"I learned after the procedure I had what they called ‘a widow maker."

“I had dropped something behind a chair. When I leaned over to pick it up, there was an odd twinge of pain followed by a little difficulty breathing. I thought I had maybe pulled a muscle. But then, partly from my experience of being a nurse here at McLaren, in the back of my mind I thought that it could also be a cardiac event.

You’ve got to be careful about symptoms that might be easy to brush off, especially if you have something running in your family. My father was 60 when he had his first stent—and I had just turned 60. My father, who lived to be 92, never had chest pain a day in his life. His symptoms were just a little difficulty breathing combined with some tiredness.

So, I thought, ‘I just don’t know, but this is not quite right,’ and decided to give my family doctor, Dr. Kerr, a call. The EKG came back with irregularities, and it was one of those things they wanted to act on right away.

A phone call was made, and I was sent to the heart cath lab for a procedure with Dr. Sweterlitsch. It was early in the morning when I arrived, probably 6 a.m., but the team still had their humor as they prepped me for the procedure. It helped put me at ease.

They took me back into the procedure area, and because I'm allergic to one of the medicines they usually give you, I was more or less awake through the procedure.

I heard the doctor say, ‘Oh, boy,’ or something like that. Then he asked for a balloon to place the stent in. Once it was in, and everything was revascularized, my blood started going where it was supposed to. It went perfectly.

I learned after the procedure I had what they called ‘a widow maker’; a 100 percent blockage in the left anterior descending artery. If I wouldn't have gone in, I would have been gone within a week.

I just want people to realize that if you have a twinge or if you feel something is ‘not right’, you need to get it checked out—it doesn’t mean it’s going to lead to a big invasive procedure. The spot where they went in for the cath is just a small spot on my wrist. People get scared about having chest pain, but they don’t want a cath because they think it hurts. But it doesn’t—they give you everything you need. They checked with me on my pain levels, and they gave me more pain medication as needed. There also was no tension in the room—it felt very light. Granted, this is what they do every day, but I was rather impressed. Everyone was absolutely fantastic—it was just top-notch care.

These procedures keep you alive. It would have been easy to brush off the symptoms or avoid going to the doctor, but I thought about my wife and my daughter, and I’m just so glad I came in. If I would have waited, or if I would have gone out to shovel the snow, that would have been it. I would have been done.

It was Christmas just a couple weeks after my procedure. The gift I received from Dr. Sweterlitsch and the rest of the team at McLaren made all those gifts seem not so important. If you feel something like a twinge and you think something is ‘just off’, go get it checked out. You will only regret not going.”

- Mark McMan, RN, patient at McLaren Bay Region