick, Productive Sleep to help rest and recharge my brain. Calcium Priority, Magnesium Priority, and LifeShield are all amazing and both myself and my wife take them daily.

I collapsed, my heart stopped beating, and I stopped breathing, I had just suffered a massive windowmaker heart attack.

For those of you that don’t believe in second chances, please take a second to look around you, second chances do exist, just be sure to take advantage of it when it comes along. Even when the cards may be stacked against you, if you take the necessary steps regarding your health, you can make it through anything. It’s when you do nothing that costs you the most.

No Longer Bullet Proof,

Ken

Kenneth Glenn is a retired software architect and is currently living with advanced heart failure. These are personal heart healthy recipes that you are welcomed to share with your friends and family. If your intent is to link to or use the recipe on your website, please ensure that proper credit is given per the DMCA.


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