My 2024 Cardiac Adventure

Derek Austin Johnson
3 min readApr 28, 2024

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There’s a reason those who log onto this website (which I’m guessing aren’t many) might not have seen updates until recently.

The following was posted on my social media site on February 29, 2024. It has been edited and cleaned up where necessary.

Wanted to thank everyone for the well-wishes. Here’s the scoop.

In December, I saw my doctor a routine checkup. Among the things to address was a CT scan based on both a consistently high cholesterol score and family history. “You might have a silent killer in your chest and not even know it.”

Shortly after my visit I’d have chest pains. They weren’t major and only occurred with exertion. I wasn’t terribly concerned; my blood pressure remained in normal limits and my heart rate seemed consistent, if occasionally elevated. Looking at me, all seemed fine. Still, I set up the appointment for my CT scan for late afternoon on February 6.

Just past midnight on February 6, I had a rapid heart rate and chest pains. I went to the emergency room. The doctors said my blood work looked good, and chest X-ray indicated no issues. All the same, they recommended I schedule an appointment with a cardiologist. I went home and caught a nap, then went to my appointed CT scan, where the tech said I would hear from my doctor in a day or two.

February 7, I spoke with the hospital for an ER follow-up and asked for cardiologist recommendations. I made an appointment with Austin Heart Health for Friday, February 16.

February 8, I receive a call from my doctor’s office to schedule an appointment. Alarm bells ring; if everything was okay, they could tell me the results via telephone. I make the appointment for February 20.

Already I take precautions. I exercise, more but get winded easily. My chest hurts more. I try to change some of my diet. I’d eliminated soft drinks the month before but remained mostly okay.

February 15, I receive the results of my CT scan.

They’re high.

Extremely high.

And I try immediately to figure out how to navigate what might become an entirely different life.

February 16, I see the cardiologist and present him the CT scan. He’s concerned but not alarmed. We set an appointment for an angiogram on February 21, to see what exactly is going on around my heart.

February 20, I see my doctor to update her.

February 21, I have the angiogram. It reveals multiple blockages. Stents would be useless; bypass surgery is necessary. We schedule it for February 23, but a cancellation on the surgeon’s part shifts the schedule to a day earlier.

February 22, I have bypass surgery.

I’m home today. I’ll have about eight weeks of recovery, including physical therapy. No driving for about eight weeks. No lifting anything heavier than ten pounds.

Right now I’m going through a mixture of emotions: anger, depression, self-loathing, among many others.

The procedure save my life. Without it, a heart attack would have been likely by the end of the year.

If I owe you anything, bear with me. I’ll get it to you as soon as I can.

Yeah I’m fighting the urge to break down in tears. I’m trying to rebuild some self-worth. For now, for today, I’m alive. And for today, that’s enough.

As the Monkees sang, that was then, and this is now.

On March 29, I followed-up with my cardiologist. We reviewed the video of my angiogram to reveal pervasive blockages. It’s terrifying to see the inside of my body and its attempts to kill me. Nevertheless, he remains optimistic. “You’re young, you’re healthy, and are going to live a long time,” he said. I asked him if a heart attack would have been likely this year. He nodded. “You would have had it within a month. And it would have been a bad one.”

I’m pretty much back to my normal life, with changes to diet and exercise as necessary. No red meat. More walking. Less fat. I haven’t written anything since my release but I’m finally starting to outline my second novel and a couple of stories.

The idea that I am still alive surprises me, especially after I spent weeks concerned I would go to bed and not wake up. That I avoided a heart attack poised to kill me continues to be sobering.

Regardless, as I wrote then, for today, I’m alive.

​And for today, that’s enough.

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