Danny Mackenzie, Rhode Island


I am a 40 year old, healthy active adult as well as a cardiac arrest and heart attack survivor.

It was a Saturday and I remember waking up in a hospital bed feeling tired and groggy.  My heart attack happened on a Saturday but I did not wake up until a week later.  My mind and body had been put through the ringer.   I looked up and saw my wife standing over me as I came to. I repeatedly asked her, “What happened?” She kept telling me what had happened. My brain wouldn’t absorb the words she was telling me. All I remember was I would start to cry and fall back into a deep dark slumber sleep. This went on for a couple of days. Finally, the words sank into my head. She was telling me I had a massive heart attack. Now the reason why it took me so long to register what she was telling me was because I couldn’t believe my own ears.  What she was repeatedly saying didn’t make any sense to me, this could not be true, this can't happen to me. My own mind was playing tricks on me. You have to understand that I considered myself to be an athlete and somewhat of a fit individual. I spent my entire life trying to take care of my body. My wife and I would go to the gym religiously throughout the week. We have been extremely active people for most of our lives. We take pride in taking care of our bodies. We rarely indulge in eating out at fast food places. We would only have an occasional drink here and there. Smoking was always out of the question.

So you have to understand when my wife is telling me that I had cardiac arrest and a massive heart attack, I just couldn’t believe it. I wouldn’t believe it. My brain was not going to except that fact. I was supposed to be a healthy forty year old man with so much to look forward to in life. Nothing like this was ever supposed to happen to me because as far as I knew I was taking good care of myself. I didn’t have a family history of heart disease or heart attacks.  There really is no other explanation of what had happened to me other than it was in my genes.

As you can imagine once I was mentally aware of what had happened and what was going on around me all I could do was ask questions.  God knows, I had tons of questions.  All I wanted from that point on was to hear from all those that were around me what in god’s name happened. I started with the one person that knows me better than anybody else, my wife, Angela. We try to recall that day the best we could.  So I tried my best to remember what had happened the Saturday of my event.

First thing was first, my wife and I always started our Saturdays by going to the gym. I recall having a great workout and feeling like a million bucks when we left the gym that morning. After the gym we went to pick up our son from his friend’s house. As we sat in the driveway waiting for my son to come out that’s when I went from feeling good to having an overwhelming nauseous feeling. I was highly disappointed because I had been fighting colds and the flu for nearly two months. I thought I had finally overcome all the illness of the past few months that morning.  All I could think was great now the flu was back. I couldn’t wait to get home..I just had to get some rest and sleep this feeling off. My wife suggested that I go to the doctor that morning.  Going to see a doctor that day was far from my mind. So after taking several naps and managing to get small amounts of food down me I thought I had kicked whatever was attacking me that morning. Our usual routine was to rent movies on Saturday nights. It was about seven thirty when we had sat down in our basement to watch a movie. All I remember after turning on the movie was I had reached over to grab some popcorn out of my wife’s bowl. That is it, lights out. Ange thought I was falling asleep on her as I slumped over.

As my wife recalls the event she shares with me that there was no warning.  I just simply collapsed onto her shoulder without a word, sigh or moan.  She immediately jumped up, called 911 and began doing CPR.  The first responders arrived at our home fairly quickly although at the time it seemed like it was taking forever.  They immediately started CPR and attempted to shock my heart back into a normal rhythm.  It was only when I arrived at the hospital in the ambulance that I began to respond to the EMT’s efforts and medicines.  They then quickly put me to sleep to asses my situation.  The cardiac doctor quickly decided that immediate emergency surgery was the only option.  After 4 hours of surgery I was lucky and blessed to have survived.  I had a 99% blockage in my artery that required a stent.  Unfortunately during the rescue attempt at my home, I aspirated and now had to fight pneumonia in addition to a severely damaged heart.  I was in a coma and on life support for 7 days.

The very next step was the road to recovery. You have to understand at this point I was battling depression on top of everything else.  I had every intention of getting back on my feet but knew it wasn’t going to be easy.  Just as there was part of me thinking positively, there where parts of me thinking the exact opposite.  Scared and frightened of what life had in store for me. Parts of me didn’t think it was possible. The entire thought of me even being in this predicament was dragging me down.  Needless to say without the overwhelming support from my amazing wife, family, friends and medical staff I wouldn’t have made it through my rehabilitation.  I managed to get through my rehabilitation one step at a time, one day at a time. 

It's been little over a year now since my event and I'm in a very content and happy place in my life. In large part thanks to my wonderfully supportive wife, Angela. Without her quick and courageous actions I would not have survived. Of course, there were many factors that played into whether my event could have ended differently. The one factor that sticks in my mind is how I chose to be stubborn and ignore my wife's suggestion to seek medical attention. At that point I just didn't feel right but I thought it was another bout with the flu I'd been fighting for a couple weeks before hand.  Besides, what active healthy 40 year old man has a heart attack?  Not me...

Every day that I get to wake up and participate in life is a triumphant day for me.  Once I got my mind set on getting back on my feet I never looked back.  I knew I had the best support system behind me to see me through the best and worst of times through recovery.  Every Family member, Fireman, Doctor, Nurse and Physical Therapist I encountered throughout the healing process enabled me to regain control of my life once again.  My heart goes out to each and every one of them!  I never could have done it without them.  I can once again live an active, healthy, and normal life.

I’m proud to say that I have survived my bout with sudden cardiac arrest.  I’m back to a reasonably normal life, I continue to push forward every day.  For all the things on that fateful day that went wrong I was so fortunate that so many things went right after the fact.

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