My Husband Had A F**king Heart Attack!!!
By: Jackie Melfi
As most of you know I keep a journal. I write in it everyday. Have been for the past 11 years. So it’s no surprise I have an entry for what would turn out to be an inauspicious day on one hand and yet a fortunate one simultaneously. You see, on Saturday, September 2, 2023, my husband John had a massive heart attack.
We’ve both decided to share our thoughts and experiences from that fateful day. This is my side of what happened. You’ll find John’s account below mine. We hope our story will remind everyone the importance of loving one another, as you never know what the next instance might bring. We also hope our cautionary tale will also remind everyone to stay vigilant when it comes to their health. We must always remain advocates for ourselves.
Sleep was interrupted by coughing. It appears the medical steps I’ve taken to relieve my congestion symptoms have failed to bring the desired results. My hacking continues. I finally relented at 4:45am. I didn’t want to bother John anymore than I already had.
I started the coffee. I knew the warm liquid would soothe my overactive throat. I grabbed my journal, taking advantage of the solitude.
In the back of my head, I kept wondering if I could pull off making cinnamon rolls for this morning’s race. Then again, my luck with yeast has never been the greatest. We ended up having fruit smoothies, which was better for us anyways. John and I watched F1 qualifying. I then went out to water our potted plants.
John left for the go kart track. He has an upcoming race he’s been training for. This will be like the fourth time this week he’s gone to practice.
I talked with my brother on the phone, stopped by the Farmers Market and started packing for my upcoming trip to Wichita. My son is having hip surgery and I’ve agreed to care for him those first few days out of the hospital.
A little before 2pm, my phone rang. It was John, except it wasn’t. It was the owner of the go kart track. John had overheated and our friend was taking him to the local minor emergency center. I wrote down the address, dressed, and headed out. It didn’t sound all that serious, but there was no need for the go kart owner to be carting John around. I was at least a half hour from John’s location. I was just getting ready to get on the highway when my phone rang again. “They are taking John to Kingwood Medical Center.” Wait…what? I pulled off the highway and entered the hospital address into google maps.
I met up with our friend at the entrance to the emergency room of the hospital. “He’s back in critical care.” I didn’t even have time to process what was happening. A nurse came out and escorted us back to where John was. My husband was hooked up to a plethora of machines. “Your husband’s having a heart attack.” John’s having a heart attack?! A heart attack?! What the hell are you talking about?! John lay on the gurney cussing about the tremendous pain he was experiencing and then apologizing for his cussing. His chest and both arms, the source of his discomfort.
The room was a hive of activity. People rushed around trying to alleviate John’s pain, while admissions hounded me for insurance info & signatures. “What’s your husband’s social security number? Does he have a DNR (do not resuscitate)? What’s your address? Email? On and on, all the while John’s crying out and nurses, like worker bees, tended to him. The cardiologist waltzed in and claimed rights to my husband. He would be taking him. I found myself standing in the midst of all this chaos like I was moving in slow motion. I nodded my head in agreement. Yes, do whatever you need to do to keep John alive. I obediently followed the doctor and his staff while they wheeled John from the emergency room and into the surgical room. I kissed John goodbye. “I love you.”
Our friend and I were parked in a destitute waiting room, while the doctor threaded a scope from John’s groin to his heart. The goal was to stent the malfunctioning artery. I followed our friend out to his truck. He gave me John’s duffle bag along with his wallet and phone. I put John’s bag in my car and walked back inside to wait.
Once alone in the waiting room, I set about making phone calls. I held it together, except for those first few moments of revelation to each person. No one could believe it. Of all the people to have a heart attack, John sat at the bottom of most peoples list. I mean if John’s susceptible, what hope do the rest of us have?
After an hour or so, the doctor appeared. They were able to place the stent in position. The artery was now open after a 100% blockage. Plaque buildup had somehow burst, creating what the doctor said was a widowmaker heart attack. The survival rate for a widowmaker heart attack is 12%. We are incredibly lucky. John’s heart had been so deprived of oxygen his blood was black. He’d had a very serious heart attack. The fact that John was still with us was nothing short of a miracle. The doctor showed me the footage of John’s blocked artery followed by the stent insertion. All the trauma of the day’s events has left John’s heart swollen and off beat. A parade of drugs will help stabilize this situation. Until at least Monday, my husband will be occupying a room in the intensive critical care unit of Kingwood’s Medical Centers South Tower.
Once we had John all situated in the hospital room, I headed home. He would need a change of clothes. We would both need phone chargers and because of our plant based diet, John would need food. The drive home was surreal. The prospect of today’s outcome hung in the air. My world could have changed in an instant. The force of responsibility also sat heavy in the space. I had no time to collapse. Too much depended on me staying calm. The time to fall apart will need to happen later.
We found out the next day that John’s testosterone injections contributed to his plaque buildup. The cardiologist had seen it time and time again. Otherwise healthy men succumming to a heart attack with one common denominator…testosterone. The shock of this knowledge left both of us stunned. We’re so careful with our health. We exercise, eat healthy, and try to balance our work so as not to become stressed. Finding out our choices had a bearing on a less than healthy outcome was sobering to say the least. We were determined to change that when John was released a few days later. The ICC said filling out discharge papers from their floor wasn’t the norm.
“Typically, people are moved to a regular room before going home.”
The fact John was deemed stable enough to leave did pay some homage to our healthy lifestyle, even if some of the choices had been less than stellar. Driving home with my husband sitting next to me was one of life’s highlights. He was alive! He was coming home and we were going to kick ass together. But first there was another elephant in the room. My youngest son. Remember when I wrote about my son and his hip surgery? Well, I brought John home on Monday the 4th, the same day I was scheduled to fly out. I had two men relying on me. I didn’t want to leave John, yet I also had made arrangements to care for my son. John told me to go.
