Perfect Health doesn't stop a Heart Attack

The Picture of Perfect Health

When Jeff Miller went for a run in late September 2009, he had no reason to believe he would have any difficulties.  Because of a family history of heart disease, Jeff had undergone some tests in 2005 to determine his risks.  Doctors diagnosed Jeff with heart disease at that time, but no invasive procedures were required.  He was given some medications and told to eat healthier and exercise more.  At the time of his September 2009 run, Jeff was an active Lieutenant with the West Des Moines Police Department and an avid runner who worked out regularly, didn't smoke or drink alcohol, and ate a healthy diet.  At only 53, Jeff appeared the picture of health.  But as Jeff soon learned, appearances can be deceiving.

Chest & Shoulder Discomfort during a Run

Only four miles into his run, Jeff began to experience discomfort in his chest and left shoulder but thought it felt like indigestion.  He dismissed it, finished his run, and ate a couple Tums when he got home.  The following day while playing softball with friends, he began to notice chest discomfort similar to what he experienced the previous day.  By the time the game was over and he was driving home, Jeff realized something was terribly wrong.  Although he tried convincing himself he was only experiencing indigestion, Jeff noticed his skin was sweaty and clammy, unusual for a cool September evening.

Denial of a Heart Attack

"With all the training I have in CPR and all the police calls I've been on where someone was having a heart attack, you'd think I would have realized what was happening to me," says Jeff.  "But I was in denial.  No one ever thinks it will happen to them."

Once home from the game, Jeff's wife Mary called 9-1-1.  Paramedics rushed Jeff to the emergency department at Iowa Methodist Medical Center, where a large team of doctors and nurses were waiting for him.  He was quickly taken into surgery, where two stents were inserted, bypassing a blocked artery and saving his life.

"I was amazed at the number of people waiting for me at the emergency department," says Jeff.  "I remember one nurse specifically; her soothing voice and warm hands really helped to calm me as I was prepared for surgery."

Amazing Care and Recovery

After six days and two surgeries, Jeff was sent home, but his road to recovery wasn't over yet.  He spent the next four weeks attending cardiac rehabilitation at Iowa Lutheran Hospital.

"The cardiac rehab team at Lutheran helped me realize that stress was a huge contributing factor in my heart attack," says Jeff, who is now retired from police work.  "Unless I figured out how to manage my stress, I'd be back in the hospital in no time.  I used to look at this heart attack only as a bad experience to just get through.  They helped me see that life after a heart attack is a journey, and I have to have a game plan.  I signed up for a yoga class, pray and read the Bible, and talk to my wife about everything.  I have to take care of myself; I love myself and my family too much to go through this again."