Columnists, Health Care, Jon Caldara

Caldara: My very first heart attack

(You can listen to this column, read by the author, here.)

I am writing this from my hospital bed in the intensive care unit at Denver Health.

I’m recovering from my very first heart attack. You can only imagine my pride of reaching my goal of a heart attack before 60.

While driving to my job at Independence Institute my chest started feeling, well, really weird — like someone was sitting on it, and not someone I liked. My jaw felt sore. I rarely make good decisions, but just blocks away from my office I turned right instead of left and somehow got myself to the emergency room.

It may well have saved my life. I imagine I’m like most guys my age — I will do just about anything to avoid going to the doctor. It has as much appeal as watching a stranger shop for purses.

Medical care comes down to two factors. One, “wait.” Waiting to get an appointment. Waiting in the waiting room. Waiting in the exam room for the doctor to finally come and talk to a computer screen instead of you.

And the second factor is “more.” No matter what, they send you off to another doctor, or specialist, or for more testing, all of which requires exponentially more waiting. The cycle never stops. It cascades.

All of which leads to the reasonable decision to avoid health care altogether until one has a heart attack.

Just for those keeping record at home, my cholesterol has always been in the normal range as I do get it checked at least yearly. I am a little overweight but not completely inactive. Nothing stood out as a warning for a heart attack other than being male and getting older.

I shouldn’t have had a heart attack, but here I am.

Health care has changed since I was younger. Most notably everyone in the industry is now tattooed. At the ER, the tattooed nurse took my blood pressure and said “Oh, I don’t like that.” Just what you want to hear.

So, they quickly got me into an examination room where the tattooed male nurse, obviously taking time off of his day job as a Hells Angel, gave me an EKG. Then he said, “Oh, I don’t like that.”

It wasn’t much longer that I found myself in the “cath lab.” They hoisted me on a table as what seemed like 15 tattooed people ran around like a well-oiled race car pit crew. One pit crew member immediately took to shaving off my pubic hair. I told him I was not interested in a Brazilian and if what was left looked like Hitler’s mustache I would come after him.

Then I asked what should have been the first question. “My heart isn’t down there, my brains are, so why are you shaving me?” Turns out they were going to catheterize me to run a cable up to my heart. If the artery in my arm wasn’t big enough, they were gonna go through my crotch. Lovely.

By the time I woke up, I was told I had a blockage in what’s called (by everyone but the doctors) the “widowmaker” artery to my heart. They cleared it and put in a stint. I got in early enough the damage to the heart itself was minimal.

Since then, I’ve been staying in a room in the ICU where they come in every few hours to draw blood and explain the 300 different medications I’ll be taking for the rest of my life. The hospital saved money by painting their hospital rooms with surplus green paint from former Soviet prisons

The most important thing I have learned since being here is there is a TV station that does nothing but show re-runs of “Seinfeld.” After two days of exhausted research, I’m proud to report Seinfeld still holds up 30 years later.

I am a lucky son-of-a-bitch. Lucky to get treatment in time. Lucky people care about me. Lucky to live in America. We take the miracles of our times for granted. The wealth our nation has created has made it possible to reach into a stranger’s heart, fix it and have him watching “Seinfeld” a few hours later.

My thanks to my tattooed heroes. And, may you never take your health or the wonders of the free market for granted.

Now go get a physical.

Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.


Our unofficial motto at Complete Colorado is “Always free, never fake, ” but annoyingly enough, our reporters, columnists and staff all want to be paid in actual US dollars rather than our preferred currency of pats on the back and a muttered kind word. Fact is that there’s an entire staff working every day to bring you the most timely and relevant political news (updated twice daily) from around the state on Complete’s main page aggregator, as well as top-notch original reporting and commentary on Page Two.

CLICK HERE TO LADLE A LITTLE GRAVY ON THE CREW AT COMPLETE COLORADO. You’ll be giving to the Independence Institute, the not-for-profit publisher of Complete Colorado, which makes your donation tax deductible. But rest assured that your giving will go specifically to the Complete Colorado news operation. Thanks for being a Complete Colorado reader, keep coming back.

Comments are closed.