While mending a fence Jeff Crawford was overwhelmed with nausea and exhaustion. At only 45 years old, this Poulsbo resident didn’t know he was at risk. His young son said ‘call mom’ but, thankfully, Jeff dialed 911 instead. By the time his ambulance reached Harrison Medical Center, Jeff’s heart was just moments away from a heart attack…
“In the hospital, my doctor said ‘whether you want it or not, your life is now very different.’ I had so much to live for, I wanted it to be different.” With the help of Harrison’s cardiac rehab program, Jeff is now on the road to a healthy future.
“I learned that there’s no magic pill. It just takes consistent diet and exercise. The phase II and III cardiac rehab team keep me on track. I didn’t know how fortunate I was to have such a world-class heart program in my own backyard. I appreciate it now! I am living, walking proof that Harrison’s cardiac care works. ”
Q&A with Jeff
What was your life before your heart attack?
I owned a record store on Bainbridge Island, called The Glass Onion – owned for over 20 years. I have a great appreciation for horse buggy makers, because with the introduction of the Internet and iTunes, the bottom fell out of my business. Just before my heart attack, my business closed and I was dealing with the loss of that.
Both grandparents had coronary disease. So the odds were kinda stacked against me, in that regard. And, when while running my own business, I didn’t take care of myself. I knew what the right thing to do was, but I just didn’t do it. I thought I had more time or I thought I’d have a longer warning.
Describe what happened the day of your heart attack.
It was July 8, 2011. I was repairing a fence, pounding a post into the ground. I felt instantly tired and nauseous. I had my son with me and I was home alone with him that day, my wife was at work. I sat on the stairs for five minutes and wondered if it was a stomach bug. Then, I decided to call the hospital. My son told me to call mom, but I called 911 anyway. The crew called my wife so she could come home for our son, then the ambulance took me to Harrison. At the time we all weren’t sure it was a heart attack. The EMTs thought my nausea might be other causes, because my BP and heart rate were normal when they first arrived at the house. But to be safe, we took the quickest route to the hospital.
By the time I got to the ED, then my heart attack hit. I was sitting by myself at the moment. I remember very vividly, my surgeon, Dr. Hainer said to me before I went under: “whether you want it or not, your life is very different.”
I thought to myself: “bring it.” I wanted my life to be different. My son was only 7 at that time. I wanted to be there for him and my family. We learned after the surgery that I had full occlusion of my LED. And, apparently, this was my second heart attack. My symptoms are not typical for men; and I know that now but in the back of my mind I said, “I’m chubby and lazy, but I’m only 45, my BP wasn’t high, my cholesterol was only border-line high. I wasn’t necessarily wasn’t the picture of health, but it was a surprise to me.”
What happened after your heart attack?
Well, the first couple of days, I rested. Then, with the free Wi-Fi in the hospital, I googled “widow-maker” from my hospital bed and a nurse was there in five minutes, because my heart rate spiked. It was too much information at the time of how close I came to losing my life.
Today is a much different picture. Jeff indeed followed through with his challenge “bring it.”
It sounds cheesy, but I really understand that every day is a gift. I went on with Harrison’s cardiac rehab, even though my health insurance didn’t cover it. Phase I care was in the hospital. At phase II, which was outpatient, everyone kept it light, informative and they knew when to give me the not-so-subtle nudge to build my endurance. I was scared spitless coming in; I didn’t know how much I could do or what my life was going to be like at that point. They got me thinking long-term again. One of the docs said “Rome wasn’t built in a day and it didn’t fall apart in a day, either.” I learned that there’s no magic pill. It just takes consistent diet and exercise. The phase II and III team has kept me honest and to stay on track. It’s “How to not die early 101.” You have to move. Not running marathons, just one foot in front of the other.”
What do you look forward to the most?
Turning 46, and 50 and 55. I’m thinking longer-term now and not just worrying about if-I-will-live. There is a future after a heart attack and Harrison helped me find it. I hope no one ever has to go through what I did. But the gift is that I learned what was important really fast. I look forward to the future and I know I wouldn’t be as far along in my rehab if it hadn’t been for my optimistic rehab team coaching me and encouraging me to try a little bit more. Aaron helps me to expand my thinking about what I can do and will be with me to ensure I get there.
I didn’t know how fortunate I was to have such a world-class heart care hospital in my own backyard. I appreciate it now! I am living, walking proof that Harrison’s heart care works.