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Father’s Heart Attack Is A Wake-up Call

In March, things turned upside down for Paul Shealy.

It was 4:30 a.m., and he was wide awake. Something about his heart just wasn’t right.

After a few regular beats, his heart felt like it paused–and then it began beating really hard, “like it was trying to start over,” Paul said. “I didn’t feel pain, and I wasn’t nervous, but I knew it was wrong.”

Paul Shealy, his wife Heather and their three children: Connor; 13; Braydon, 11; and Trisleigh, 7.

Paul walked around his house and got a drink of water, trying to work it out. After about 30 minutes, he woke up his wife and told her they should call an ambulance.

Paul was just 42 years old. He’s married to his high school sweetheart and they have three young children.

Paul had no family history of heart disease. But just a few months earlier, he had consulted with a doctor who urged him to quit using smokeless tobacco and to start taking medicine to control his high blood pressure. Paul took the medicine—at first.

“The side effects made me feel awful,” he said. “I’d go back to the doctor to have the medication adjusted, but after awhile I felt like I couldn’t go to the doctor again and say, ‘I need you to fix this medicine.’”

Paul did stop using smokeless tobacco, thinking that would be enough to improve his blood pressure.

After several check ups, Paul stopped seeing the doctor and stopped taking the medicine. He thought he had done enough to improve his blood pressure by quitting smokeless tobacco.

Paul isn’t alone. About one in three American adults has high blood pressure. Chronic high blood pressure – also called hypertension — can damage the heart and arteries. Nearly half of Americans with high blood pressure don’t have it under control.

Dr. Mitchell Jacocks

“Unfortunately, hypertension doesn’t cause symptoms, and sometimes the treatment can produce side effects and make patients question whether it’s worthwhile to take the medication they’re prescribed to control it,” said Mitchell W. Jacocks, MD, of Lexington Cardiology, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice.

“Paul felt fine, and at his age, he probably felt like ‘nothing can happen to me.’ It’s a common misconception and unfortunately, can lead to dire consequences,” Dr. Jacocks said.

When Paul arrived at Lexington Medical Center’s Emergency department, clinicians confirmed his blood pressure was very high. Medication failed to bring his blood pressure under control, so clinicians admitted him to the hospital where tests confirmed that one of Paul’s arteries was seriously blocked. In the cardiac catheterization lab, doctors with
Lexington Cardiology inserted a stent in the artery to restore the normal flow of blood. Paul stayed in the hospital for five days.

Today, Paul takes a new blood pressure medicine and follows up with Dr. Jacocks regularly.

According to Dr. Jacocks, Paul is now a model patient. “There are few things that motivate a person like a cardiac event. Sometimes it’s the wakeup call people need to get them to take care of themselves,” said Dr. Jacocks.

Looking back, Paul recognizes the warning signs he ignored—when climbing a flight of stairs seemed to take his breath away, or when his wife noticed he was more tired, and how his breathing at night wasn’t right.

Dr. Jacocks said patients often ignore symptoms or put off treatment that could save their lives. “It’s important to listen to your loved ones,” he said. “They may notice something that you may not notice or be denying that could be signs of potential problems.”

“I completely learned my lesson,” Paul said. “It’s my responsibility, as a father, to be here. Now I take responsibility for my own health.”