“I was having the full feeling in my chest, like when you’ve got a chest cold,” he said. “I was coughing a lot, trying to break the stuffy feeling.” A heavy smoker at the time, he also experienced swelling in his feet that he attributed to standing for most of the day.
The nurses on duty were long-time friends and knew something wasn’t right the moment they saw him. “I asked for some cold medication,” says Covert, a correctional officer for Dutchess County Jail in Poughkeepsie, New York. “The nurse gave me a quick look and said she didn’t think it was a cold and recommended I go to the hospital.”
Assuming he had a virus, he drove himself, thinking, “Great, I’ve got some funky bug that’s going around.” This is why you’re more likely to have a heart attack in the winter.
At the hospital, a doctor had unexpected news: Covert had mistaken his cold-like symptoms for not one massive heart attack, but two—and he was heading for a third.
The diagnosis wasn’t a complete shock. His father died at 41 due to heart disease, the number one killer of Americans. Still, the news shook up Covert’s life.
“They gave me a list of things that I couldn’t do anymore," he told Reader's Digest. "I was also a part-time farm hand, and I was used to moving bales of hay, 50-pound bags of feed, and dealing with animals. I wasn’t supposed to lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk.”
Not only was Covert forced to give up his job on the farm and retire from his job as a corrections officer, but he and his wife lost their home as well, which had come with the farm-hand job.
Along with the staggering life changes he experienced, the drugs Covert got after his six-way bypass only seemed to worsen his symptoms. After several trips to the hospital to find the right mix of medication and dosage, one doctor offered him an opportunity to participate in a clinical trial for an implanted device called the CardioMEMS. The pressure-sensing device is placed in the pulmonary artery and transmits data to physicians. The technology enables doctors to monitor a patient’s progress remotely and suggest changes as needed.
That was in 2015, and since receiving the device, Covert’s life has been on an upswing.
“It’s amazing because this device lets the doctors know I’m heading for trouble before even I know about it,” he said. “Since the implantation, I’ve had a few medication changes over the phone. Without CardioMEMS, I’d have to drive 45 minutes to the hospital to see a doctor. Because CardioMEMS monitors me remotely, we can easily make medication changes without a visit.” Read up on these 9 things to know about heart attacks before you have one.
Phil Adamson, MD, MSc, FACC, and medical director of Abbott’s heart failure business says of Covert’s success with the device: “Ed’s story is just one of many that is a prime example of a life-changing technology that can reduce the day-to-day burden patients with heart failure might have and help them live healthier, fuller lives.”
While heart disease can be a result of genetics, there are other indicators that your heart is in trouble. Look out for these silent signs you might be headed for a massive heart attack.
This article first appeared on Reader's Digest.