“I’m going to be fine.” I agreed to go, but to only stay a few days. Enough time to see my son through the roughest patch of his procedure. To make matters even more interesting, our 11th year wedding anniversary was the following day. In the course of just a few days, our world was turned upside down, but somehow we made it through…for this I will be eternally grateful.
Upon my return home, John gave me the following letter tucked sweetly inside an anniversary card. I will always treasure his words and be reminded how blessed we are to have each day together.
Eleven years of marriage! It has been amazing and better than I would ever have dreamed. It was put to the test this year, not from the normal things that might end a marriage…our marriage and friendship is very strong and I know we will be able to communicate and be loving through any challenge we encounter, but from me having a major heart attack and coming so close to death.
I realized while laying in the ER and you appearing there before they took me into surgery, that I’m not ready for this beautiful partnership of ours to end. In spite of all the pain I was feeling, you being there lessened it. You being there was like this bright neon sign flashing…”IT’S NOT TIME, YET!”
I realize we have a lot of years ahead of us and we are going to share the time we have left together, being grateful and loving to each other, exploring new places, and experiencing new things in life!
The years ahead of us will be full of joy and happiness and love and compassion. I have no doubt. There is so much comfort knowing we have built such a solid relationship together. I have never experienced anything like it and I am not ready to leave you here without me by your side. I am going to do whatever is in my power to be your husband for many wonderful years to come.
Thank you for being by my side, supporting me, loving me, encouraging me, learning with me, and taking care of me when I can’t take care of myself. I love you more than words can describe and I am so full of gratitude we are both still here, together!
The Day I Almost Died on the Track
By: John Melfi
On the sunny afternoon of September 2nd, 2023, I found myself at the go-kart track, preparing for an upcoming race I was eagerly anticipating. Little did I know this seemingly ordinary day would take a life-altering turn. As I drove onto the track for another practice session, a tightness around my rib cage gripped me, and I immediately felt uncomfortable. I initially thought my rib protector was too tight. What I initially dismissed as an equipment issue would soon turn into a life-threatening situation, all linked to my use of testosterone therapy.
After completing a few laps on the track, I realized that something was seriously wrong. The discomfort persisted, and I decided to pit. Stripping off my racing gear, I placed an ice bag on my neck, hoping it was just a matter of overheating. However, as minutes passed, I began to feel worse, almost as if I were succumbing to heatstroke. Recognizing the gravity of the situation, I asked a friend to take me to a nearby medical clinic. When we arrived at the med clinic I got out of the truck, laid down on the sidewalk and started vomiting. I felt very weak and the fact that I was throwing up affirmed in my mind that I was having heat stroke.
The clinic said they weren’t equipped to handle what was happening and sent us 10 minutes down the road to another clinic with better facilities. Once we arrived there I asked my friend to call Jackie and let her know what was going on. After hooking me up to a heart monitor they announced I was having a heart attack and called an ambulance.
Wow, I couldn’t believe it…John Melfi, the pillar of health, was having a heart attack!!!
They prepared me for the hospital ride. The pain in my chest was getting worse. They put me in the ambulance and off we went on my first ever ambulance ride. At this point I was in and out of consciousness. I was feeling more and more tired. We arrived at the hospital a few minutes later and they prepared me for surgery. Jackie arrived after I had been there for a few minutes. I was so happy to see her!! I wasn’t feeling like my life was in danger of ending, but later I found out I was so close to dying. I kissed Jackie and told her how much I loved her as they wheeled me into surgery.
I think I was mostly out of it while they were putting a stent in my heart, but I remember the surgeon saying my blood was black and the main artery was blocked 100%. I remember thinking, “how can this be? I have been plant based for 12 years and I am in great physical condition”. The next day I would find out what caused the near fatal widow-maker heart attack. I had been going to a hormone clinic for a few years to replace my low testosterone levels. During the course of my treatment there had been complications with the pellets and so a few months ago we had switched to injections. I was told to inject 3mgs every other day. I was also on estrogen suppressors.
I had blood work every few months and the levels were steadily rising. The hormone clinic was never concerned about the levels. I had received blood test results on Sept 1st and the levels were higher than I had seen them. I scheduled an appointment the following week with a new hormone therapy clinic to get a second opinion and discuss bringing the levels down. I was a few days late…I had my heart attack the following day. My cardiologist informed me my testosterone level was 1900 and was the likely cause of the heart attack. Thankfully, my cholesterol numbers were great and there was zero plaque in my other arteries.
I was very wary about sharing this with all of you…I don’t like the attention and it is something very personal to me, but I have many friends and acquaintances that are taking testosterone supplements and I decided it is important to share my experience to potentially help someone avoid an event like I just experienced. I am not suggesting not to do the hormone therapy, there are definitely benefits, but I want everyone to be aware there are risks and ultimately it is our responsibility to make sure our levels don’t move into an area that can add additional risk.
I would like to give a huge thanks to my friends at the track who helped me and got me to the hospital quickly. Thanks to Jackie for being there for me through it all and always…I love you babe! Thanks to all of the medical staff that saved my life and took care of me after…you all were awesome! Thanks to my friends that have known what happened and have been so supportive and encouraging. It’s been a rough couple of weeks and ALL of you have helped me get through the mental stuff that’s been affecting me. And finally I am so grateful for EVERYONE in my life…you have all added something to the amazing life I’ve had.