Monday, May 21, 2012
Man has close call because of atypical heart symptoms
Last June, a massive heart attack and heart rhythm disorder erased five days of Tom McCurry’s memory, and he didn’t see it coming.
McCurry works night shift at Denso in Athens. On a Friday night he wasn’t feeling well and called in sick. A storm had knocked a tree down across his driveway, so he figured he’d get some rest, have his son come help him with the tree the next morning and return to work Saturday night. When his son arrived to help him with the tree, McCurry was feeling worse. After about 40 minutes, he couldn’t breathe well and had blurry vision. He sat down in his truck while his son finished clearing the tree. Afterward, he returned to the house and lay down for a nap.
McCurry vaguely recalls his wife and son trying to wake him to go to a local emergency room and talking with staff, then he draws a blank.
“I woke up five days later in an ICU room in a different hospital,” laughed McCurry. “But I remember feeling better right away. I was up and walking as far as they’d let me almost immediately.”
McCurry had experienced a massive heart attack and shock, as well as liver and kidney failure, which required invasive heart assistance, blood pressure support and dialysis. He is fortunate that his local hospital knew Parkwest cardiologist Dr. Robert Martyn. After receiving the consult, Dr. Martyn orchestrated McCurry’s transfer to Parkwest and immediately began the support measures.
“I was surprised when Dr. Martyn came into my room and told me I’d only had about a 10 to 20 percent chance of surviving,” said McCurry. “I hadn’t really thought it was that serious until then.”
McCurry never displayed what he deemed “classic heart attack symptoms.” He didn’t have chest pain, he wasn’t nauseous and he didn’t have any tingling in his arms.
“I’d been having GI issues for about two years,” reflected McCurry. “We tried everything to make things better. Then a few months before my heart attack, I started having respiratory problems. My lungs felt heavy. I thought it was just a case of bronchitis, but it wasn’t getting any better, even with antibiotics.”
McCurry spent three weeks at Parkwest. Following his heart procedure, his platelet count dropped so low that he had to undergo transfusions to replace them.
“Everyone at Parkwest took such good care of me,” said McCurry.
His wife, Kaye, agreed, “Parkwest was so good to us, especially the Critical Care staff. When they were talking to us, I felt like we were the only people on the unit at that time and all of their focus was on us. It was so comforting during such a scary time.”
McCurry described struggling with differences in how food tastes, likely because of the liver and kidney toxins he experienced. “Pineapple tasted like it was soaked in vinegar,” he said.
“It was the ultimate day of joy when I discovered Parkwest had popsicles,” he joked. “They tasted decent and they kept me hydrated. I must have eaten my weight in red ones.”
McCurry is no small guy. At 6-foot-4, he weighed 248 pounds before his heart attack. He lost 30 pounds, mostly from built-up fluid, while at Parkwest and a few more after he went home.
“When I went home none of my pants fit, even if I used a belt. I had to wear lounge pants everywhere for a while. I got some funny looks when I went to the store; people must have thought I was wearing my pajamas,” he said.
After three months of recuperation and some outpatient therapy through cardiac rehab, McCurry was able to return to work last September. He has made changes to his diet and exercise regimen and is more mindful now of his activity level. He is grateful for his co-workers who have picked up more of the physically demanding jobs, allowing him more desk time.
I do what I can do, and then I let others help,” he said. “Thanks to Parkwest, Dr. Martyn and cardiac rehab, my heart, liver and kidneys have fully recovered.”
Following treatment for a heart attack at Parkwest Medical Center, Tom McCurry enjoys relaxing at home.